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Ten Ways to Improve Self-Checkout Results

April 19, 2022

Self-checkout is certainly no longer a new technology for most libraries—in fact, libraries were on the leading edge of training patrons for self-services in society at large (think grocery stores and airports). But, having implemented self-checkout, libraries tend to become complacent about self-checkout’s ongoing return on investment. How can we increase adoption of self-checkout above 90% and what happens when we do? Here are ten suggestions to improve the results of self-checkout.

1. Locate self-checkout stations where patrons would naturally use them—on the circulation desk, near the library entrance, next to holds pick-up shelves, and in the Children’s area. Make sure to identify self-checkout stations with clear signage and minimal clutter.

2. Ensure that self-checkout stations are the patron’s speediest option. Deploy enough self-checkout stations (as many as you can afford) to handle traffic during the library's peak use times.

3. Design the appropriate self-checkout experience for each area. Place several stations where a single staff member can train and assist patrons to be successful. Setup kiosks in areas where patrons can be completely independent to resolve blocks and pay fines.

4. Keep it simple. The more options and clutter on or around the screen, the more time the patron needs in order to navigate through a session. Watch patrons navigate to learn what needs to be easier.

5. Improve the speed and convenience of self-checkout with RFID. Patrons will enthusiastically embrace self-checkout if they can simply stack items onto an antenna and no longer have to figure out how to position and re-adjust materials for barcode scanning.

6. Make sure that staff members encourage adoption of self-checkout. Invite and coach patrons to use self-checkout successfully. Staff should be positive and reassure patrons that using self-checkout will enable staff to focus on other library services.

7. Remove as many account-related blocks as possible, such as low borrowing limits or fine/fee limits. Consider whether it really makes sense to keep patrons from library resources.

8. Ensure that self-checkout stations are working and that they reliably deactivate security tags. If patrons lose confidence in the system, it’s a steep climb to win them back again. Task staff members with regular cleaning and testing of each station and the security gates.

9. If fine/fee payment is applicable, make payment by credit card at self-checkout the most convenient in-house option for patrons. Limit options for cash payment (it requires more equipment and staff involvement) and even consider ways to motivate patrons to pay online.

10. Reduce staffing at the circulation desk, and reassign those staff to other tasks. At least move staff to back room tasks where, if needed, they can be summoned with a call button. If the above suggestions are in place, self-checkout systems will take care of checkout and staff should be reassigned to more impactful and rewarding tasks throughout the library.

Be sure to give staff regular feedback about reaching that 90%+ self-checkout adoption and let branches know how all of them are doing on the goal. Then, create a plan for shifting staff to new tasks or new/reallocated positions from circulation to other services. Finally, give your self-checkout vendor feedback about adoption of their solution—as well as any needed improvements.

Tech Logic connects libraries with their communities through dynamic, innovative, and efficient workflow technologies—delivering unparalleled service and outstanding patron experience. Since 1997, we have worked exclusively with libraries to develop solutions that empower library patrons and staff.