Using AI and other automation tools to improve the delivery of human services can make exclusive services such as career coaching available to more people. But for this to happen, the human and technical aspects of a service must be in balance.
My research of 65+ startups operating as tech-enhanced human services (TEHS) suggests that while companies need to be ambitious about what technology can do to scale a human service, they also need to ensure that the human component of the service is not compromised.
The rise of technology-enhanced human services
Many startups automate parts of tasks previously performed by humans, while sticking to the human quotient for the parts that deliver the best results for customers.
This is based on the premise that because certain services, such as concierges, require people as part of the solution, fully automated apps are not enough. But human time is often expensive and limited.
By integrating technology with human expertise, companies can make their services more affordable and accessible.
TEHS companies can be found in many industries – I have identified 66 such companies, 19 of which are unicorns operating in more than 10 vertical markets. These companies all use different technologies to streamline parts of their service that take the time of a human expert.
Wishi brings people into contact with experts who help them to buy clothes and other personal items online. It uses surveys and algorithms to match customer preferences with clothing inventory. This is further compiled into a final product list by style experts who talk to customers about individual needs, including specific clothing for events or incorporating the requirements of a medical condition.
By reducing the time a stylist has to spend on the process, Wishi can charge $40 to $90 per client. The company’s co-founder, Clea O’Hana, says partners such as Farfetch and Saks Fifth Avenue using Wishi have seen a sharp increase in transactions.
†[That’s] thanks to the more detailed data we collect from clients and the trust they have with their stylist,” says O’Hana.
Is my service “tech-enhanceable”?
Three conditions seem necessary for a company to improve their service with technology.