I mean, I can’t remember the last time I had to talk to a human in order to do any banking – I do most everything online unless I need cash (which is rarer and rarer) in which case I go to an ATM. I’ve been doing more and more buying via Amazon instead of going into stores, and I’d say that if it wasn’t for grocery shopping, and just meeting with people for various work and social reasons, I don’t think I’d need to deal with people, period. Dealing with people can be such a hassle, you know?
If you think about it, most interactions with people within companies are terrible for the customer for one reason or another – most people dread having to actually talk to someone whenever they have a problem which can’t be solved either online or via some other channel. Even chat is preferred over a phone call. I don’t think that more people simply hate talking to people than before, I think that they just prefer to talk to robots – robots simply do what you want and rarely talk back – unless of course they have been programmed to. We never have to worry about robots trying to talk us into more and more additional services. We never have to worry about robots arguing with us or treating us like crap because they had a bad day.
Of course on the flip side, there are probably many cases where you don’t want your customers to simply talk to a robot – for example I know that one of the reasons that I get switched (or am forced) to talk to a human when I’m about to cancel any service is that they would like to talk me out of cancelling and probably give me some sweeteners to do just that. But I digress.
Think about what your customers are truly looking for. If they know exactly what they need from you, why not let them get it themselves? If you’ve been in any fast food places recently, you’ve probably noticed that the soft drink machines are no longer behind the counter – they’ve realized that letting the customer just do it themselves is in the best interests of everyone – the customer is happier as that can pick whatever that want, it gets product in to the customers hands faster, and it frees up the employee to focus on making the rest of the interaction better. Think about all of those things that you make your own people do – how much of that can you push out to robots or the crowd?
If you ask me – the holy grail of all this will eventually end up in the seamless world – where big data, the internet of things and automation combines to make life seamless. But that’s a future vision – probably at least 10 years out – so what do we need to do today in order to plan for that seamless world. How do we start down the path of automation today and make life easier not only for our customers, but also for our employees and ourselves?