“There’s an app for that” started out innocently enough as an ad slogan for Apple back in 2009, but has evolved into something else altogether in the intervening years; a worrying summation of the extent to which the products being spun out by the ever-booming tech industry have begun to replace certain jobs, even entire departments, within other sectors.
“Apps may be creating new jobs for developers and marketers,” wrote Anton Troianovski in The Wall Street Journal this week, “but around the edges of the rest of the economy, they’re also starting to become a substitute for people who earn a paycheck.”
Troianovski cited his local shopping centre in Trumbull, Connecticut as a prime example, where the customer services desk had been replaced by an unmanned kiosk which advised visitors to simply download an app which would be able to, presumably, answer any and all of their questions.
While the central value-add of many apps is user convenience, Troianovski’s concern is that the prevalence and ease with which an app can be downloaded is turning the majority of consumers into “their own bank tellers, loan officers, insurance adjusters, checkout clerks, restaurant order takers, citrus-crop inspectors and mall concierges.”
Which increases user autonomy without a doubt, but also effectively renders all of the people currently filling the job descriptions above, and countless others, surplus to requirements. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; in a thought piece over at LinkedIn, Dennis K. Berman conceded that there will probably always be a market for individuals with excellent interpersonal skills in the sales and customer service sectors, stating that “maybe customers make crummy workers when the incentives start to decay.”
Berman also posited that the app industry is likely to continue to have an effect on the way we do business going forward: “Our perception of what it means to be a customer is changing. It’s not just about being served, in the old-fashioned way of the chirpy, white-capped gas-station attendant, but rather being part of a process, in which company and customer take on tasks together.”