In a world where automation is becoming more and more prevalent, why is the human touch still so important? Why will humans always be relevant in the workplace?
Imagine a robot doing your job. Let’s be honest, it might be just as efficient, if not more so. It wouldn’t need coffee or lunch breaks and it would never take a sick day or annual leave. So, if efficiency is not what keeps you in your job, what does?
From cash counting at banks to wake-up calls, to mail sorting to telephone exchanges, to certain surgical procedures to even self-driving vehicles, the extent of automation in the workforce knows no bounds. Many of the roles that employed thousands of people have been replaced by automation or robotics of some kind or another.
But can a self-driving bus have a discussion with you and properly resolve your customer service issue? That’s one area, for instance, where a human has it all over a machine…
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that people prefer dealing with another person rather than a machine (such as an IVR system or virtual assistant like Siri) when it comes to customer service.
In an official survey of 1,321 online respondents in the U.S., an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents wanted to speak to a live agent at the beginning of their customer service journey. If they were forced to use an IVR, only 10 percent of respondents were satisfied with their experience and approximately 35 percent found the systems difficult to use. A measly three percent actually liked using the IVR service.
The problem appears to be that robots in customer service just don’t understand people or the complexity of their problems. Customers feel assured that a particular issue is more likely to be solved when a person is handling it.
The old adage that a computer is only as smart as its user still applies. When presented with a challenge, a person has the scope to think outside of the box (yes, that old chestnut) whereas a computer is constrained by its coding.
It’s no coincidence that a number of industries and products refuse to be automated, and that’s due to market demand. Specialty food products (like breads, wine and craft beers), bespoke clothing (shoes and suits) and even prestige motor vehicles (Ferrari and Maserati) take an artisanal approach because it makes their products more desirable, more valuable. Having a person behind the craftsmanship of a product makes it something special. It’s little wonder that The Artisan Economy is now such a formidable economic force.
The collation of big data might be more automated these days but the strategy and outcomes still need to be handled by human beings. In this way, machines work beautifully alongside people – they do the laborious grunt work that help humans work smarter, not harder.
Have you heard of a computer coming up with the next big thing or even creating a company? No, the innovators, the thinkers and the designers are all human beings. A robot or machine neither has the ability nor the ambition to be an entrepreneur, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
This brings us back to the beginning of our discussion: customer service. A machine is a very selfish entity, whereby it is unable to empathize with the human condition and emotions. It just wants to do its job, and that comes at whatever expense.
Look at it this way: a computer is never emotionally engaged with its job responsibilities in the way that a person – an actively engaged employee – has the potential to offer awesome customer service that is out of this world. Seventy-one percent of organizations surveyed in a Harvard Business Review ranked a high-level of employee engagement as a top-three factor most likely to bring their company success. Treat employees like robots, and you’ll get a robotic result.
It’s clear that what sets people apart from machines is the human touch. You’ll never be able to out-perform a robot or computer in terms of time and efficiency but, when it comes to compassion and responsiveness with those around you, you’re streets ahead of a machine and that goes a long way to arguing why people will always be relevant in the workplace.