Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In December I did fly to Copenhagen for the Climate Change Conference. The day before I departed I could check in online. Nothing special you would say. However, I was pleasantly surprised when they offered the option to receive by boarding pass on my iPhone. So, there was no need to print it. Cool! My mindset was already in Copenhagen so if I could save a little bit by not printing that would be good. And as long as I have my phone with me, I would also have my boarding pass there. The boarding pass looked like a bunch of dots and should be shown to a special reader.

So, when I was at the departure gate, the only thing that I had to do was to show the mail (i.e. the boarding pass) to that reader and I was set to go. Wow, this is progress, this is technology in action, which makes life (a little bit) easier for me.

I clearly wanted to repeat this experience when I left Copenhagen again. So, I did check in online and then I went to the regular check in to deliver my suitcase. When the steward asked for my boarding pass I showed the document on my iPhone again. He replied that this was not useful and he printed a boarding pass on the spot. I was flabbergasted.

It follows that even self-service requires proper implementation for all participants, whether customers or customer service employees. Otherwise you have more costs as an organization instead of less.
You see the same phenomenon with these self-service check-in terminals. There are always stewardesses there to help you to check in via these terminals. Apparently these terminals are not so easy to use, that is why this help is still needed. Again, this increases the costs. So you have to build really easy to use terminals which need no support or don’t implement them at all.

Yesterday I had the same experience in the city hall where I had to request a new passport. There was a terminal on which I had to click the purpose of my visit e.g. birth, move, marriage, and passport. Once I made my choice I would get a number and I could sit and wait for my turn.  But, this was also not  real self service as an employee was standing next to it and helping people with it. And there was also still a receptionist who was not busy at all. So, now there were two people and a terminal involved in this ‘check-in’ process, while previously there was only one receptionist.

Again it becomes clear that self-service needs proper design and implementation.  And maybe you can even come to the conclusion that self-service is not really a sound alternative.


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