I think a mistake a lot of people are making is assuming that because their job is skilled labor, it won't be automated. This is a failure of imagination. A combination of AI and gradually lowered consumer expectations can replace almost any job
I didn't think they'd find a way to automate my current job. It's complex (despite what my customers think) and required a good deal of skill and training. But they did, or at least mostly did. I'll explain. A thread:
I work in a very specific type of customer service. My job requires me to use a minimum of 4 separate systems on a regular basis. There's negotiation involved and most interactions require a detailed analysis
I'm paid pretty well for it. My salary is not generally found in most "customer service" type jobs. A minimum of an aa degree is required to apply
And while it doesn't require an advanced degree, it's certainly more complicated than programming a robot arm or setting up a self checkout.
So how did this get automated? Well, gradually. It was a several step process. One of the steps was lowering consumer expectations. One day, the company decided we just don't offer several of the services my job once provided.
We just... don't offer it anymore. A lot of customers were very upset by this, to be sure, but what were they going to do? Competitors had also stopped offering those services. It was simply cheaper.
Remember full serve gas stations? Same kind of deal. You can't just go to a competitor for that service anymore because it simply no longer exists. Except in Oregon, which is weird.
The process that we follow also became more frustrating for customers. People were hired at foreign locations and trained on scripts and they would attempt to offer the same services that I did. They didn't do as good a job at it by a mile. They weren't paid or trained as well.
The union was worried these foreign centers would end up taking our jobs, but in the end the foreign centers got closed. They caused too many problems and they couldn't get as much done. In the process, however, customers had become frustrated and learned to expect less of us
Several of our functions were given to a remote group. If a customer needed something done, we were to send a request to the remote group and inform the customer that what could once be completed on a phone call would now take 3-7 days. "We'll call you back"
Boy they didn't like that. But again, what were they going to do? Other companies are already doing the same thing. Besides, I had no choice. Additionally, we soon learned that any request that wasn't properly categorized or filed or whatever would be rejected
So the customer would wait the 3-10 days and not hear back from us then call back in and we'd look at the account and we'd find a note that basically stated the request wasn't even looked at because the representative misfiled it. Start all over again!
Another way they pushed automation was by forcing us to train the customers on our automated replacements. It literally became a fireable offense for us not to teach each and every customer how to do our jobs themselves online.
The online interface is ridiculously complicated and the company changes it every week. Even very savvy individuals have a hard time learning it and then keeping up with the changes. There's a chat function but it gets you to a script trained person who is remarkably unhelpful.
We're told that none of this is by design; it's just a work in progress. I don't believe it. I may be paranoid. It's certainly possible there are two sides to this.
In any case, I'm forced by threat of unemployment to refuse to assist customers and instead persuade them to allow me to teach them how to do things online. This initiative began about a year ago. All the customers hated it.
Many customers asked "why are you doing this? Can't you just help me? Do you WANT them to replace you with the app?" and of course I fucking didn't but what did they expect me to say?
This started about 2 years ago. There have been 0 layoffs at my level, but what they're doing is "letting it attrit down" (per my boss's boss). In other words, people are quitting and getting fired. The company raises expectations of the employees...
Some are unable to meet the new expectations. They end up fired. Locations move and the employees are all offered jobs at the new location but the employees can't move so they quit. Managers were demoted and quit. They've reduced our force by half without doing a single layoff.
Literally every person that I started with who got promoted has since been demoted back to start. Many of them quit out of frustration and humiliation. Some of the rest stay and face the same rising tide of expectations.
So there you go. Customers expect less of my division. We provide less. We've trained all who are able to do it themselves with an automated system. We've put up obstacles and frustrations to getting help with a person. They don't like it, but they have no choice.
So here we are. Those of us who have the skills and self-loathing are the only ones who remain of an increasingly automated job.
Oh, and they're now doing exactly the same thing to our managers' functions.
My eyes have been opened. Every job can be automated - if not to extinction, then at least to a significantly reduced labor force.
Upthread I said two confusing things. The first was that my job was more complicated than setting up a robot arm or a self-checkout. What I meant was that it's difficult to reproduce with a robot arm or self checkout.
Second, I said an initiative began 1 year ago then 2 tweets later said it began 2 years ago. The correct time frame is 2 years ago. After typing 1, I later remembered that it was actually xmas 2015 when they brought it out of trial and went live (Sorry, there's no edit button)
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