We all are told how much technology is helping businesses be more efficient and profitable. But is that really true? In recent months, I have begun challenging that generally accepted premise. It almost feels like rather than seeing technology as a tool that can make good employees better, we are using it to make bad employees worse and good employees too expensive.

I think part of what is causing this is a belief within corporate America that everyone is comfortable, and even prefers, conducting most business digitally. And because of this there is less of a need for employees that are skilled and service focused. After all, why pay a premium for good people when a computer system along with a few unskilled employees can provide a better overall experience to the consumer at a greatly reduced price?

I can tell you from personal experience this kind of thinking is significantly flawed. We along with thousands of other investment advisors were recently forced to transfer their clients’ accounts from TD Ameritrade to Charles Schwab as part of a multibillion-dollar merger between the two companies. As you might expect, the logistics of such a major undertaking were quite complex.

In situations such as this, technology is often seen as the solution, but in many ways, it can actually make the task harder. Especially with an aging population that are becoming less and less able to utilize these new systems. I cannot tell you how many clients I personally met with to assist in setting up their new account profiles online because of difficulties they were having doing it themselves.

These types of frustrations dealing with a computer instead of a person are not limited to the financial industry. it seems like every corporation has decided that smartphones are the only way to conduct business today. According to a 2024 Pew study however, 10% of all Americans and 30% of seniors do not own a smartphone and an even larger amount only use them to make calls. By corporations requiring access to certain technologies to complete basic tasks, you are not only restricting the services some can receive, but also reducing the revenue you can receive from them.

Take for example my parents. My mom is an enormous Royals fan. A couple of years ago they put a policy into place that requires all tickets be accessed through the MLB app. Physical tickets are no longer available. You can’t even have them electronically sent to your email to print yourself. For my parents the end result is they stay home and watch the games on tv.

Given the general age demographics of baseball fans, I would guess they are not alone in opting to not attend live games because of these technological obstacles. I understand having actual people servicing the customer does cost money, and having good people costs even more. However, I think the consequences of replacing good employees with a touchscreen or an app can be significantly more costly. Especially if the end result is a frustrated customer who decides conducting business with you is just too difficult.

Yes, of course there is a place for technology in business. Part of how we have become so prosperous as a nation is the way in which we have utilized it. With that said, technology will never be able to replace good people who care about their customers and have a passion for serving them.

I don’t care how smart AI becomes the intelligence computers have will always be artificial. The goal of all business leaders needs to be finding that perfect balance between technology and people. I believe it is those that do that ultimately will be the most successful moving forward.