Is Automation Good or Bad for Customer Experience?

It’s still up to a human to deliver great service and drive you to your destination once you’re in the car. Lyft drivers are almost always friendly and interesting to talk to, which makes the trip go faster.

Of course, Lyft is hard at work to replace drivers with autonomous . This means ride hailing will be fully automated in the near future.

Back at my hotel, I decided I wanted to request a late check out for the following day. There was no obvious place to do this on the app, so a live human would be needed. I decided to skip the messaging feature in the app and go to the front desk.

I have a LinkedIn Learning course on how to get great customer service. One secret I can tell you is a special request is more likely to be granted in person than via messaging. My late checkout request was quickly granted.

There are many instances like this where automation and humans work together to create a better overall experience.

The thermostat at The Overlook, a vacation rental cabin my wife and I own, recently emailed me about a possible issue the day before guests were checking in. The message was part of Ecobee’s automated monitoring system:

“There may be a problem with the Furnace. For the past 2 hours the thermostat has been calling for heat, but the room temperature has decreased by 3.0F.”

The problem turned out to be a bad furnace motor. A new one would take a week to arrive, so our property manager provided our guests with extra space heaters to keep them warm during their stay.

Automation identified the issue, but it took people to fix it.


Back to the question at hand: Is automation go or bad for customer experience?

The answer is automation is generally good. There are many instances where automation markedly improves the customer experience by removing friction and making it more efficient.

Yet automation is not a total solution.

During nearly every part of my trip to Seattle, a human made the experience better, or would have made one better if a person had been available. Studies show that customers prefer to have a human readily available when using self-service, even if they choose not to contact the human for help.

There’s insight here, too, for customer service employees worried about losing their jobs. Jobs that are repetitive, routine, and monotonous are likely to be automated sooner than later. This includes cashiers, drivers, and clerks.

The secret is finding a way to bring something uniquely human to what you do.

I stopped by the world famous Pike Place Fish Company while I was in Seattle. It’s not just a market, it’s an experience that’s powered by employees who go out of their way to connect with the people they serve.

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