Would You Like Fries with that Account?

January 28, 2009

FriesI was in the Atlanta airport yesterday and stumbled upon something I had never seen before: touch screen ordering at Burger King.  Burger King employees have probably been using touch screens to punch in your order for years.  But, these touch screens let customers make their own orders.  They looked like oversized ATM’s which led to me to wonder if I was looking at the future of bank branches.

As usual, this thought did not pop into my head by accident.  The past few months have provided us with a plethora of touch screen related articles. Forbes has an article about the proliferation of touch screens at CES in Vegas.  Gizmodo had an article about the Microsoft touchscreen initiative.  American Banker reports that NCR is working with Microsoft to provide a device that allows mobile phone users to transfer data using a touch screen kiosk.

On top of the touch screen technology, there is new image capture technology that allows ATM’s to accept check deposits without a deposit envelope.

New touch screen technology like that used by Burger King is a real improvement on current touch screen ATM’s. For one, they are larger which expands the user interface possibilities.  Larger screens make it easier to present users with multiple easy to understand options. It could also make it easier to market and cross sell to users which has proven to be very effective on ATM’s abroad.

New touch screens recognize gestures and are generally more sensitive and responsive than most ATM’s. Obviously the iPhone and its other touch screen brothers and sisters have helped us all become better acquainted with touch screen technology and capabilities.

The branch of the future is no longer constrained by technology.  The technology is ready.  The question is whether or not banks and their customers are ready for the technology.  Certainly convenience and speed of service are important to banks’ customers.  But, it will be interesting to see if customers will truly embrace a branch without any or very few tellers.

At Burger King, I was able to order my burger, pay, and get my receipt without any help, but it wasn’t perfect. For one, nobody was there to hand me my cup. I like to fill it up with ice and get started on a Coke while waiting for them to fill my order.  Plus, there was a Burger King employee standing by the kiosk helping people use it. Basically, instead of working the register she was working the Kiosk so it did not seem like the kiosks were saving BK any money.  If we are to judge the viability of the kiosk replacing the banker by the viability of  Burger King’s self service kiosk, then the jury is still out.