Japan's Smile Scanners A Classic Misuse Of Technology

from the smile-for-the-scanner dept

As pointed out on the Freakonomics Blog:
Japan's Keihin Express Railway Co. has set up "smile scanners" at 15 of its stations, where railway employees have their smiles assessed by software in the hopes of perfecting a customer-friendly look.
This is such a classic misuse of technology by a corporation. The goal of the company is to provide more positive and friendly customer service but its technique of using a "smile scanner" is going to have the opposite effect. Nobody likes to be forced into happiness, and the employees will end up resenting the scanners, their bosses for making them use the scanners and the customers for expecting them to smile.

Instead, a smart company would try to figure out how to make its employees genuinely happy so that they smile because they want to smile. This would create endless positive outcomes for the company, the employees and the customers.

Sometimes technology can look like it provides a quick fix when, in fact, it is just an illusion.

Cross-posted from MyMediaMusings.com
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Filed Under: employees, japan, motivation, smile
Companies: keihin express railway


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  1. identicon
    Cable, 29 Jul 2009 @ 9:27pm

    I didn't feel like we were criticizing...sorry if that's what you felt.

    Thing is, this system is not aimed at forcing people to smile; they're already smiling. All employees of any company/store in contact to the general public are already smiling. This system is a gauge of the "quality" of their smile. It sounds weird, but this is because it's supposed to be fun (and people here are quickly discarding the news as being funny). It's trying to improve an already good service quality with fun (what better way to improve smiling than with a funny system).

    As to whether this is better than guidance and critics from a human being, I'm not sure there's a definitive answer to that. But smiling appears to me as being subjective (I mean the opinion of whether a smile is a "good" smile or not), so at least a machine gives clear rules and unbiased opinion, based on the sole physical caracterictics of the face. A human being might take into account the history of the person examined, her body language, and his personal feelings towards the employee, although this shouldn't be when solely judging how good a smile is.

    All in all, whether the system is better than a human is not a bid deal (except for the people whose job is in relation with that system). Originally, this was just a fun news in my opinion. And many japanese companies try to promote technology as a support for business (sometimes they try useless things), which reads positive to me.

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