Staples Takes Self-Service To The Next Level

Automation is disrupting our lives. You and I see it every day.

Only a decade ago, we waited in line to check out of grocery stores and pharmacies. We were forced to deal with an agent before getting our boarding pass for a plane or checking in at a hotel. We exchanged dollar bills with the taxi driver, signed receipts at the restaurant’s cash register, and called up tech support whenever we had a computer problem. In our businesses, we “called” in payroll to our outside service, mailed in tax returns, and waited for endless minutes for a customer service rep to pick up the phone. Sure, all of these things are still available today. But they’re rapidly changing. Now we have more options. We can do these things on our own: we can scan, swipe, insert, click, tap, and research without anyone’s help. As a result, we find ourselves doing things faster and we feel more productive.

Smart businesses are realizing this and investing in technologies to automate their customers’ buying experiences. It’s what we want.

For the most part, automation has been focused on the consumer – the buyer of groceries, the traveler, the diner. But more and more companies are now focusing on ways to help their business customers realize the benefits of automation. Staples, the office supply retailer that serves millions of businesses – small and large – knows this. Which is why they’re investing in self-service technologies, particularly for their print and copy services. The results are paying off.

“The growth of traditional services like printing and copying has exceeded our expectations and new services like scanning and emailing are growing at a surprising clip,” Joes Bernal, the company’s vice president of Production and Operations, recently said in this online article. As a business owner and long-time customer of the company, I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m elated.

Last year, the retailer teamed up with Xerox Corporation to install more than 3,000 state-of-the-art, self-service printers at its stores across the country. The Do-It-Yourself printers pretty much accomplish everything, from printing, scanning and copying, to faxing. They have a user-friendly and familiar Android-based interface connected to a tablet so that penny-pinching business customers like me can quickly order and pay right there and then – and even take advantage of our customer loyalty cards and coupons. Most importantly, at least to me, is that the machines can access my documents in the cloud from popular storage services (or I can email the documents). This way I don’t need to worry about hard copies, flash drives, or storage disks.

For my business, the benefits have been enormous. I can do large print jobs more professionally than on my low-cost printer in the office. I have more printing, paper, and presentation choices available to me in their stores. Because my company’s business applications are all cloud based, we store our documents on the same services that Staples uses – DropBox and Google Drive – so I can access and print these documents wherever I am, even if I’m out of town. I’ve completely eliminated paying the exorbitant fees that hotels charge me to print documents. I store important documents (i.e. my passport and driver’s license) on DropBox and can print high-quality, color renditions when I travel (I had to do this once when I lost my carry-on bag).

Most importantly, I do this all very, very fast. I don’t wait in line, and I don’t need to deal with a store associate because I know what I want and can just do it and move on. When you’re in business, any amount of time saved is valuable—smart companies like Staples realize this and understand the value of self-service technologies. They also understand that by making things quicker they are helping their business customers make more money. Partners that help other partners succeed remain partners for a long, long time.





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