Customer resistance of self-service kiosks in the South African fast-food industry

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Self Service Kiosks (SSKs) have recently been introduced into the fast-food service setting in South Africa. They provide customers with a different method of service delivery where customers can place fast-food orders without the need to interact with a cashier. Customers however continue to resist using SSKs despite businesses investing in such technology. Businesses do not invest in technology with the intention that it will not be used. This study explored why customers resist SSKs at fast-food outlets in South Africa and whether there are context specific reasons for such resistance. Although innovation resistance research is gaining more attention than it previously has, in a South African context such research is scarce. Innovation resistance in respect of SSKs has also not received significant research attention. A majority of the SSK research is focused on adoption. A qualitative research design that was exploratory in nature was adopted for this study. A qualitative approached allowed for a deeper understanding of why customers resist SSKs and provided an opportunity to gather new information in a South African context. Data was collected at a singular level, being that of fast-food customers only. Multiple methods were adopted to recruit participants and included posting on social media and utilising the snowballing approach. All research participants were selected according to a purposive sampling method. To be eligible to participate in the research they had to have chosen not to use a SSK in a fast-food outlet in South Africa. Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted. Most of the interviews were conducted online. The interviews were recorded, and transcribed, and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings revealed that customers resist SSKs for a variety of reasons and that resistance and adoption can co-exist. Further to this, the findings also confirmed that resistance can occur in many forms and does not always result in rejection. For instance, customers may be opposed to using the SSKs but still must use it where they have no other alternative but to use it. The reasons for SSK resistance that were identified, fall into groups that relate to SSK characteristics, customer characteristics, situational factors, and social factors. With reference to the SSK literature, similar groupings of reasons are considered for innovation adoption thus highlighting the complex relationship between resistance and adoption. The resistance reasons that related to SSK attributes included that the SSK was not easy to use especially when the orders were large, complex, or required customisation. Participants also resisted using the SSK because they could not pay with cash at the SSK, because of SSK system issues, hygiene concerns and because alternative ordering options were perceived as better options. The reasons for resistance that related to situational factors included that the SSK waiting time and queue length was longer than alternative ordering options, the SSK option was slower than other ordering options, it gave rise to concerns related to time pressure and there was misalignment between the cashiers and SSK at certain fast-food outlets. The reasons for resistance identified in the findings that related to customer characteristics included the need for interaction and discomfort using the SSK. Job loss potential was identified as a reason for resistance however it is important to note that despite it being a concern for multiple participants, that concern did not always lead to resistance behaviour. The study contributes to understanding what drives SSK resistance in a fast-food context in South Africa. Strategies to reduce SSK resistance are recommended which include avoiding the forced use of SSKs and increasing customer confidence in the SSKs.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Management (in the field of Digital Business) to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022
Self-service kiosk, Self-service technology, Resistance, Fast-food, Barries, UCTD