Automation vs. Sharing Economy

I was reading this article posted by a friend on Linkedin. Yeah, artificial intelligence, APIs and automation will reduce administrative tasks and maybe some layers of management. But, this will not reduce employment in the manner described.

I don’t think we have scratched the surface of customer experience and the benefits of the “sharing economy” through technology. It will not be replaced even when robotics and artificial intelligence get adoption. Uber has learned that too much big data can backfire.

The “sharing economy” is also about personalization and creating a platform for those seeking a better life. Not all “sharing economy” jobs will lead to long-term careers but they have empowered millions. I informally poll people who are part of this economy and they are much happier now than before. Stories abound about Lyft drivers or Airbnb hosts starting another successful business on the side. Senior executives at top companies have found ways to leverage this “sharing economy” and improve their operations, while giving them a channel to create something brand new. Human potential has no limits in the “sharing economy.”

It’s still possible to lose sight of customers. Automation and APIs don’t necessarily provide a soft touch to your own employees on the front lines. When they are replaced instead of being re-skilled to meet your needs, they will make sure customers don’t buy your products no matter how nifty the technology becomes. For example, customers did not like idea of IVRUs replacing live interactions with customer care operations. The companies that maintained live support were seen as more caring. In fact, some firms like Apple rolled out retail stores to increase customer engagement. Another example within the “sharing economy” itself is the mass migration of drivers from Uber to Lyft which offers a more empowered employee experience to help customers.

At the end of the day, human beings value communication, face-to-face interaction, compassion and helping others. Machines will never replace the soul of humanity.  Firms who value customer experience can deliver happiness through stories, products and handshakes. The virtuous cycle of building relationships will never be replaced by robots or technology shortcuts. Customers are most willing to buy when positive outcomes are self-evident for their friends, neighbors and business partners. This is what the “sharing economy” is all about; making sure everyone is employed and moving in the right direction. It’s inevitable that technology will simplify labor needs but new jobs will be created requiring skill-sets unbeknownst to the present moment. One must move up the value chain as a product builder or increase their customer-facing blueprint to delight customers.