Visiting a corporate headquarters in Sydney this week I was confronted when I came to their reception desk with a machine I have never seen before… and boy is it a sign of what is to come.
This machine could be known as “the virtual receptionist” and frankly it made me feel more like I was a part of the Jetsons than I have ever felt before. When I arrived at the reception area, coming up in the beautiful traditional building’s lift, I walked into an empty, comfortable looking reception, and in front of the elegant reception desk that was devoid of staff was a tall, metal machine waiting to “serve me”. Next to it stood a plastic sheet full of phone numbers if I should not be able to work out what I needed.
I stood there at the reception desk of the 130+ year old company in a small amount of surprise. So far in my career, this is the first fully-automated receptionist I have ever seen. There is no doubting that it is an important sign of the times that workers must have more and more skills to survive in the workplace. But it also had me thinking of how many important service roles will be taken out of play by this humble, personality free machine that resembles an airline checkin computer.
I stood in front of it in awe while it took my photo, captured my name and business details and then contacted the person I had an appointment to meet with great efficiency. It printed me a stick on nametag, and then I sat to its side and waited. When everything fits the formula, I have no doubt this is an efficient way for a business to eliminate costs, and for me that day, it did fit the formula.
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I sat there as I waited and thought about how many of our readers were a significant part of a business’s face and what you would think of this change. Whilst it comes is no surprise to most, I am sure many of you would be disappointed to see the front of house role that for most businesses used to be one of their most important visible faces, disappear and be replaced by a machine.