Examples of companies on the frontiers of service.

Extracted from September issue of Consumer Reports.

The do-it-yourself movement is revolutionizing the way consumers go about routine activities and tasks from banking to filing insurance claims. Here’s how some companies are putting it into practice.


The insurance company’s mobile app speeds up the claims process by allowing customers to upload accident photos and get an automated estimate of the damage, often eliminating the wait for an adjuster to show up for an appointment.

Hyatt Hotels

Want to avoid waiting to check in or out? At some Hyatts, guests can bypass the line and go straight to an automated kiosk and complete the task with a credit-card swipe. They can also use the kiosk to ­request a room upgrade or add an amenity.

Walmart Scan & Go

In a test at 200 of the chain’s 4,200 stores, customers can use their Walmart-app-enabled smart phone to scan items as they cruise the aisles, put them in their cart, and pay in one step by scanning a QR code—a dotted square than can be read by smart-phone cameras—at the self-checkout.


The Avis-owned firm allows rentals lasting from an hour to seven days. You sign up to become a member and receive a Zipcard. You book online or via mobile app, walk to the designated car, and swipe your card across a reader on the windshield. The doors automatically open, and you turn on the engine and drive off.


The toughest part of moving is lugging all of those heavy and bulky belongings to the truck. With Pods, the company drops off a cargo container for the consumer to pack, then handles the grunt work of hauling the “pod” to your new home—on your schedule, not theirs.

Panera 2.0

Restaurant customers can place their orders online or by mobile phone up to five days in advance and pick up their order at a predetermined time without waiting. They can also place orders the same way from anywhere inside the bakery-café and have them delivered to the table.

US Airways

Airlines encourage customers to have as little interaction as possible with employees. Kiosks are undeniably handy to print e-tickets and boarding passes. But if you want a paper ticket, the company charges $50. And if you want a receipt for an e-ticket after the flight, you’ll pay $20 to do so by calling reservations.

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet

PNC designed its Virtual Wallet mobile money management account for Generation Y consumers who want to manage their spending and saving in real time. Account holders actually get charged for interacting with an employee. Each staff-assisted transaction costs $3.

City National, Cadence Bank ATMs

City National in Los Angeles has unveiled a new generation of cardless ATMs—you can remove cash via a secure mobile app. Cadence Bank, based in Alabama, has ATMs that go beyond simple transactions to offer video screens that allow virtual interaction with remote tellers.

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