On Monday, Amazon debuted its first cashier-less grocery store in Seattle, Washington, ushering in a decidedly new era in customer service. Amazon Go, as the venture is called, works by streamlining the shopping experience, allowing the customer to grab items and walk out of the store without having to stand in a line.
“What would shopping look like if you could just go into a store, grab what you want and just go?” Amazon says in a video advertisement for the venture. “What if we could weave the most advanced machine-learning, computer learning and AI [artificial intelligence] into the fabric of a store so that you never have to wait in line? No lines, no checkouts, no registers. Welcome to Amazon Go.”
Amazon Go is a grocery store with no cashiers or checkout lines
The world’s largest online retailer announced Amazon Go in December 2016 as a grocery for employees only. This week’s grand opening to the public constitutes a big step for Amazon.
Once inside the store, patrons won’t need to use their phones at all, but to gain entry through the turnstiles you must open the Amazon Go app on your smartphone. Contrary to popular belief, the store does have employees. Chefs prepare food in a kitchen and associates are on hand to prep items, the company says.
If you pick up an item to read the label, you won’t be charged unless you leave the store with it. “If you change your mind about that cupcake, just put it back,” the store says in the video.
While the online retailer hasn’t announced plans for the 1,800-square foot store to be expanded to other cities, there is clearly an opportunity to bring this high-tech approach nationwide, maybe even to the Whole Foods franchise, which Amazon bought in 2017.
But what does Amazon Go mean for the customer service industry, which is already ceding jobs to email, social media and chat bots?
On Amazon’s Facebook page, many people are excited about the new store, but others are criticizing the company for doing away with retail jobs at a time when Seattle’s minimum wage is $15, the highest in the nation among cities. You can be sure that as companies continue to innovate with automation, the trend is that more jobs in the customer service industry will likely be affected.
One thing customers can do to make sure their needs are always met is to communicate with these companies to let them know what patrons expect when they shop or buy their products. The hallmarks of great customer service —courteousness, honesty and respect for one’s time — should never be compromised.
No matter the awesome advances of AI in retail settings, many of us simply want to deal with humans when it comes to transactions involving our hard-earned money. Many people, especially older ones, lament the loss of customer service interaction, no matter how superficial and time-consuming much of it is.
A 2017 story in Entrepreneur magazine highlights what kind of experience companies try to curate when representatives interact with customers. “While speaking to people, one must always keep the fact in mind that people always want to hear whatever is liked by them. And using this to ones benefit is a great strategy. While providing customer services, win their hearts by speaking well about them, their taste, their city, and all other unnecessary things. Manipulate the customers by sweet talking.”
What does the future of customer service look like?
Look to see fewer cashiers in some of your favorite places in the future. Some executives point to rising labor costs as a main reason they’re investing in automation. On an investors call last February, Wendy’s CEO Bob Wright touted the benefits of automating jobs that required “repetitive production tasks,” according to news website The Atlantic.
“We think we’ve hit the point where labor-wage rates are now making automation of those tasks make a lot more sense,” Wright said. Along with Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Panera are in the process of making self-serve kiosks a key component in locations across the nation, totally removing the need for any interaction with employees, the Atlantic reports.
So how are customers who need assistance supposed to get in contact with “real people” at these companies? We’ve written about how to get live customer support at some of the nation’s biggest and most successful companies. Let’s hope that the smaller companies continue to dedicate themselves to robust customer interaction and service.