Robots Are Hitting Customer Service The Hardest.

We, as human beings, have a tendency to embrace new technologies and innovations- and then think about the social effects and consequences later on (in some cases they have yet to be found). This holds true for many innovations, including robots.

Both mechanical robots and artificial intelligence have been developing over the years, and whilst we will all have seen Amazon Alexa or Google Home now, it’s easy to overlook the use of AI in the workplace.

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One place online which is populated by Artificial Intelligence is content moderation. This means that many companies (particularly social media ones) use automated systems to detect potentially offensive or obscene content and act upon it. The trouble is, though, that it doesn’t always work properly. One recent example of this is the ‘Fake Cartoons’ scandal (which we wrote about also). In this report, released by the BBC- it was outlined that various cartoons were being uploaded to YouTube- which were posing as cartoons such as Peppa Pig- but then took a dark turn which would certainly leave any kid watching scarred for life. However, perhaps the most interesting part of this report was the criticising of YouTube’s use of algorithms to moderate all the videos on the site. Really- it’s inevitable that the use of AI to moderate content without any human oversight will not be as effective.

Another example of AI’s failing to moderate content properly comes from last month, when the BBC released a report detailing various instances of child-porn which were found on Facebook’s social media platform. After this report, a Facebook spokesperson released a statement saying that any media which was deemed illegal had been removed. Deemed illegal. That defeats the point of this whole investigation.

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So it’s clear from just a couple of examples that AI is not as effective as humans at moderating content on the web. So why is it used then? The answer is clear to me: to save money. Artur Kiulian from said that ‘more and more big companies are trying to outsource their processes to machines or at least break them apart into pieces that can be automated’, and this is undoubtedly more cost effective than using a human work force. But the idea of companies saving money has to have an end-point, otherwise we’ll all be out of a job.

Here is a list of some jobs which would have been done by a person, until now:

  • Content Moderation (YouTube, etc.)
  • Online Support
  • Manufacturing
  • Human Resources
  • Other Customer Service Roles

The prospect of robots replacing skilled labourers has existed for a while now, but only recently (because of the development of AI) have robots threatened the customer service world.

Recently, the BBC posted a video to it’s site showing a robot behind a bar making someone a drink. Most people have been excited by this prospect, and the video was clearly posted for the ‘wow’ factor. And as more places get robots, they will attract visitors and attention. But once everywhere has robots- where will the appeal be? And what will we be missing out on? This is the short term thinking in action, which I spoke about at the very start.

Don’t let the art of customer service die out…

Thumbnail credit: BBC Cymru

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