Wednesday, February 21, 2024

No Quiet Quitting for Chatbots

When Meta unveiled a new artificial intelligence (AI) conversational chatbot called BlenderBot 3 and let users pose questions to it, the results were not exactly as expected. Asked for an opinion about Meta Founder and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg, the chatbot called him “creepy and manipulative.” Naysayers had a field day, with some criticizing AI in general while others said the incident revealed AI to be wiser than expected.

Joking aside, what the episode did reveal is that effective conversational AI is difficult to build – requiring extensive research, engineering, training, data and oversight. But despite the challenges,the use of conversational AI is booming, thanks to ever-improving technology, growing acceptance by users and strong evidence that it helps businesses grow and become more profitable.

Companies across industries are taking advantage of conversational AI to engage with customers because chatbots do a great job answering questions, solving problems and, increasingly, selling. A slew of research has shown that automating such functions is cost-effective – reducing operating costs by 30%, for example, according to LivePerson, one of the leading conversational AI providers.

Other benefits include lower hold times, increased sales conversions and real-time analysis of customer interactions.

These benefits are even more important in the era of “Quiet Quitting.”

A recent Gallup survey found that 50% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work: they don’t want to leave their jobs, but they “do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.” Such measures have risen over the past two years, as the Covid pandemic reshaped Americans’ attitudes toward work-life balance.

In fact, the lack of engagement is actually worse, because the 50% measure doesn’t include 18% of the workforce that’s “actively disengaged” from work – people even less enthusiastic about their jobs than the Quiet Quitters.

When most workers are unenthused about their jobs, a 24/7 chatbot with unflagging attention and continual improvement can certainly come in handy. Companies that use Conversational AI quickly realize improved customer satisfaction and sales during evening and weekend hours, when human representatives aren’t working. The benefits aren’t only to the company, but to its workers: LivePerson reports that  customer service rep attrition is reduced by 70% when messaging and automation is used to improve the worker experience.

In general, automation has long been seen as a way to shift human workers from repetitive, less-rewarding to jobs to higher-paying jobs requiring more complexity or nuance than a machine can provide. That trend is already entrenched in industry and has grown rapidly in the service sector; the growing use of Conversational AI indicates that it’s well underway in customer service and sales as well.

The Quiet Quitting phenomenon may very well seal the deal.

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