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Can Digital Signage Address the Worker Shortage?

Posted on 7/25/2021 7:00:00 PM by Legrand AV Team



It’s been 18 months since you’ve travelled and you’re celebrating newfound freedom by revisiting a favorite vacation spot with the family. You’ve been dreaming about the local rib joint that makes the best brisket you’ve ever had — so good you’ve been known to rhapsodize about how “you gotta go try it” to a co-worker for 30 minutes.

After four hours in the car, you arrive at your destination to find your personal paradise has been figuratively paved over. You stop at your glorious rib place only to find they have reduced their hours due to a worker shortage and aren’t serving lunch until further notice. Other favorite spots also throw you off your vacation game with unpredictable schedules and limited services.

You’re not alone. It’s a common problem this summer as record numbers of people return to traveling and normal activities. As vaccination numbers rise, many industries impacted by the pandemic are still struggling to get back to their former capacity. One large reason is a decline of staffing levels. Patrons of grocery stores, coffee shops, hotels and restaurants are all experiencing longer lines, shorter hours, or reductions in menu offerings because businesses just can’t find the workers they need.

HelpWantedPoster

Is she ... trying to pass her hands through the window?

This isn’t for lack of trying. Eating and drinking places across the U.S roared back into hiring mode by opening 830,000 net jobs over the last five months, but many go unfilled. In June, overall employment in leisure and hospitality was down by 2.2 million (12.9 percent) from February 2020 levels according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Washington Post noted shortages across the country, from Hawaii to Georgia. Reasons for the shortage are unclear – low wages, lack of child care, enhanced unemployment benefits, and fear of virus variants may all play a part.

Every kind of service business is going to have to consider how many people they need to provide the quality of experience they want for customers, noted David Wyld, Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University. He sees a push for more automation and self-service to alleviate reliance on front-line workers.

“This means much more use of kiosks and shelf-checkouts by customers, more fast-casual over ‘waited’ restaurants,” he said.

The Digital Signage Team at Legrand | AV has noticed this trend and is ready to help.

“Everyone is thinking of the worker shortage and how to use digital signage to operate with fewer employees,” said Patrick May, National Sales Manager. “In some ways it’s a cost savings if we can integrate more signage instead of overhead body cost.” 

Food Service 

For quick service restaurants, digital signage can reduce the need for register staff. Self-order kiosks, customer notification displays, menu boards, and order fulfillment boards can keep restaurant lines moving. Kiosks don’t need to take breaks or change shifts, allowing the owner to save time on scheduling and tracking down new workers for the till. You can also be sure the signage is always trying to upsell the customer with other menu items they might like.

Managers may worry about the loss of the personal touch, but over time, digital signage will continue to become more personalized to overcome the loss of a one-to-one interaction, Patrick said.

Coffee Shop with Digital Signage

Digital signage helps outside the store, too. Drive-thru sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic – perhaps changing customer habits for years to come. We’ve all become accustomed to staying in our cars to pick up drive-thru or curbside orders, and it looks like we’ll continue to do so even after health protocol guidelines are eased. Many restaurants are only doing drive-thru to meet this demand while eliminating the need for in-house counter staff. Others are even adding dual lane drive-thru systems and dynamic menus with digital signage, according to AVNetwork

Full-service restaurants that are now seating tables have updated systems to include QR code menus instead of print menus as a response to the pandemic. Customers will be able to use their smartphones to order instead of handling physical menus with dubious stains. Reservation check-in can also be automated for guest convenience. 

Hospitality 

Hotels and resorts are another industry particularly hurting from lack of workers. The Digital Signage team had several ideas for them as well.

Hotels can feature contactless check-in, door keys sent to your smart phone app, tablets in rooms that allow guests to request fresh towels and other items, and even robots that deliver room service. All these features can take advantage of interactive digital signage to walk guests through the process.

Robot staff in a hotel lobby.

Yes, we said robots! 

More help is on the way. LG is launching a small 22-inch display for digital signage that fills a gap in the hotel market. The display can be used for lobby areas, point information, and room scheduling.

Some hotels could even make digital signage pay for itself by featuring advertising from local hot spots and services with current hours to keep guests from showing up at a restaurant and being disappointed.

Retail 

Self-checkout machines are busier than ever. It’s common to just see two registers open due to reduction of workers or the shift to filling online orders. Department stores everywhere have increased the number of parking spots for order pickups.

“Nobody wants to go stand in line,” said Michelle Montazeri, National Solutions Manager, “and grocery bagging services are not really a thing anymore.”

Retail store with digital signage to catch curbside attention.

Michelle looks forward to when retail can automate returns, which are often the site of long lines and complicated processes.

“I want to be able to pre-schedule a return, show up at the curb and have them grab it from my car,” she said.

For the dedicated in-person shoppers, endless-aisle experiences offered by digital signage help guests browse and order items that may be out-of-stock in the store.

Odds & Ends 

The team also noted a lot of other opportunities for AV to play a role in helping with the worker shortage. Here are just a few: 

  • Airports can add more self-check-ins and tag your own bag services. Curbside services could also be automated. 

  • Warehouse signage to list tasks and orders to complete during the shift. 

  • Outdoor entertainment venues can add wayfinding, advertising, ticket scanning and automated entry. 

  • Courthouse digital signage can assist with Jury notification and wayfinding. 

  • Government offices like Social Security or the Department of Motor Vehicles can improve experience by visibly showing wait times to reduce uncertainty and anxiety. 


DMV with digital sigange

The point is, there are plenty of ways we in AV can help other industries dealing with staffing shortages to help keep services running smoothly. Some are available right now. Others we need to start anticipating as options to come.

Our Digital Signage Team is ready to assist you with options that can help overcome worker shortages and keep businesses rolling. Reach out to get started. 

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