Will robots take over service industry jobs in 2050?

28 Nov 2017
Will robots take over service industry jobs in 2050?
Will robots take over service industry jobs in 2050?

In 2017, service industries account for more than 60% of all annual investment, GDP and jobs (IBISWorld, 2017). With new technology, robotics and the ever-changing consumer wants and needs of consumers, what will this industry look like in 33 years?

This is just one of the questions discussed at a Thought Leaders Conference at The University of Queensland (UQ) chaired by Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy and Associate Professor David Solnet from UQ Business School, earlier this month, focusing on where the service industry will be in 2050. 

Co-hosted by UQ Business School and Australian National University, Theorising beyond the horizon: Service research in 2050 brought together some of the world’s most prestigious service scholars and thought leaders to explore and debate ‘where to from here?’ in a three day conference at the UQ campus and The Hilton, Brisbane. 

Six key takeaways from the conference, included:

  1. A need to integrate the physical, digital and social realms of the customer experience.
  2. While robots and automation are already playing an increasing role in the customer experience, not everything will be (or should be) carried out my robots – the human touch will still be paramount for many industries.
  3. Big data will be all around us, but we will need better insights into what the data is telling us about customers and the customer experience.
  4. Platforms will change how service is delivered, with significant growth of platform-based business models anticipated.
  5. We will see a growth in peer-to-peer interactions and collaborations, rather than businesses and practitioners operating independently.
  6. Workers will be more agile and flexible and there will be more preamble boundaries between work and leisure.

These findings will be published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Service Management in late 2018; aiming to set service research priorities and shape future research, which will have implications for the industry as a whole – businesses and consumers alike.

The round table discussions were led by the following internationally acclaimed professors.

Track 1: Customer Experience Challenges: Bringing Together Digital, Physical and Social Realms

  • Professor Ruth Bolton, Arizona State University, USA
  • Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy, The University of Queensland

Track 2: Imagining the Future of Service Operations

  • Professor Paul Maglio, University of California, USA
  • Professor Byron Keating, Australian National University

Track 3: A Transformative Service Approach to Empowering a Worldwide Just Service Economy by 2050

  • Professor Raymond Fisk, Texas State University, USA
  • Professor Alison Dean, The University of Newcastle

Track 4: Midrange Theory and Service Engagement: A Key Component in Developing a General Theory of the Market

  • Professor Roderick Brodie, University of Auckland
  • Professor Simon Bell, The University of Melbourne

Track 5: Service Innovation: Lower transaction costs or valuable service concepts?

  • Professor Tor Andreassen, Norwegian School of Economics, Norway
  • Professor Line Lervik-Olsen, BI - Norwegian School of Business, Norway

Track 6: Robotics and Front Line Service

  • Professor Jochen Wirtz, National University of Singapore
  • Professor Paul Patterson, The University of New South Wales

Track 7: How Can Context Re-design Foster Innovation? Extending the Service Ecosystem View

  • Professor Bo Edvardsson, Karlstad University, Sweden
  • Professor Pennie Frow, The University of Sydney

Track 8: Predictions and prospects for service workers in 2050:  A Leadership perspective

  • Professor Mahesh Subramony, Northern Illinois University, USA
  • Associate Professor David Solnet, The University of Queensland     

Theorizing beyond the horizon: Service research in 2050” was held from 2 – 5 November at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia Campus and the Hilton Hotel, Brisbane.