Last time, I wrote a blog about the exceptional customer service I received one day.

Today, it’s about a disappointing customer experience I received recently. It triggers me to think, what type of work does robotics better than human beings?

What type of jobs will be replaced by AI or automation?

In the current era, after chatGPT launched one year ago, we human beings are shocked by seeing how fast the response is when we enter a question on chatGPT. 

When I go to malls or stores, I notice that there are fewer and fewer cashier counters in the malls now, and instead, there are more self-checkout kiosks that replaced the counters that used to be handled by human beings. 

AI and automation significantly impacted the job market, with certain tasks and roles being more susceptible to automation than others. Some of the jobs that were already being affected by AI included Data Entry and Data Processing, Manufacturing and Assembly Line Jobs, Retail Jobs, Self-checkout kiosks, some Administrative Roles, Telemarketing, and Routine Healthcare Tasks.

Those positions are called jobs with repetitive tasks. 

This summer, I went back to Guangzhou, China, and I wanted to renew the pass to Hong Kong as I wanted to stay there for a few days. I remember renewing the pass to Hong Kong, which used to be a time-consuming process. I needed to fill out a form to take a photo, and then I needed to go to the office that handles this type of request, and I needed to submit it in person. After 1-2 weeks, I received a notification, and then I picked it up from a kiosk using my ID. 

However, this summer, I was told that I only needed to go to a machine that handles the requests. I went to a room full of ID processing machines; I inserted my old pass into the machine, paid for the renewal, waited by the machine, and then the machine returned my card with the newly printed pass in a couple of minutes. WOW! I could not imagine how many jobs were replaced or how many hours of manual processing time were reduced by this machine. And it did so well! 

What types of jobs cannot be replaced by AI?

Then comes the next question: what type of jobs cannot be replaced by AI? 

Obviously, those jobs cannot be repeated. Those jobs need human interactions, and those human interactions add value to the experience that could not be handled by AI. As those types of jobs need communication, and the communications are not task-based but subtle and precious, they can change from time to time according to different situations. 

Positions that need unique human and qualities requirements, such as creative professionals, artists, writers, designers, or musicians; complex problem solving such as strategy planning, research and not one cookie cutter thoughts needed; Emotional Intelligence needed such as therapist, consumers; human interaction type of jobs, such as nurse, caregivers, teachers, or people work in hospitality; sales and marketing, as lots of human interactions are needed; etc

With what is said, the more human interaction, creativity, empathy, and emotional intelligence types of jobs, the less possible it is for them to be replaced by AI or automation. 

Hospitality- Will the field replaced by AI?

Hospitality includes both hotel staff and airline flight staff. This industry is a broad sector that encompasses a range of services related to travel, accommodations, and guest services. This industry, in my opinion, should not be threatened by AI, as it requires customer interactions, providing personalized service, answering questions, addressing specific needs, etc

The added value is needed everywhere, such as in handling unique situations and creating positive guest experiences. The warmth, hospitality, and personal attention provided by human staff are key elements in achieving this.

I used to think that was the key to added value, and I could not imagine going to a hotel or boarding an airplane without being greeted by warm smiles and friendliness from the staff in the hospitality industry. Until one day, I started to doubt this. 

I am sharing a type of hotel staff who “are trained to say no” to client’s needs.

I stayed in a hotel for almost 12 days at once this year. I walked past the lobby a couple of times a day, so I thought the staff had already recognized me as it was not a busy season, and there were only 4-5 staff I saw on shifts. There were few guests staying in that hotel at that time. I can tell from the number of people in the free breakfast session.

However, after that stay, I had one conclusion: the staff seemed to be trained in an AI way, and they were good at giving machine-programmed answers “No” to their guest. I am giving a few examples here: 

  • One day, I asked the front desk staff the day before checkout, “Can I have a late checkout to 1 pm after staying eleven days this time?” 

Without spending a second considering my request, the front desk staff said: “Sorry, we cannot. We are running short of cleaning staff. So we must have the room cleaned on time for the next guest.” 

I have been staying at the hotel for 11 days and observed that the room service starts from morning to the afternoon. I don’t think 1-hour late checkout will cause a problem for the cleaning lady as only two ladies provided the room service on that floor. Did she consider trying? Or at least say something “Let me see what I can help”? Then, I could feel the humanity from that angle.

