Businesses need to supply touchless service post-Covid-19

11 May 2020 3 min. read
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Touch-screen technology may only just have been ushered in by various businesses as a means to cut back on labour costs and increase the rapidity of the ordering process, but new research suggests Covid-19 may already have led the technology to become obsolete. Eight in ten UK consumers expect to change how they engage publicly with technology, having suddenly become aware that they could be hastening the spread of potentially deadly microbes.

In recent years, McDonald’s digital transformation of its restaurants saw the roll-out of touch-screens in all of its locations. As employees of UK branches took the historic decision to strike for improved working conditions and an end to zero-hour contracts, the brand pushed for a hasty ramping up of its touch-based transformation, which both allowed it to cut back on its human workforce, and increase the rate at which it could serve customers.

McDonald’s was not alone in its rapid efforts to utilise such technology, and it has become commonplace in banks, in ATMs, in ticket machines for public transport, and in self-service checkouts in many supermarkets. However, according to research conducted by global product and service-design firm Foolproof, the sudden event of the coronavirus may mean much of this technology will ultimately need to be replaced again – or risk driving away hygiene-conscious customers.Businesses need to supply touchless service post-Covid-19As the spread of Covid-19 continues to disrupt lives, livelihoods, communities and businesses worldwide, the public at large has become acutely aware of just how dangerous user-terminals can be. With every pair of hands in any locality potentially coming into contact with a rarely cleaned screen, the possibility of coming into a potentially lethal contaminant by simply going to the shops or buying a fast-food meal is very real. As a result, 80% of UK consumers have indicated they will now change the way they engage with publicly available technology, in light of the pandemic. 

Peter Ballard, Co-founder of Foolproof commented, “This survey clearly shows that people are now more averse to touching technology in light of the current pandemic than they were before. What’s more, there are strong indications that these attitudes may become more ingrained in our post Covid-19 future. This underscores the need for changes to future product and service design, and we need to accept that people will want to touch things far less than they are required to do now.”

As it is, the onus is currently on the customer to change their behaviours, rather than on businesses to change their infrastructure. Around 72% of people have either worn gloves or wiped down a public touch surface within the last two weeks. In the long-term, however, their willingness to do so will likely wane.

Foolproof’s findings subsequently point towards the need for a much cleaner, touch-less future. Moving forwards - when asked about future attitudes towards the hygiene of publicly available technology, 48% of participants in the survey said that they will use contactless payment where the limit allows, while a quarter said they will use cash machines less, and only when absolutely necessary, and one-fifth added they will do more online grocery shopping online. 

Ballard concluded, “For brands offering public facing technologies in the future, the exploration of other ways to reduce touch through design should be a consideration. We suggest leading on intermediary changes which reduce touches to purchase such as, styluses, improved mobile payments and QR codes as a way to pay, whilst having a longer-term strategy for the trajectory towards being completely touchless. Further off we could see a boom in touchless interactions rooted in haptics, voice and gesture or see mobile devices facilitating a broader set of interactions beyond payments – this will foster all new touchless experiences.”