Gone is the age of customer service

Gone+is+the+age+of+customer+service

Cashier positions in physical retail stores are going to be obsolete in the future, as virtual shopping experiences and technological advances reduce the need for customer service.  

Online retailers are increasingly becoming more popular. Over time, humans have become obsessed with convenience. Sit down restaurants were demonetized by drive-throughs, now being replaced by UberEats and Doordash delivery services. The ability to browse and purchase through virtual shopping platforms is following the same trend and the possibilities for advanced shopping experiences are growing exponentially. Retailers were already expanding their online shopping offerings prior to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the global crisis has added an increasing urgency. The need for cashiers is completely eliminated as the popularity of online shopping grows and virtual customer service representatives are being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) responders.  

Even in physical locations, several advanced retailers are moving towards a frictionless shopping experience, uninterrupted by employees. Cashier services were replaced by self-checkout counters and automatic options will soon eliminate both. In 2018, the first Amazon Go store was opened, with plans for thousands more by 2021. These stores promote an experience that they describe to be similar to ‘shoplifting’, equipped with automatic checkout technologies. Upon entering, customers scan a QR code on their phone. As they are shopping, sensors track their movement through the store and weight sensors monitor shelved products. The idea is for the customer to take what they want and immediately leave. On their way out the door through the sensors, the cost is immediately charged to their personal Amazon account.  

 

Peter Diamandis, an engineer, physician, entrepreneur, and author, predicts that artificial intelligence, like the one created by Amazon Go, is going to completely remodel the shopping experience. As soon as a consumer is interested in a type of item, AI is going to gather all of the products one might be interested in on their limitless smartphone. Customers will browse suggested products tailored to their liking until they find what they like and head to the store. Body and weight sensors have already mapped the customer’s size and shape on their way to the store and sent the information to the retailer. As soon as the customer arrives, the perfect item is handed to them by a machine that processed all of their information and the consumer walks out the door. The automatic checkout sensors have immediately charged their personal bank account upon exiting. Later that day, their smartphone receives digital coupons from the store to induce a second shopping experience.  

It is tempting to think Diamandis’s predictions are incredibly futuristic and are decades away from being implemented into consumers’ lives. However, humans already carry around AI devices in their pockets and they sit on counters in regular homes. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri are currently the top contenders for personal artificial intelligence assistants and are going to be the basis for these new shopping experiences.  

The inevitable advances of artificial intelligence in retail stores leave cashiers and customer service employees jobless. Handling cash, completing transactions and assisting customers will all be replaced by artificial intelligence. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, consumers were becoming interested in a less communicative and interactive way of shopping. The future convergence of AI and consumer shopping preferences are going to change the retail world forever.  

 

 Brooke Kruger is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]