That was like a quick, programmed answer. 

  • The other day, I asked the front desk: “Can I exchange some coins?” As their laundry is operated by quarters, I need to use at least eight quarters to wash clothes. 

That staff stared at me unpleasantly, and she asked (like police): “What do you need the coins for?” I said it was for the laundry. She said: “No, you cannot do laundry now as it’s 9:30 pm; we close at 10 pm”. I said, “Yes, I will need the coins for tomorrow’s laundry. Could I? “

It makes me feel I am talking with an officer (usually at US customs, they need to do their job to make sure travelers declare everything when entering into a country), not a hotel staff; hotels always claim they want to make guests “feel at home. However, I was challenged, liked by a custom, “what do you need the coins for?” 

  • The other time, I went to the laundry room and found I forgot to bring my coins. It was already 8:30 pm, and I needed to do washing and drying that night before 10 pm, which was the laundry closing time. 

I asked the front desk lady. I forgot my coins, and I don’t have cash with me. Could I put my key here and borrow 2 dollars from you now, and then I will give back the 2 dollars in 3 minutes?

The lady said: sorry, I cannot, as I will get into trouble…They see me coming back and forth to the lobby every day, and it’s 2 dollars they don’t even want to lend me for a short 3 mins.

  • The other morning, I rushed downstairs and found I was 3 minutes late for breakfast as they closed at 9 am. I saw one lady just take the food tray away and lock the fridge full of yogurt. I asked her: sorry I am late. Could I still grab a yogurt? She said, “No, we are closed now until tomorrow morning.”

I don’t want to give more examples as that’s enough for one stay experience. That’s why I felt the hotel staff are well-trained to say “NO” to their guests. It’s more like a programmed answer by an AI as they don’t deal with guest’s needs in some specific situations. 

Why is human touch more valuable during the robotics era? As human can understand human needs with their emotional intelligence, their emphatic heart, and their judgment based on different situations and human interactions, they know how to show their kindness and warmth to make others feel heard and understood. 

The other late night, I checked into an H hotel, and the receptionist greeted me,” How are you doing today?” I said, “I am a bit tired after the long drive today. I drove almost 250 km to the hotel that day and it was almost 11:30 pm when I arrived.

She did not raise her eyeballs, then yawned and said, “Can I have your ID?” I smiled and gave them my ID for her to check-in.

I was expecting a little bit of interaction, but instead, that “How are you doing today?” is just a robotic question. I thought I would rather talk with a program if I got no interaction from a simple conversation. 

Robotic Type of Customer Experience could be done well by AI 

In conclusion, the rise of AI and automation undoubtedly brings efficiency and convenience to many aspects of our lives, but it also raises important questions about the value of human interaction and empathy in the customer service industry. While AI can handle routine tasks and provide quick responses, there are certain elements of genuine hospitality and personalized service that only a human touch can deliver.

As we move further into the era of robotics and automation, it becomes increasingly valuable for businesses in the hospitality sector to provide unique added value delivered by their human staff. The true essence of hospitality lies in the ability to understand and cater to the unique needs of each guest, to provide comfort, and to make people feel heard and valued as the guests. 

So, the next time we check into a hotel or board a flight, remember that behind the screens and machines, there are individuals who have the power to enhance our experience through their empathy, kindness, and genuine care. Let’s not forget the irreplaceable value of the human touch in an increasingly automated world. If the hospitality industry trains its staff to provide programming answers, there’s no difference between each hotel, each airline, and each travel, etc. How does your company stand out from the competition? 

In the end, it’s not just about saying “no” or “yes” to a request; it’s about making guests feel truly welcomed, understood, and appreciated. That’s the kind of hospitality that leaves a lasting impression and keeps customers coming back.

Thank you for joining me on this exploration of the evolving world of customer service and hospitality. As we embrace the future, let’s not lose sight of the qualities that make us uniquely human. After all, there are some things that AI and robots can never replicate—the warmth of a genuine smile, the love and consideration from a friendly heart, the comfort of a compassionate gesture, and the ability to make someone’s day brighter.