Automation & self service

How many times have you broken your head with an IVR spending 115 minutes with a menu just begging for a real human to pick up the complaint. Humans are getting fast replaced with scripts and AI. Most internet companies don’t even bother to list a contact number and many are soon even eliminating email addresses where we could raise issues.

Technology for the sake of technology will only alienate you from your customers and empty your coffers. This video of Robot pouring a glass of beer from a bottle tells a lot about what is wrong with today’s approach to automation and self service.

Any technology or investment in order to generate value should improve parameters in one of the following parameters:

  1. Efficiency (reduce cost)
  2. Improve price/Premium
  3. Improve volume

This million dollar robot requires a setup, cage, prone to failures etc. cannot serve any real business problem except being an eye candy where people might queue up for the first time to get a glimpse of this machine.

One of my favorite technology failure experience has been with the parking toll machines. One of the malls had employed a human being to take the ticket from the automated parking toll machine to the driver. When I asked the manager why he has to invest in the technology and the person, his candid response was: “During peak hours, one or two car drivers will not be able to operate the machine, get stuck for 20 minutes and hold-up the whole parking lot. Investing in technology looks me more professional and investing in extra manpower helps me manage the business.”

This week’s economist summarizes my frustration very aptly.

The self-service revolution is reversing the division of labor. You find yourself doing all sorts of jobs that you’re untrained for – acting as a travel agent booking a trip, an airport porter weighing and labelling bags or a shop-attendant checking out a basket of goods. Meanwhile a handful of companies suck up abnormal profits by turning their customers into unpaid laborers. The real sweatshop workers in the post-industrial economy are you and me.

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