Balancing AI innovation and user experience was the focus of a panel session during the recent Self Service Innovation Summit.

It seems like all we hear about is AI these days, and it can be hard to keep up with the pace of innovation. How can your business maintain a customer-centered approach in the age of AI?

That was the topic of discussion for a keynote session, “User Experience Determines Success: How to Achieve It with AI and a Trusted Partner,” held during the 2023 Self Service Innovation Summit in Miami, Florida, hosted by Networld Media Group. The session was sponsored by Honeywell Safety & Productivity Solutions.

Training and physical kiosk setup

The first step to consider when adopting AI in self-service operations and kiosk systems is training staff to ensure they are not only comfortable operating self-service solutions but that they can also help customers if the need arises.

“We also make sure that the associates are trained to assist the customer, either with answering a question or helping with the workflow,” Rick Welch, senior client services manager at Kodak Moments, said regarding kiosk deployments. Training at the time of installation is complemented by ongoing training through the retailer that installed the kiosks; however, turnover of staff can be a problem, so making sure that new staff receive the same training is essential.

“We also make sure that the premium products are prominently displayed around the kiosk area, where a customer can actually pick up a premium product, examine it, and in so doing perhaps make a premium product purchase,” Welch said. Even in the age of AI and advanced technology, there is no substitute for good, old-fashioned physical samples, and Kodak makes sure that signage around a given Photo Lab kiosk will display the various products the kiosk is capable of creating.

The four pillars of customer experience success

Kodak Moments maintains its own retail-focused kiosk fleet, rather than outsourcing the work, said Daniel Parker, technical services manager at Kodak Moments, and over the years Kodak has developed four pillars that remain central even as the firm is beginning to experiment with AI capabilities.

Pillar 1: Technical Response Center

An omnichannel response system should start with a voice call center where customers can speak with an agent, Parker said.

Pillar 2: Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring is essential for proactive fleet maintenance. This latter area is one is ripe for AI innovation to streamline and add efficiency, Parker noted, and Kodak Moments has had 20 years of experience with remote monitoring, which puts it in the perfect position to innovate with AI.

Pillar 3: Field Staff

“The other area is field staff. You have to have field staff that [are] active, responsive, and capable of responding and replacing any failed components,” Parker said, in addition to cleaning and maintaining all equipment and performing preventative maintenance on kiosks.

Pillar 4: Parts management

Lastly, parts management, which includes having a globally-accessible inventory of parts for kiosks, is essential to this omnichannel technical response, including having inventory hubs in key locations such as remote areas to avoid costly downtime.

Data is essential

You must make sure your kiosk systems provide data for your AI systems, or else they will not be able to function well.

“Remote monitoring… I’m mentioning this one and calling it out specifically because with any AI — any generative AI, support AI, conversational AI — you have to have data points. You have to have your data points from your kiosks, your customers’ data, the interactions through kiosks, what the workflows are, so that you can then generate those product suggestions,” Parker said.

AI is a powerful tool for optimizing your fleet management, but only when the AI is fed by robust data sets on everything from workflows and production numbers to customer interactions. In a healthy, data-rich system, AI allows the system to optimize itself in powerful ways.

“The biggest area that I feel passionate about is self-healing, programmatically resolving an issue if at all possible so that the staff and clerks at your location hopefully are unaware that an issue was even happening or could even happen,” Parker said. “Some examples of that would be restarting a critical Windows service, it could be a hard reboot of a printer or some other peripheral device that showed offline for whatever reason.”

With 20 years of innovation in self service and automation in the Kodak Moments experience, Parker said the effects have been notable. “This has resulted in greater uptime, increasing sustainable revenue, as well as reduction of customer complaints and increased customer satisfaction.”

Embracing AI in kiosk and self-service

While there are many applications of AI in kiosk and self-service operations, Parker focused on service and support applications for a kiosk fleet.

“First you have to identify your needs,” Parker said. “What are the benefits and enhancements [you want], what are you trying to accomplish, exactly? Evaluate all of your costs and benefits and put together your business case, and get that in front of your executives and critical stakeholders to gain alignment and approvals.”

Kodak Moments began its experimentation with AI by focusing on conversational AI, Parker explained. The company has worked to ensure that safeguards are in place so the AI communications are always in line with the company’s goals and do not “go off the rails” by saying or doing things that are not approved. Key areas include automation with email and chat channels, with AI providing services like order tracking updates.

“That reduces the friction and makes it more efficient with your consumers, so they get this information automatically and it takes away from a repetitive task that your technical response center support teams would have to be doing on an ongoing basis,” Parker said.

This illustrates the need to evaluate cost/benefits and potential roadblocks to implementing AI in your business, according to Parker. “There’s many benefits to this, but you have to evaluate that and make sure it makes sense for your business,” he said. “Do not do innovation just for the sake of innovation.”

Keeping the human in the loop

There was time for one question in the Q&A portion of the panel, during which an audience member mentioned his firm is engaged in AI innovation in its automated kiosks and that inevitably, despite AI tools, there will be a need at times for a real staff person to talk to a customer. He asked the panelists if their kiosk had the capability of an interactive conversation.

“Good question, and I agree absolutely with you,” Parker said. “There’s no way that a human is going to be taken out of the equation. Part of what we see AI doing is… doing faster responses to consumers, but then also freeing up the existing staff to do other things.

“But to answer your question, currently… our kiosks do not have the conversational portion of it [AI] implemented. It’s something that we would like to do in the future.” He added that, in its European market, Kodak has been testing having an app on staff members’ phones that shows system health, which also allows some chat capability for submitting help tickets without having to visit a given kiosk that may be having problems.

(February 23, 2024). Daniel Brown – Editor, Networld Media Group. Retrieved from