Automation as a concept has both enchanted and terrified innovators and workers since the beginning of the 20th century, and the advent of large factories. In every discussion on machine vs. worker, though, regardless of industry, a key argument has surfaced: that very few machines to date have been able to operate independently; rather, they increase worker efficiency and productivity. It was a harmonious human-machine world– until now.

We have reached the age of full automation. Tesla is making driverless cars; ipads and robots are replacing waitresses and servers; chatbots are replacing customer service agents. Even flight attendants– those stereotypically extra-human humans with sugary attitudes and perfectly creased skirts– have been replaced by sleek robots. The medical world has been infused with peppy little delivery bots who bring food to patients. While services like Uber and Postmates seem to exemplify the ideal of technology, in which it enables humans to improve their own lives– automatons are steadily appearing in jobs that were once solely human-owned.

What does this mean for customer service?

Here’s the thing: customer service will become increasingly essential in an automated world. Imagine a card reader malfunction occurring in a waiterless restaurant. Or worse, a technology fail with driverless cars, with food delivery in a hospital. Because no matter how good we get, technology will always fail. If we’re really good, it’ll fail rarely. But it will still fail.

Death, Taxes, And The Necessity Of Humans In Customer Service

As the need for customer service increases, so will the need for good, efficient, and productive customer service agents. And that’s where automation does affect customer service. Be it in the form of bots, ticketing and assignment software, self-service, chat, or analytics; agents will need more advanced and effective automation tools to make their lives easier, and to make their customers happier.

At the head of these tools, though, must sit live, human agents. Customer service is the place that people will come when the technology breaks down. And answering a problem with a problem will only result in more problems. In other words, you cannot address issues with automatons with another automaton. There are few things in life that we can count on, but one is that we will always need automated customer service to be backed by real, intelligent, caring, helpful customer service agents.

Published September 23, 2016
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