Can I Speak to Someone Who Knows Something?

Empty gray call center with abandoned computer monitors and headsets

If you’re like me, chances are in the month of January you’ve experienced holiday gift returns, lost packages, flight delays, or called your bank’s 1-800 customer service line in an attempt to resolve an issue. This basically consists of hitting a bunch of buttons like “1,” then “3,” then “2,” then “0,” then “0” again, and then saying “Representative!” multiple times, more loudly each time, until you promptly get hung up on, or fortuitously transferred to a human. Success! A human!

You can’t scroll LinkedIn without reading an article about the absolute necessity of technology aka “the machine,” including large-scale banking systems and implementations, blockchain, and Bitcoin, down to your day-to-day life with chatbots for customer service, or robo-advisors as your financial advisor. I’m pro- technology advancement when it comes to automating time-consuming rote tasks (read more about RPA in our 2018 Outlook) but it pays to be realistic about what you’re losing if you lay off or outsource three-quarters of your staff and replace them with a machine or a machine-like assembly line.

Brain Drain: Sh*t happens. When something goes awry with a legacy architecture system or a spreadsheet, or someone fat-fingers an entry, those handy desk procedures and IT helpdesks will not always save you. I’m going to want to pick up the phone and call the subject matter expert who’s worked the system and processes day-in and day-out for the past five years. If you get rid of or outsource your subject matter experts, you’re going to have a more challenging time troubleshooting effectively, and will be wistfully wishing you could speak to those SMEs directly.

Agility: You want to bring to market a new product, introduce a better/newer/faster system before the competition does? You can’t swap Machine A for Machine B without humans, nor can you go downstairs and lock operations and technology resources in a conference room, come up with a battle plan, and execute swiftly between yourselves. Be prepared for a lot of paperwork, increased cost, and a lot more time and touchpoints before you see your new product hit the books.

Culture: Those phone calls, coffee breaks, happy hours, and “how was your holiday?” are the everyday human exchanges that are important in your career and dictate how your company behaves in a way that’s both meaningful and successful. If you’re not valuing the people and human input to the business, then you’re not creating a culture that will attract the talent you want and more so, keep the talent you want.

I haven’t talked about the enormous cost savings, the efficiency, and the lack of human error that comes with replacing humans with machines or machine-like assembly lines, because it’s the same tune the industry has been singing for years. I am talking about being more pragmatic before going full-speed ahead into the “machine think” of the future. You don’t want to see your team or business turn into a bunch of internal or external stakeholders yelling “Representative!”, do you?