Self Serve vs. Human Connection

self-serve food kiosk

I spend a lot of time in the Detroit airport nowadays and last week, I encountered something interesting and little bit frustrating – a self-serve only kiosk to order your food.

In theory, this is more interesting than frustrating, but when you have 3 people – employees of the establishment – standing right behind the kiosks and no one else in line to order the food, it tipped the scale to frustrating.

There I was, in a hurry, trying to catch my flight, and within the span of 30 seconds, I could have given my order to one of the employees. And within a couple of minutes, could have gotten my meal and jet-setted to my jet. Rather, I had to spend a good 1.5-2 minutes going through the kiosk to place my order. Wait another couple of minutes to get it and viola, an experience that should have taken less than 5 minutes, suddenly took at least 5 minutes.

I’m all one for self-serve, interactive ordering and ticketing and the like. But the balance with this sort of technology, out in the real world like this, is how much is takes away from or supplements customer service. That’s right, good, old fashioned customer service.

See, I want to take care of my business quickly and efficiently. Technology like this can help. But I also have a need for some sort of human interaction, particularly if it helps me take care of my business more quickly and efficiently. When we replace one with the other, we are shifting the balance of what technology can really do for us. We are deeming it just as good, just as quick, just as efficient – if not more – than what we as humans can provide. This is scary. It’s not a complete replacement. It should be a comprehensive supplement.

The voice, the smile, the service. That’s something that a Siri-like device can give us now and in the future. It will likely be even more real. But it’s not. And it never will be. And that’s the point. Human interaction, at our core, is a consistent point of connection and that will never go away. Even when we have more and more technology and kiosks and computers and Siris.

Right now, a complete substitute is just frustrating. In the future, well….I just hope that we can hold on to that human connection.

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