“…the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” – Franklin D Roosevelt (1933 Inaugural Speech)
Great quote. Timely, as we wrap another US presidential election cycle. However, this post is NOT about politics.
It is about machines, and the almost constant fear of machines both in pop culture and in business. Will machines take your job (i.e., ATM, live bank teller) or take over in general?
The hype around the Internet of Things automating our work and home lives has recently given way to the fear of our machines, baby monitors, thermostats, and smart home cameras attacking or at least being hacked for some yet undetermined nefarious reasons. This fear clearly is not unwarranted as seen by the headlines last week, but I do think we need to take a step back and understand the role and the value machines can and will play in our lives in the 21st century. The security risks associated with machines and the IoT are real, but the fear of them taking over all aspects of life might be a bit overblown.
In a recent Ted Talk on machines, Anthony Goldbloom – Machine Learning expert, laid out what machines can and cannot do and the value they can provide. According to Goldbloom, machines will not take over the world but will be most effective at completing frequent, high volume tasks. But machines will not be able to tackle novel situations or events they have not seen before. This is where people come into play. We, as humans, have an ability to adapt to individual situations and interact accordingly. Therefore, I believe machines won’t take over all the work in customer service, especially those tasks that require face to face interactions or demand non-repetitive critical thinking. Automation has enabled improved efficiency on repetitive tasks such as scheduling jobs or ensuring failure codes are quickly identified, but the true test of delivering service interactions of value to customers every day must continue to be done by people.
At our recent Smarter Services Symposium, one of my favorite sessions was one in which we asked actual front line technicians what they liked or disliked the most about their daily work. Overwhelmingly, the technicians we interviewed enjoyed delivering resolution, quality service, and value for the customers they see every day. They understand that only they can deliver a smile to a customer through compassion, empathy, and ultimately a human connection. This is service, and something machines are not likely to deliver in the near future.
Machines, as viewed through the lens of movies, tv shows, and the headlines, may be scary, but I for one think that we should not fear a machine takeover of service interactions with customers on a day to day basis. That is something for human technicians, engineers, and service personnel. The rise of the machines will be delayed for a bit longer. And please look forward to a deeper dive into the topics of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the IoT as we explore the challenges, benefits, and what is possible. So, if these topics keep you up at night or just make you want to learn more, please join our community as we all learn together and try to keep the machines from taking over.