Checking in for a flight online a day in advance seems like a great way to increase the convenience of traveling, but it didn't work out that way for me. Instead of standing in a long line inside, I stood in an only slightly shorter line outside in the weather and was expected to tip for the privilege. Assuming this result was unintentional, it may provide a lesson about the potential unintended consequences of technology enabled self-service.
My difficulty arose from having a bag to check, which effectively nullified the advantage of checking my person in ahead of time. There was no kiosk to let me simply drop of my bag — as there is for passengers checking in on site without luggage — so I had to either get in a long line inside or a potentially shorter line outside. I took my chances outside but the experience compared very unfavorably with previous use of the curbside option. What changed? I suspect that more people are choosing the online check in option, arrive at the airport already checked in and just have a back to check.
If that's the case, then perhaps the airline could solve the problem by providing a further self-service option using existing kiosks to let checked in passengers drop off bags without a long wait. Whatever the solution might be, the experience shows that self-service options can sometimes lead to unintended consequences, and so any attempted improvement should be subject to some testing of how the new efficiency works out within the larger customer experience.
As Jennifer Wilson, solutions marketing manager for Interactive Intelligence, recently wrote in a contribution to I&T's blog, self-service capabilities are a must, but insurers need to be careful not to "force feed" their policyholders and see their self-service offerings as options within an agreeable overall customer experience:
Make certain to implement and employ all the right options. When you find the right balance and blend communication and service channel options seamlessly, customers will be better served and your company will be better off. At the end of the day, put the options in place, and let your customers decide when and how to use them.
[To read Jennifer Wilson's piece in its entirety, see How Much Self-Service is Too Much?]