The Irreplaceable Human, Part 1 of 2

by Jean Marie Johnson

We can no longer say the robots are coming. They are already here. 

For those of us in the quintessentially human business of providing service to others, it’s a bit disconcerting and more than a little ambiguous. 

Consider this, from consulting giant, McKinsey: “Mortgage brokers spend as much as 90 percent of their time processing applications. Putting in place more sophisticated verification processes for documents and credit applications could reduce that proportion to just more than 60 percent. This would free up mortgage advisers to focus more of their time on advising clients rather than routine processing.” 

In my mind, it’s the proverbial win-win as human beings attend to our higher order needs, wants, and yes, questions. 

The Artistry in the Activity

Ron Miller, in “Technology Can’t Replace the Human Touch,” made a similar observation: “While a machine can perform a given task, often more efficiently than we can, what it lacks is the artistry in the activity, that uniquely human ability to cater to the needs of the individual. The protocol may suggest one approach, but a person who is good at their job understands when to adjust and the subtleties that are required.”

Indeed. As MAGIC practitioners, we use technology as an integral tool in satisfying and delighting our customers. At the same time, we have a deep, personal understanding of the uniquely-human dimension of a service interaction. Ever cry with a robot or share a laugh? I didn’t think so. Miller concluded what we have always known: “People still matter. This is not about being a luddite. Technology marches relentlessly forward…but some things remain fundamental, and people-to-people communication will continue to be one of them.”  

It’s a Brain Thing 

From healthcare to banking, to food service, many of us still, if only sometimes, opt for the human. But why? "The fundamental wiring of our brains is the same as it was 100,000 years ago, so that it's in our deep nature… getting various experiences -- empathy, companionship, being heard, acting in groups -- from other humans," author Geoff Colvin wrote in his book, Humans Are Underrated.

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, concurs: “The time we spend with screens is growing. In-person interactions are decreasing, and we are wired to crave them, so we'll value them more highly… the people who can deliver them are well-positioned for the future.”

The Future: Humans Welcome Here

The conclusion reached by many is that humans will not be replaced because what makes us human is irreplaceable.  Clinical Psychologist Marc Rogatschnig makes this prediction: “Humanity, relationships and connection will become increasingly relevant… the human brain is primarily designed to be social, so its innate to our evolution. When we reach over with empathy and care and show what it is to be human, the cultural environment changes and people want to stay and give more. No machine could do that.” 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Be an Irreplaceable Human” which will appear in a future issue of the MAGIC Service Newsletter.
Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
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