What Labor Shortage? Use Robots

Unnamed 26 Jpg, The DiJulius GroupToday the U.S. has 3.4 million fewer workers participating in the job market compared to before the pandemic. Businesses have tried numerous strategies to cope with the lack of human labor—everything from reducing their operating hours to raising wages, to offering four-day work weeks. But recently they have hit upon a new strategy, one that has them saying “What labor shortage? Use robots.”

Accelerated Demand Across Industries for Robotics Automation

The U.S. robotic manufacturers are up nearly 30% in 2022 over 2021. Demand for robotics is coming from nearly every industry, with a heavy emphasis on automating warehouses for handling the continued exploding growth of e-commerce. With even the top brands struggling to keep up with the demand for delivery, and the rising cost for human workers, businesses like restaurants and food delivery operators have a high demand for robotics. Restaurants and ghost kitchen companies are testing out different robotic and automated technology solutions to speed up service and offering solutions for ongoing labor challenges by developing automated bots for both restaurant kitchens and dining rooms. Grubhub, for one, announced on June 13 that it is partnering with Cartken, a self-driving robotics company, to offer autonomous deliveries on college campuses. And Uber is taking a dual approach on roadways and sidewalks via autonomous technology. The company launched delivery tests using robotic technology on May 16 in Los Angeles for its Uber Eats division. The company plans to incorporate customer and merchant preferences in future platform integrations with driverless segments of the automotive industry.  

The Rise of the Robo Restaurants

One perhaps surprising field that has taken advantage of the shift to technology is the restaurant industry, where a shortage of available workers has driven up costs and has even limited the ability of some restaurants to open additional locations. Spyce, a casual fast-food eatery established by four MIT graduates, is set on opening the first truly robotic restaurant chain in the U.S. Its founders say the robots help improve consistency and speed and prepare food in three minutes or less while enabling the company to serve its food at reasonable prices.

Another example is the Chinese restaurant chain Haidilao, which has partnered with Panasonic to open a fully automated kitchen in Beijing. The new establishment will feature robots that can take orders plus prepare and deliver raw meat and fresh vegetables to customers to put into soups prepared at their tables. The automated kitchen will reportedly be used to help Haidilao expand to as many as 5,000 locations around the world.

From Restaurant Reservations to Global Conversations

And then there are the collaborative robots. You needn’t go all the way to a robotic kitchen to encounter AI in the food world. When commanded, Google Duplex will call a restaurant and make reservations. The software is very advanced, with a realistic human voice that mimics the “uhhs” and “umms” typical of most conversations. It’s undoubtedly a harbinger of things to come, as this software could easily expand to booking appointments for other businesses such as hair salons, doctors’ offices, and hotels, creating a displacement of labor as they lessen the demand for workers to fill these roles.

Another feature of Google’s Duplex and its AI capabilities across the globe is the possibility of eliminating language barriers—with the inherent potential for misunderstandings—taking communication to the next level. “There’s the opportunity to [give people] the ability to call a business in a country where [they] don’t speak the language,” says Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of product and design. “I’d be able to speak to the assistant in a language that I speak and then it could speak to the business in a language that makes sense to them. That’s a really interesting way this system can be used to break language barriers.”

The applications of AI and the adoption of robots are just beginning to be explored. In fact, Servion predicts that AI will power 95 percent of all customer interactions by 2025 and will do it so effectively that customers will not be able to “spot the bot.”

For Best in Class Customer Service, Do More with Less

The impact of automation cannot be denied. There is no arguing that machines and AI are faster, cheaper, and more efficient. And they make fewer mistakes than humans. When a bank started using chatbots to handle more than 1.5 million claim requests each year, it found that the work of 85 bots was equal to the output of 200 full-time human employees…at only 30 percent of the cost.

Yet technology alone is not the answer. Even the most highly developed automation technologies cannot show genuine compassion and empathy, nor can they recognize customer pain points on a personal level. AI cannot engage humans emotionally. The most important asset needed to truly connect with customers is the ability to empathize, yet AI solutions are incapable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes. Thus, the human part of the customer experience must be our top priority:

Use technology to perform basic tasks, enabling employees to focus on 

what is most important: Building relationships that result in 

higher customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and job satisfaction.

*Related7 Traits for Effective Interactions: Social Skills = Job Security

High Tech Meets Human Touch in the Relationship Economy

It’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. Be the relationship builder.

The Relationship Economy is a critical necessity in a world of digital disruption as companies try to figure out the new reality of human and machine interactions in designing their customer experience. One thing that needs to remain a top priority in this evolution is keeping the customer at the center of all your decisions. “With the pace and stresses of most lives, people want to pass along their emotional burden to another human, one they trust understands their needs and will work to resolve an issue,” says Joshua Feast, the CEO of Cogito, an AI and behavioral analytics company.

Stress, emotional burden, human. Such powerful words. We are all social creatures and innately need relationships. Human interactions are key. The businesses that work at knowing their client as a person—with a family, concerns, and dreams—will be the ones dominating their industries.

Unnamed 24 Jpg, The DiJulius GroupAs Richard Shapiro observes in his book The Endangered Customer, “The human spirit can’t be separated from human transactions and interactions—nor should it be. Customers do not want their lives filled with endless robotic encounters. As automated transactions become faster, easier, and more reliable, making the human connection will become increasingly rare—and therefore increasingly more valuable.” He notes that companies continuing to personalize service for their customers will enjoy sustainable, revenue- and profit-boosting relationships which will be enhanced, rather than diminished, by the new technologies.

 *Related – How to Be Human First, a Professional Second

Unnamed 20, The DiJulius Group*Join John DiJulius for a live webinar on how to start your own CX Coaching Business on Tuesday, December 13th and make 2023 the year you took total control over your career and destiny. 


“Do not ask the customers what they want; give them something they cannot live without.”


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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.