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Enterprise hits and misses - Google Next pitches AI agents, Cisco Splunks, and AI customer service gets scrutinized

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed April 15, 2024
This week - Google stakes its AI claim at Cloud Next, but are AI agents ready for prime time? Cisco's Splunk acquisition is official, and customer service AI bots bring new proof points - and fresh whiffery.


Lead story - Is "AI-first customer service" viable? The Intercom example

I'm optimistic about AI for customer service, but only if it's designed with the end customer in mind.

If the goal is employee headcount reduction and serving customers with the smallest human involvement in corporate history, I don't like your chances. I read with interest Phil's Customer service is 'completely transformed' by AI, says Intercom's product chief. From what I can tell, Intercom is on the right track here:

A year after the launch of Fin AI Agent, an automated intelligent agent that is already answering as many as 70% of incoming queries for some customers, the copilot will now help live agents to resolve the remaining queries that need human attention, by surfacing answers that the agent would previously have had to search for.

Though we've seen nightmares of customer service AI bots gone awry, I believe that's what I call "AI overreach." A better service result is possible - with the proper data quality and AI architecture/process design. This was one of Intercom's discoveries as well. Phil quotes Intercom's Chief Product Officer:

In the early days of our AI agent, we got a lot of feedback that Fin was giving wrong answers. And then we do all these investigations in the team, and it was the content that was wrong, [or] the content was out of date.

Though it's early days, this is a use case with some tangible numbers. What lies ahead? Phil concludes:

I'm reassured after my conversation with Adams. Adopting an AI-first strategy doesn't seem to have diverted Intercom away from keeping the whole process human-centric. And as Adams points out, deploying AI in the right places can end up delivering better outcomes for the humans involved.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

Google Cloud Next 2024 - Derek was on the ground for a pivotal Cloud Next 2024, where customers with generative AI use cases shared projects in progress, and Google positioned itself as a more "open" gen AI platform. Oh, and the "agent" thing...

In the short-term, I'm nowhere near as bullish on "AI agents" as Google (and OpenAI) seem to be. Agents don't make AI smarter, and, as per this Hacker News developer thread, automating imperfect AI outputs is fraught with challenges. And if companies weren't already automating workflows, what were they waiting for? But for companies that are standardizing on a particular vendor's apps and platform, agents get interesting, and that may be where Google finds payoffs. Derek's on-the-ground details make this agent debate pretty interesting...

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Mark Chillingworth finds that Cloud FInOps is perhaps one of the few underrated buzzwords flying around these days: Digital leaders use FinOps to optimize the business for AI and sustainability. Chris takes up an issue with implications well beyond the UK in Tackling digital poverty - alarming UK statistics provide a cautionary warning for other countries

Finally, George manages to use the term "Metaverse" without giving me an allergic reaction in Telling 3D stories about things - learnings from Jared Owen provide digital twins and Industrial Metaverse insights.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman


Remember my dig at poorly trained bots? Frank Scavo surfaced another one:

But yeah, let's keep that bot live as we'll work it out as we go...  Meanwhile, grouchy Microsoft users unite!

Finally, recall last week I was given a PR pitch opportunity involving mermaids. Well, I'm still getting the kinds of pitches that make my colleagues jealous: "Celebrate National Pet Day with Henry vacuums!" I guess I better clear my interview schedule... See you next time

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.

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