Technology: A Blessing & A Curse to Customer Experience Delivery

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I’ve always loved the way Charles Dickens opened his masterpiece The Tale of Two Cities. The first few phrases of the first line set a powerful stage for the book and an apt assessment of the role of technology in customer experience delivery… 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

So why would I suggest the merger of technology and customer experience execution is both the “age of wisdom and the age of foolishness”… Put simply because some companies believe that technology alone will create customer engagement.

As hard as this may be to believe, I think the airline industry is actually on the cusp of using technology in a forward thinking way that reflects the “best of times and the age of wisdom.” In particular, leaders at Delta Airlines (a number of whom I’ve had the good fortune of working with through the years) are about to deploy RFID (radio frequency Identification) paper tags on all passenger luggage replacing the old school barcode scanners. According to Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations, “With a $50 million investment in RFID at 344 stations around the globe, we aim to reliably deliver every bag on every flight,…This innovative application of technology gives us greater data and more precise information throughout the bag’s journey.” Delta’s initial trials have produced a 99.9 percent success rate on routing and loading bags. The technology will also allow flyers to receive push notifications as to their bag’s journey through the Fly Delta mobile app.

The age of wisdom is demonstrated when technology reduces human error and automates manual processes which otherwise drain human capital and result in customer pain points.

Ok, on to what I believe is the “Age of Foolishness” (I really don’t want to be wrong about this.) For me, technology and humans must each play their unique and special roles in the ecosystem of customer experience. People should give way to technology when, as is the case with the Delta RFID approach, technology yields better results. Conversely, technology should not try to replace people when it comes to emotional connections with customers.

It is the humanization of machines that I find troubling. Take, for example, android technology, like Sophia, created by Hanson Robotics. If you have not seen Sophia in action, you really should get to know her in this two-minute video clip. Over the course of about 120 seconds, Sophia and her creators suggest she will be our friend while also suggesting she will destroy humans. As eerily humanlike as Sophia is (and goodness knows how much more sentient she will be as she “learns” more through her programming), I hope it is foolishness to think that technology will ever replace the emotional depth of people.

I’d love to get your thoughts about how technology and humans are playing well together on behalf of the customer experience and if you think I am wrong about the capacity of android’s to completely replace human service providers.

All I know is I will advocate for technologies that make the lives of customer’s better, while simultaneously advocating for PEOPLE not ANDROIDS to delivery uniquely special compassion and care …

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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