Is AI The New Job Disruptor? A Look At Chatbot Systems
Have you ever looked for support on an online purchase or with your cable provider? If you didn’t call them directly, then chances are your first contact with that business was through a popup chat box at the bottom of your browser. Millions of people are employed in call centers worldwide, operating phones and online messengers as part of customer service for all kinds of businesses. Over the phone, it’s easy to tell if you’re talking to a real customer service operator, but it can be hard to discern in a chatbox. You’ll eventually notice that there’s not a real person on the other end of the chat line, but rather an automated chatbot powered by artificial intelligence. These bots aren’t quite sophisticated enough to replicate a real person. Still, technology is improving these systems as businesses look for cheaper ways to boost customer acquisition, slash claims processing times, and increase staff productivity. That being said, some people see this as an omen that AI may be responsible for job disruptions when it does improve.
Chatbot systems currently in use are rough, to say the least. Anyone who’s tried to ask their phone’s voice assistant to call a friend knows that these artificial intelligence systems aren’t always the best at understanding us. This frustration, combined with frequent use of chatbots to engage in phishing and other malware activity, has led to a growing wariness of text-communicating artificial intelligence.
Despite the issues present and general dislike of chatbots, the technology is popular with investors and tech companies. Proponents see chatbots as a more efficient alternative to touch-tone or speech recognition automatic phone support because a customer engaging with a chatbot can be provided with links or images to solve their problem, rather than waiting for a representative. In 2016, Facebook put these ideas to use by allowing businesses to build bots for Facebook Messenger service. These bots are now being used by some of the biggest companies on Facebook, including Walmart, eBay, and Spotify, to communicate with customers and send them rich content like product carousels and links to their retail sites.
While advances in chatbot software don’t mean that they’ll be passing off as convincing humans, predictions from people familiar with the industry are fascinating to me; five years is the timeline that people believe chatbots will begin to cause some serious disruption. It’ll be interesting to see how businesses start to reconsider their budgets, whether they put more money towards automated customer service software or to customer service representatives’ paychecks. To hear more of my thoughts, on business topics or otherwise, check out my personal blog at SeanDollinger.com.