It’s an odd thought that a robot could manage operations better than humans. After all, we made robots. We are smarter, more creative, more beautiful and definitely more fun on a road trip. Then came word of the robots at Zappos.com, the online shoe store, rolling along the warehouse aisles, straightening up and doing the heavy lifting in a very literal way. It’s not quite Marshall Brain’s futuristic fiction of Manna the robot software, managing a burger joint, but it could be headed there.
Manna put the service into customer service with a collection of sensors that monitored everything from the trash cans in the rest room, to the inventory of napkins and the size of the burgers. Employees wore headphones to receive instructions from Manna at a very detailed level – Place the wet floor warning signs outside the restroom door.
Fictionally speaking, such attention to detail resulted in consistently clean bathrooms, attentive service and an overall better customer experience. Profits soared. All competing burger joints adopted the software run management. Of course the human workers became automatons, on the move every moment of the workday.
On one level, the possibility of consistently good customer service left us with a happy smile on our faces. Oh how we wanted to visit these futuristic burger joints. Anyone whose customer service experience includes rudeness, inflexibility and a lack of attention to detail knows how bad service leaves us in a cold and sulky mood. But robots? Aren’t these somewhat like vending machines? And don’t they sometimes malfunction?
Okay so robotic style service is already a major part of our lives. The ATM. Gas pump. Roomba. Self-checkout at the grocery store. Though some of us prefer the human checkout aisles. And aren’t we relieved when we mess up at the automated checkout and a human comes over to help? So humans aren’t going away but robots are coming in.
Still, we don’t think it really takes a robot to excel at customer service? Maybe we’re naïve, but we don’t think robots can ever replace human creativity, human compassion and the overall power of the human touch. We imagine the humans in Marshall Brain’s fictional burger joint to stand up and rebel against the robot manager. Perhaps singing some version of –We’re not gonna take it …