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This month’s Monday Moments are focused on amplifying your humanity. The good news is there are a great many skills, talents, and actions humans can make that robots or chatbots or automated phone tree people cannot. The bad news is that in light of all the glitters and the appeal of going all things robotic, the focus on people skills and how to deliver them is waning. Next week, we’ll talk through how to develop and use your people skills even better, but this week, I wanted to share an article that I simply could not pass up. Written by Blake Morgan, the title of her article is 10 Things Robots Can’t Do. Originally appearing on Forbes.com, it seemed incredibly timely and appropriate for reminding us that humanity, particularly yours to the team you have the privilege of leading, still greatly matters and is needed.

There’s been a lot of hype about AI, robots, chatbots and the like. And I admit I cover this topic. I speak on this topic as well – and I think it’s an exciting time in technology. But I’m getting tired of the hype of artificial intelligence.

While we talk up robots and AI, and there is nothing like being served by someone who seems to genuinely want to be serving, one reason we are so excited about robots, automation and self-service technology is we’ve been trying to create space between brands and customers for years. Dealing with customers can be expensive, resource draining and time consuming.

The idea is: “How can we push as many people as possible through the same experience while keeping our operating costs as low as possible?” But let’s have a straight talk about robots and automation. Would you want a robot giving you an important medical diagnosis? Would you want to go to a theater and watch a cast of robots perform for you? 

  1. A robot can’t look you in the eye

Machines will not destroy man as long as we remember machines are in service to mankind. Last night I was watching the film “Hidden Figures” – in the movie the actor who plays astronaut John Glenn says regarding the IBM mainframe that shot out potentially incorrect trajectory information for his landing “you can’t trust something you can’t look in the eyes.” He’s right. Would you trust something that can’t interpret events, actions, or tones as much as a human? Machines are in service to us. It should always be that way. When we let technology loose without much management or interference from a human – it usually doesn’t end well.

  1. Consider the feelings of the other person

If an interactive voice response (IVR) program (a phone tree) could consider and interpret the feelings of customers on the other end of the phone, the robot might malfunction in shock. Many people have thrown their phone on the ground, tired of an IVR that doesn’t understand what they (the customer) are requesting. Or the IVR doesn’t offer what the customer requests. Customer service can be a messy business because you are dealing with human emotions. There’s a gray area. As customer frustration and anger goes up, a human being should be able to gauge that, sincerely apologize and offer some kind of appropriate service recovery. Service recovery means I will give you X for your inconvenience. Robots cannot consider feelings – genuinely, like a person can. Today millions of companies settle for terrible IVR experiences, keeping their customers at bay – never realizing how many customers they lose overnight because of these hard of hearing robots.

  1. Make a person feel seen or heard

Sometimes working in customer service is like being a psychologist. When a customer contacts you with a problem, the problem is not always the product or service. Life can be messy and sometimes customers just want some attention. By giving customers the attention needy customers want you are investing in a relationship with those customers. It’s not always about selling something. Look at Zappos whose longest call in the call center with a customer was longer than 10 hours. Zappos knows its call center staff is not purely in the business of helping people buy shoes.

  1. Feel empathy

When another person has been through something that you’ve been through, and you two can share talk about it – there is nothing like it. Humans need and crave this connection. We were built to share and connect in this way.

  1. Feel sympathy

If a robot tells you, “I am sorry for your trouble, I can imagine you must be very upset” – that doesn’t make you feel better, does it? No of course not, because the robot is not being genuine. It’s a robot. There is no soul.

  1. Make a person feel taken care of, the way a mother or grandmother, father or grandfather can make a person feel taken care of

I was recently in Melbourne for a conference sitting around a table with six other futurists. One of them said she was traveling in the United Kingdom and she went to a hotel at 11:30pm that had no concierge – only a kiosk to check in. She felt it was creepy – there was no one around to greet her. It was uncomfortable. She went to another hotel. After a long day of travel, it’s nice to be greeted by a smile and some help. Robots can’t take care of you in the same way your loved ones can, and they certainly can’t replace them in the same way.

  1. Understand comedy, Be good at comedy

Good comedy comes from pain, humiliation – all the good stuff of life you can’t fake. You acquire stories by going through awful stuff. I love a good comedy show. My favorite comedians can make me laugh no matter what is happening in life. A good stand-up set can fix almost anything. I wouldn’t want to go see a robot perform. It wouldn’t be the same.

  1. Establish trust with a person, the way another person is capable of establishing trust

We’ve talked about this in almost every section above. Trust is established by consistent good behavior from both parties. A robot doesn’t have a moral compass, they just have a compass. There are many nuances to relationships that robots will never replicate in their relationships with humans.

  1. Be a critical thinker, be creative in the way the great minds of our time can be creative

I don’t see a robot coming up with a “Start With Why” Simon Sinek idea, or Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame. I wouldn’t want to see a Ted Talk delivered by a robot! I don’t see a robot writing a great movie like the documentary “Icarus” or Netflix Original series such as “Chelsea” or “Glow” or “Ozark.”

  1. In a hospital environment, deliver bad news well

If you had an MRI and were awaiting a diagnosis, would you want that diagnosis to come from a robot? I certainly wouldn’t. A good doctor that knows how to communicate in a direct but empathetic way can shape the patient experience. Would you want robots zooming around a hospital doing all the surgeries and delivering diagnoses to patients? There is a human element, especially in dire situations, that can best be delivered by a person.

Here are a few other things last things robots can’t do: make great art, interpret great art, cook from the heart or work from the heart.

We are getting ahead of ourselves with our dystopian zombie-apocalypse future view of the world. These days our world seems to get stranger and stranger. We would all benefit from returning to a story of humanity, of caring for one other, of focusing a little less on money. Let’s step back and evaluate the use of the artificial intelligence, of the robot – before we throw it at something we see as a problem.

Until we lose our own humanity, robots will never completely replace us. Let’s stop the hype cycle.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of More Is More.

Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?

Each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic. This week your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to consciously choose to practice those actions that differentiate you from a robot. It’s been said that no one cares what you make, but they always care how you make them feel. How do you leave those you lead feeling, after a coaching session, brief chat, or important interaction with you? Are you making eye contact, using empathy where appropriate, and demonstrating critical thinking?

When you showcase how human you really are and when you allow those you lead to see the days when your super hero cape has just plum fallen off, you make a connection. From connections stem loyalty and from loyalty stems motivation and from both stems future leadership. Robots and humans are different. Robots are great workers while humans make great leaders.

You’re on your way and you’re ready to become that better leader by Monday.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!


Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.

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