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The continual evolution of technology, particularly business software and apps, has made it possible for small companies to work with fewer staffers. But too much technology may hurt rather than help.

While workers continually adjust to using technology, they still need human contact, says Anita Williams Woolley, a professor of organizational behavior at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

"There are situations in which people don't want to be managed by a bot," she says.

Similarly, owners should think carefully before doing away with human contact for customers, Woolley says. Companies increasingly handle customer service through email and chats on websites using what's known as artificial intelligence, or AI, and some businesses use electronic kiosks instead of receptionists.

"With some of these interpersonal things, AI isn't there yet," Woolley says.

Over time, people are more accepting of technology, Woolley says, noting that when GPS systems were first introduced, many drivers were irritated or offended by a machine telling them what to do. Now GPS apps are ubiquitous on phones, and some apps make themselves more user-friendly by offering alternatives on voices and accents.

"It takes time. But in the meantime, it can backfire," Woolley says.

Owners who want to be sure they're introducing technology in a positive way should consider a consult with a human resource provider or a customer service consultant.

 

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