My extensive research (i.e., reflecting on my personal experiences and observations) shows that automation of public-facing functions for the purpose of cost savings alone seldom, if ever, results in a better customer experience.
An example of improved customer service paired with cost savings could be the self check-in kiosks at the airport. More kiosks than human agents mean shorter lines, and I can read and press screen icons faster than an agent can talk and type. The airline and I both win, at least until I get stuck in a middle seat on a 7-hour flight.
This morning I saw a Twitter post that highlighted a new opportunity to improve customer service in a very different field. Have you heard about Dark Sky? It's a graphical website (with an available app) that allows you to get hyperlocal weather reports. The system utilizes the same type of publicly available data that your local TV weather person uses, but it also uses machine learning to improve accuracy.
On the website you can plug in your town, even neighborhood, and view a variety of weather conditions, such as current and forecast temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and wind gusts for the timeframe that you select.
Its accuracy? You probably would have to do a couple of months worth of comparison with TV and The Weather Channel forecasts to evaluate Dark Sky's accuracy rate. Or you could try it for a while, and if you get rained on when it says you should get sun, forget that I told you about it.
Where Dark Sky wins, however, is in what I will lump under the customer service umbrella.
In contrast with The Weather Channel, Dark Sky isn't smacking you in the face with headlines declaring yet another "Storm of the Century!" or cutesy names like Zacharia for minor snow falls setting up 2,000 miles away.
TV meteorologists yack for two thirds of any half hour news show, and most of what they tell us is what we had for weather today. A forecast that says, "Nice tomorrow with a chance of showers in some locations north of the city" doesn't cut it.
Plus, the TV version of hyperlocal is to tell you what the temperature is right now in a half dozen communities scattered around a metropolitan area, seldom your own. Rather than listen to that for a growing portion of your life, step outside; the world doesn't bite.
With Dark Sky, you click, zoom if you'd like, and check out the conditions that you care about for the timeframe you care about. Rain tomorrow, bring an umbrella. Forty MPH winds plus gusts, watch the patio furniture. You quickly learn that lots of little arrows pointing left mean wind from the east, and that the blue sections on the precipitation map mean you will get wet, but not as wet as the red sections.
Finally, with a feature like Dark Sky, weather information is available when you want it, not when broadcast TV chooses to feed it to you. My only question is what other type of job would be appropriate for all those TV weather reporters.