Technology/Services

Is Technology Pushing Out Convenience-Store Employees?

Industry leaders say no—it’s up to retailers to educate staff that these investments are tools to make them more productive
Frictionless self-checkout
CSP Staff

Installing technology at convenience stores comes with the challenge of receiving the buy-in from the store's internal team, and after, moving on to influence the customer accepting a new way of shopping.

Industry leaders spoke at the Dover Fueling Solutions conference in Austin, Texas, about training employees on how technology will help, not hurt, them.

The panel discussion was moderated by Steve Van Vlack (right), director of business development at Dover Fueling Solutions, Austin. Panelists included Jarrett Nasca (second from right), chief marketing officer for software development company Grubbrr, Boca Raton, Florida; Scott Langdoc (left), global head of convenience and energy retail for information technology services company Amazon Web Services, Seattle; and Toby Awalt (second from left), vice president of marketing at AI software development company Mashgin, Palo Alto, California.

Self-checkout kiosks have created frustration, said Nasca. In his experience, cashiers were afraid of losing their jobs, so they would encourage customers to use the manned checkout instead of the kiosks.

“If you really want people to embrace the technology, your staff has to buy in,” he said. “Turn off tipping at the point of sale, and put it only on the kiosk. That flipped the switch pretty quickly.”

After that change, every one of those cashiers started encouraging customers to use the kiosks, Nasca said.

“You have to look three-dimensionally. It’s not just about any one facet of the business. It’s internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and implementation thereof,” he said.

Frictionless experiences tend to be sticky, said Awalt, with about 88% of customers returning to use technology again after trying it once. Getting them to use the tech requires at least some degree of intervention, a lot of which also comes from staff training.

Retailers can teach employees that the tools will help and not hurt them by saying, for example, “We bought you these things as tools to help make your lives better. We’re going to make you more efficient. We still need you for all of these things,” Awalt said.

Train employees to understand technology as a tool, not something they’re competing against, he said. It results in a much faster adoption.

And when a retailer accomplishes more and more first-time uses, it's easy to snowball from there.

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