Cameron Simek

Robotic Takeover

By: Cameron Simek, Opinions Editor, @Skabomb

SubHead: Robots are slowly moving in to the service industry, but can they really replace people, and will they?

Cutline: As more and more measures are taken to “modernize” the service industry, the personal touch is what is really suffering.

Pull Quote: People want to find someone to blame, and with robots, there is no one to yell at.

It’s been said time and time again: we live in the future. We can connect with people around the world in a matter of seconds. We can use our cell phones to order whatever we want off of the internet, including food.

More and more, the service and retail industries are seemingly stepping towards a new standard. One of flashy devices taking charge, and less and less people involved in the process. Most stores now have an option to pick up what you have ordered online in the store, cutting out the hassle of going to the store and having someone help you find what you need. Well, sometimes helping you find what you need, sometimes not.

In some cases the computers can out perform your everyday sales associate. They know where everything is in the store. They can help you find what you need without any hassle, and they work for you to find the best deals possible. This is why stores are moving towards more digital efforts in dealing with customers, it’s easier and causes less problems.

There are a few issues with this step towards the future. The first is that lack of a personal touch. Yes, you do see a lot of associates that just don’t care about customers, but when you get that one that does, it’s a fantastic experience. They are nice and helpful and know how to help you in a way that only a person can. They reach out to you and make small talk while they’re helping you, but computers don’t do that. They just sit there, coldly waiting for an input to give you a canned answer.

The biggest issue I see with computers replacing associates is that there is no one to yell at when something goes wrong. Imagine the day when you use just your cell phone to navigate a store, find your items and ring out when you’re done. When something goes wrong, you can’t call someone over to explain to them what happened. It’s automated, you tap a button to file a complaint and that’s that.

You can’t take up your issues with the system that runs the store, it doesn’t care, it just does its job without caring what goes wrong. There is no one to hold accountable when the unthinkable happens and you get charged twice for an item. After spending years working in retail, I’ve learned that sometimes people just want to yell at you. It may seem like I expect the worst in people, but that’s just something I’ve picked up. People want to find someone to blame, and with robots, there is no one to yell at.

As we travel further into the future and become more reliant on technology, we need to remember that people are still useful and should still be kept around to provide that personal touch, and someone to yell at every once in a while.

Cameron Simek is the Opinions editor for the UVU Review at Utah Valley University. He can be reached at [email protected], and on twitter @Skabomb.