A social robot can be defined as “an artificial intelligence (AI) system that is designed to interact with humans and other robots” (1).
Social robots have the potential to completely disrupt the customer experience across all industries. For example, retail stores may not even have a need in the future to staff their stores with people; instead, social robots and other forms of technology could be responsible for tasks like checking customers out, staffing customer service departments, and stocking shelves.
In 2018, Amazon opened their first cashier-less store named “Amazon Go” (3). Customers scan their Amazon app to enter the store and then are free to shop around. Customers only need to pick items off the shelf and then are free to leave the store with their items. The technology in the store is able to pick up what items customers grab and then electronically bills customers through their Amazon profile.
Although the stores are highly automated, there are still employees in the Amazon Go stores. Employees are needed in the store in order to stock shelves and assist customers. In the future, I believe that Amazon will look to use more advanced automated processes and social robots in order to eventually create a store that is completely employee-less.
In addition, Amazon currently employs a policy that is not sustainable on a wide-scale. If customers are incorrectly charged or not satisfied with their purchase, then customers are able to get refunded without any farther questions. This system hypothetically would allow customers to take advantage of the system very easily. Social robots are one potential solution to ensure that customers are not able to take advantage of the system.
There are many unclear tasks that these social robotics will have to be able to perform. Customer service representatives often interact with customers that have highly unique problems. Because of this, it would not be possible for a programmer to instruct the robot on how to solve every possible problem that a customer may have. This is one of the current limitations of social robots as compared to humans: they are unable to handle more complex, situational responsibilities.
Although they may have some limitations, social robots offer many potential benefits to companies. For example, social robots allow companies to spend less money on employing their workforce and better access to customer issues. Hypothetically, social robots would be able to keep data on the types of interactions they have with customers. This data could be reported to companies in order to give key insights about customer pain-points. The access to this data would allow companies to solve common customer issues at a faster rate.