Chatbots ace first office test: not all employees liked AI sidekick

Chatbots ace first office test: not all employees liked AI sidekick

Chatbots have ACED their latest test, boosting a customer service team’s productivity by 14% — but not every human employee liked their new tech sidekick

  • Researchers tracked the launch of AI at an unnamed Fortune 500 software firm 
  • Experienced customer service agents gained little from the chatbot sidekicks 
  • Newbies could handle more customers per hour and staff turnover declined

Chatbots have been taken for a spin in an office for the first time — and proved a hit.

Researchers monitored 5,000 agents at a customer service center for a major software firm as they assisted customers, aided by a new chatbot.

The artificial intelligence (AI) sidekick led to a 14 percent rise in how many customers they helped each hour.

But not everyone at the unnamed Fortune 500 company benefited from the bots.

Newcomers to the company gained an edge, but the high-skilled workers who had worked there for some time saw few gains.

In reality, the bots sucked up their knowledge and experience and gave back only ‘smaller direct benefits in terms of improving their own productivity,’ researchers said.

Chatbots helped customer service agents boost their productivity by 14 percent at an unnamed Fortune 500. Pictured: a cell center in Broomfield, Colorado

Lindsey Raymond (left), from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Erik Brynjolfsson, director of Stanford’s Digital Economy Lab, took chatbots for a spin in the workplace

Lindsey Raymond, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said the AI advantages were not shared across the board.

‘Most of those gains accrue to novice or less able workers,’ said Raymond, a coauthor of the 59-page paper.

‘This may be because the AI model disseminates the potentially tacit knowledge of more able workers and helps new workers move up the experience curve.’

Since chatbots became widely available late last year, they have stunned and surprised their human users.

The large language models (LLMs), as they are known, which aggregate and regurgitate huge amounts of text, have managed to pass exams for major law and business schools.

But for many workers, they are a worry, as they could replace their role at work — especially for web content creators and software developers.

Last month, Elon Musk and some 1,000 other tech leaders signed an open letter urging a moratorium on the development of the most powerful AI systems.

They said they present ‘profound risks to society and humanity.’

For this study, researchers from MIT and Stanford University kept tabs on the deployment of a chat assistant for an unnamed software firm that provides business process software.

The chatbot was trained on data from 5,179 agents within the company. It monitored chats with customers in real-time and suggested how to respond to customers.

The agents could use those suggestions, but were also free to ignore them.

In one example chat, the customer said they were ‘super frustrated’ about the product problem that they needed ‘fixed asap.’ 

Chatbots are already shaking industries that involve text and data, including customer service centers 

The report featured this example of a customer complaint, and the chatbot’s suggestions 

The AI generated responses and suggested the agent assure the customer that they could get the product working again quickly.

It also recommended saying this would be a ‘step by step’ process.

Using the bot, agents were able to move through issues more quickly and handle several calls at once.

As a result, agents resolved 13.8 percent more issues per hour.

The bot was of most help for new hires. Using the bot, an agent with two months’ experience could perform as well as an agent with six months’ experience without a bot.

It also reduced turnover, which is a huge problem in the customer service sector, where 60 percent of employees quit each year, costing firms $10,000 to $20,000 per agent, researchers said.

But experienced and skilled staff had little use for the bots — they already knew how to do the job.

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of Stanford’s Digital Economy Lab, said the study showed some benefits of chatbots in workplaces, but also left big gaps.

It’s not yet clear whether the chatbots could eventually displace the agents they were supporting, or whether staff would need more training, or whether wages could be affected, he said.

‘AI systems may impact worker and customer satisfaction, attrition, and patterns of behavior,’ Brynjolfsson said.

‘There’s so much we don’t know.’

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