This article was updated on July 4th 2023.
The year is 2035 and humanoid robots, powered by Artificial Intelligence, are part of everyday life. Detective Del Spooner hates robots because he was in a car accident and a robot pulled him to safety while leaving a 12-year-old girl to die – because the odds of her living were statistically lower than Detective Spooner’s. That’s a little background on the hero from the movie I, Robot, starring Will Smith. Eventually, these humanoids band together in a plot to take over the world.
Is that the future of AI? Will the machine become so powerful that it begins to think to a point where it is more capable than the humans? Notice, I said capable, not powerful. No doubt computers are more powerful at giving us answers faster than human brainpower, but are they more capable? That’s what people worry about.
No, AI will not take over the world. Movies like I, Robot are science fiction, with an emphasis on the word fiction. But advances in technology like ChatGPT and other Large Language models have reignited the debate. The ability for AI tools to generate realistic-looking images, written content and many other applications has triggered enthusiasts to embrace the technology further, while pushing sceptics away.
In the world of Customer Service and Customer Support, AI can be a powerful business tool that is supporting companies and their customer service strategies. It can take elements of what makes customer service great and replicate it at scale – creating a better customer experience. But it still relies on human involvement and input.
I had a chance to sit down with Bogdan Maksak, the Co-Founder of DigitalGenius, to talk about AI and its impact on business. DigitalGenius is a leader in the “Human plus AI” movement, the concept that AI is best used when teamed up with people.
Maksak believes that today’s version of AI in the customer support world is good for narrowly focused tasks, such as helping a customer quickly change a billing address or updating credit card information. The best uses today are to automate repetitive tickets and tasks that can overwhelm a customer service agent.
These include tasks like generating returns labels (a task that can take human agents 10-15 minutes in some cases, but can be done in seconds with AI), as well as cancelling and amending orders – all tasks which can be done faster than a human could do them.
Another option is that the AI computer/machine could “listen” to the customer conversation in real time. The customer is asking a question or sharing a problem. First, the computer lets the CSR know about the history of this customer: past purchases, reasons they have called for help in the past, and more. At the same time, the computer can also give the CSR suggested answers to the customer’s issues. This is happening in real time… and really fast.
With Generative AI, retail and ecommerce sites can use AI as a kind of virtual assistant. By integrating the AI with brand and domain knowledge – e.g. product descriptions, company policies, shipping information – a virtual assistant can answer questions as well as any human could.
The AI can also be used to automate tasks for the agent themselves. Generative AI could help craft a perfect response, or provide a range of responses that the agent could choose from. It can help with translation, allowing agents to respond to queries in any language. Plus other AI tools can automate tasks like generating returns labels, contacting warehouses, or updating information in systems, freeing up the agent to focus on the conversation with the customer.
Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM came up with the concept that if you reverse the letters AI to IA, you go from Artificial Intelligence to Intelligent Assistant. This is exactly what Maksak is referring to.
Maksak sums it all up by saying, “AI can simply be a tool for the customer service reps, similar to how an accountant uses a calculator or a banker uses a spreadsheet.” Can you imagine an accountant trying to do complicated tax work without the aid of a calculator? That’s how companies need to think of AI. It is an essential tool that will be, if it is not already, not simply a “nice to have”, but a “must have” technology.
Artificial Intelligence has reached its tipping point and has quickly made its way into our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. Maksak knows that AI is here to stay and that what we are seeing is just the beginning. “Will (AI) take over the business world? Absolutely,” he says. “Will it happen in the way they show it in the movies? Probably not.”
So, while Hollywood paints a wildly unrealistic picture of robots taking the jobs of humans, we know that this is simply not realistic. What Maksak points out, however, is that while AI may not, in fact, replace the human interaction, it could, in fact, go hand in hand to offer a better customer experience when used as the incredible tool it was intended to be.
To find out about how ChatGPT and Large Language Models may (or may not!) be the future of Customer Service, watch our webinar here.