2012.38 | More Channels are Better

The Government of Ontario recently announced that it will be removing their network of 72 ServiceOntario Kiosks installed across the province.  The kiosks have sat unused for a number of months already as anyone who lives in Ontario can attest.  They are placed in many high traffic shopping areas across the province, and were strangely more noticeable these past few months without the usual line of 5-10 people around them.

Unfortunately it appears that the kiosks were targeted by criminals using skimming devices, and in reading between the lines, it appears that the government officials got very nervous about the potential for both payments fraud and for the security of the data of the citizens of Ontario.

As anyone who works in retail or banking can tell you, unfortunately there is always a certain level of fraud you can expect to see across any network with payments.  Pinpads are stolen or compromised from point of sale locations every day.  Attempts are made to skim the information of customers from ATMs.   So it goes.

While there is no way to eliminate fraud completely – electronic or otherwise, there are certainly options to minimize fraud on self service devices.   Admittedly, there are extra costs involved in taking precautions, and those will have to change over time as technology and fraud tactics adjust, but that’s really just part of doing business with self service, assisted service or any other consumer facing situation.    As with anything in life, it seems a shame to allow a few malcontents to ruin something that is helpful and useful to so many.

Unfortunately if you add in political posturing to this equation, it’s not terribly surprising that a government official will claim he’s protecting the public so that he can put a check mark of benefits he has provided to the voter on the mailer he gets Canada Post to send us every quarter.  That’s the game politicians have to play, but I find it surprising that any person who  walks around with a bank card, a credit card, or even a library card in his wallet can express his concern that he will not support a system that is not ‘foolproof’.  No system is completely foolproof by definition.  If you look at the comments from to the article in the Star, I don’t see any comments from people being concerned about their user data or financial data.  The comments revolve around their preferences for kiosks, people, or online, and some even make suggestions on how to fix the issue.

I used the kiosks for years and found them useful, but this year I changed over to their online service to get my new plate stickers and I found it very easy to use,  I had my stickers well before the renewal date, and I avoided lines as well as a trip to the mall.

That said, consumers increasingly expect to interface with organizations in the channel of their choosing.  I prefer online and mobile transactions, but my wife likes to transact with a real person.  I have friends who prefer the kiosk for whatever reason.

Today’s forward thinking organizations provide as many channels as are relevant and possible for consumers to ensure that they get all of the services they need.  That objective should not be limited to retail, banking or travel.  Government is a consumer facing body, and if they don’t offer the services consumers want, they will eventually face a consumer backlash or miss out on a potential cost savings or revenue benefit for their organization.

As far as the kiosks go, the implementation of a new network of kiosks is a huge investment.  With that behind them, it seems a shame that the government would just throw it all away in the name of security and savings.  Why not place the kiosks in ServiceOntario centres to reduce the load for overworked staff and to reduce the queue lengths?  The units are less likely to have security issues if staff are nearby and they could be made inaccessible after hours to further avoid tampering.

While the online option is terrific and probably growing, ask any one of the dozens of people in line at ServiceOntario sites if they would rather use a kiosk right now or wait 20 minutes to talk to a live person and see what they say.  In the end, it’s all about consumer choice, and removing a choice is a shame.

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