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Are we too eager to embrace the machines?

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 19th September , 2023 in Copywriting, Editing & Proofreading
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My local business news had a harrowing snippet in their morning briefing newsletter.

One of the two major grocery stores in Australia is “aggressively rolling out new technology that will track a shopper’s every move from the moment they walk into a store, installing overhead cameras, trolley locks, smart gates and, perhaps most bizarrely, fog machines”.

These measures are being introduced to address the rising cost of theft in grocery stores, much of it attributed to shoplifting.

But surveillance, physical barriers, and environmental pollution – how does that work for the customer experience?

Mind you, the company reported a net profit of AU$1.09 billion, up 4.8 per cent over last year.

But here’s the thing: both major grocery chains in Australia made a cost-cutting decision to move to self-service checkouts. The technology reduced operations costs – and human jobs – and is responsible for billions of dollars in shoplifting losses every year. Yes, billions!

Wouldn’t it solve a lot of problems if the stores reduced their reliance on technology and brought back check-out staff and store security guards?

I can’t help but think there’s a lesson here for writers and content producers, especially in the era of AI and large language models. We might be saving time on writing, but what does it mean for the customer experience

The more we move away from direct interaction with our readers, the less empathy we’ll have for them. The more we rely on auto-generated copy, the less opportunity we have to differentiate our business.

The more we let technology do for us, the higher the chance we have for alienating our readers. Most of us can spot AI-generated writing a mile away. As soon as I get a whiff of it, I stop reading.

I judge.

Writing is hard; there’s no doubt about it. To write consistently and continually satisfy your readers is harder yet. For me, there’s nothing more delightful than realising someone at the end of a keyboard took the time, endured the pain and worked to create a quality piece of writing aimed directly at me.

Good writing translates into commercial value and becomes a long-term asset for your business. Bad writing or machine-generated writing squashes the opportunity to enhance the customer experience or make your readers feel valued.

I believe the goodwill produced by good copy is worth it, don’t you?

Writers and content marketers have a chance to learn from the mistakes of grocery stores.

Have you considered the unintended consequences of using technology for a job better performed by humans. Doesn’t it make sense to reflect on the ramifications of cost-saving measures before you fog your customers?

I’d love to hear about how writing has affected your customer experience, either in a positive or negative way. Reply to this email to let Dan and I know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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