Automation Beating Humans at CX

What’s more important to customer experience? Your people or your automation? Recent evidence from the fast food sector isn’t so good for the humans. If you’re looking to build a great CX, it may be time to stop training your humans, and start building a better robot.

A Chinese maid service robot: Is this the CX customer actually want?
A Chinese maid service robot: Is this the CX customer actually want?

What’s more important to customer experience (CX)? Your people or your automation?

Recent evidence from the fast food sector isn’t so good for the humans.

Andy Puzder, CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., talked to Business Insider about his experience putting order kiosks in their restaurants to supplement human order takers. Puzder commented to Business Insider: “I’ve been inside restaurants where we’ve installed ordering kiosks … and I’ve actually seen young people waiting in line to use the kiosk where there’s a person standing behind the counter, waiting on nobody.”

Puzder is even considering opening a new restaurant that wouldn’t require human interaction, similar to Eatsa in San Francisco.

Such ideas are gaining traction across the industry. Not just because it could mean labor savings, but because there appears to be a customer base that prefers automation to human interactions.

And the reason seems to be … Millennials hate dealing with people.

That doesn’t just come from Puzder. Frischer restaurants in the Midwest U.S. did a study on their drive through traffic, and found that a third of 18 to 24 year-olds use the drive through because, “they don’t feel like dealing with people”

They prefer a process that, although not automated yet, is as close to automated as possible.

Human interaction isn’t helping the CX for them. Humans are ruining it.

So apply that finding beyond the fast food space. Where does that leave us?

For years we’ve been thinking good people are the key to good service. But what if the real key is automation?

After all, we already know customers don’t want a relationship with their cough medicine, they just want to stop coughing. If that’s the CX they want, why not let the robots do it?

I’ve long heard readers and contributors bemoan the loss of the human touch. … Maybe they only notice the lack of touch because they’re not getting good robots?

This isn’t just about machines replacing humans for productivity or financial reasons. It’s about an intuitive CX. If you know what your customers want, why do they need to ask a human for it? Why not just set it up automatically? Or on demand at the push of a button?

The Robot CX Uprising Has Already Begun

We can already see several very successful businesses that were built simply on improving CX by letting machines do what humans may not be very good at:

  • Uber automated your taxi dispatch and hiring.
  • GrubHub automated restaurant order taking and delivery.
  • Facebook automated friendship.
  • Amazon automated … well, everything about shopping.

Jeff Bezos and the robot uprisingSo if you’re looking to build a great CX, it may be time to stop training your humans, and start building a better robot.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

7 thoughts on “Automation Beating Humans at CX”

  1. Fascinating. And yes, in many situations we’d be better off building a better robot than using people. But I doubt Frischer is correct when they say “18 to 24 year-olds use the drive through because, ‘they don’t feel like dealing with people.'” I suspect 18 to 24 year-olds (and many of the rest of us) simply prefer dealing with DIFFERENT people than fast-food restaurant workers, especially when the interaction – from BOTH party’s perspective – is entirely a matter of selecting from a tiny menu. The restaurant isn’t trying to bring anything “human” (warm, unpredictable, open to broader conversation…) to this interaction NOW, and there’s no reason to.

    1. I think that’s a good point.

      Although we seem to be seeing it elsewhere as well. People avoid calling customer service for chat and online self-help FAQ options, for example.

      In general, if I have to get a person involved in order to use a product or service, I count that as a bad experience already. I’m not sure that’s universal, but it is the way I react.

  2. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency breeds confusion and distrust.

    Automation beats humans at providing a consistent CX. The bar is so low, a machine can do it.

    1. That almost sounds like a Yoda maxim for CX:
      Consistency leads to trust
      Trust leads to joy
      Joy leads to loyalty

      Inconsistency leads to … um, something something DARK SIDE! ?

      It’s a work in progress

      1. @Thorin The DARK SIDE is the status quo. Successful companies will change the status quo and raise the bar as Zappos, Amazon, and Apple have done.

  3. There is another side to this, it’s humans who are writing the programs and creating the use cases. Perhaps they need to proof their work and run trial executions before pushing to live. I had a not so great set of user experiences with home delivery company Jet.com. Not their fault that UPS had experienced multi-day delivery delays. What did fall short was the AI programming that triggered the set of post-order email communications. Example, they triggered incorrect shipment anticipation messages and even sent post-delivery survey requests. I called to explain about my less then stellar UX, but said that the delay was not really the issue, I was in no rush to receive [throw back to Bowie’s Major Tom]. The live person offered to reship the entire order FedEx to which I said thanks, but not necessary and I’d wait to the new UPS suggested delivery day which was in just 3 more days. Funny, the next day both packages arrived- the delayed pkg and the new FedEx pkg. Now back to UX, I wrote Jet.com Saturday asking why, and if I’d be charged for the 2nd parcel that I didn’t request. Two days since, and still waiting for a response. So while I don’t disagree about human interaction, it is humans still crafting the business rules and logic to trigger and automate the AI and robots.

  4. A second example, this one where the human interaction did save my order and help me complete. Shutterfly.com sent a special offer only good for this past weekend. I loaded up my 4 images applied the promo code, but the price deduction was not being applied. I checked the FAQs, then used their chat bot option which replied with a stock answer that didn’t help, only frustrated me more and it was super late Saturday night. I was able to send an email with my situation and questions. Mid-day Sunday I got another not so helpful auto response. Not to lose the offer, I tried via their app (not Twitter, did look) and luckily someone responded with the information necessary to finally complete what otherwise would have been a simple order. This human helped save the order, but it does take humans to build sound automated customer interactions.

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