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Enterprise hits and misses - sustainability goes open source, and bring on the generative AI customer service debate

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 30, 2023
This week - the generative AI customer service debate has arrived - with the sensational headlines to match. Let's parse. Enterprise AI risks and potentials are laid out, while our event analysis rolls on. Your whiffs include bad designs, and ChatGPT lawyers.


Lead story - Can generative AI revolutionize customer support? The debate rages

I don't believe generative AI renders customer support staff irrelevant - not even close. But I won't lie: I relish the debate. As I said on Twitter:

Enter BT. As Stuart vented in his Monday Morning Moan - BT fuels the AI job stealing paranoia, but the empty calories of its word salad won't help customer service levels:

Thanks, then, to BT for throwing petroleum on the fire last week by cheerily announcing that 10,000 jobs are to go, to be replaced by AI - whatever AI means in this particular case.

Well yes, if you are going to go about workforce management in a cynical way, maybe there is a sweeping role for "AI" here. After all, if customer service is a nuisance or a commodity in your particular (probably monopolistic) industry, you can get away with drastic changes. But I'd caution companies in more competitive industries not to plunge in headlong and tech-first. Suggestion to generative AI fanfolk: don't notch BT in the "win" column just yet. Stuart:

I once made the point to Tom Siebel a long time ago that all the CRM software in the world wouldn't help a company if its underlying philosophy was to regard the customer as a ruddy nuisance. All you're doing in that case is making your indifference more efficient! Flash forward to today and the same is true, with bells on, for AI.

In the reader comments, diginomica colleague Phil Wainewright adds:

Reading carefully through his comments, I arrive at the conclusion that AI appears to be responsible for replacing precisely 0 jobs. The 40,000 job losses are made up of 15,000 no longer needed to build the fibre network once it's finished, 10,000 no longer needed to maintain it because it's simpler, 10,000 no longer needed to do planning and customer service for it for the same reason, and a final 5,000 due to streamlining business processes. These job cuts have always been in the plan, and touting AI as responsible is just a distraction for headline writers to swallow hook, line and sinker.

Regardless of the exact head count, this remains a shoddy way to envision the future of customer service. On the flip side, Stuart documented a much more empathetic - and I believe much more accurate - view of customer service via Freshworks: Can generative AI revolutionize Customer Support? Up to a point, says Freshworks President Dennis Woodside. As I said on Twitter:

Once more with feeling, as per Freshworks's AI plans:

But what they may do, and what we are working on, is they may empower their agents with the benefit of that Large Language Model so that the agents can do their job better and bring the right attitude, the right empathy to the customer.

Let the debate rage. But to me, the three questions are: what kind of company do you want to be? How will your customers become your advocates, rather than your detractors? And: do you have a precise understanding of the pros and cons of the tech that will enable this?

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

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

Earnings reports of note:

Standout customer use case stories:

Jon's grab bag - Madeline shares important lessons from the Salesforce Trailblazing Women's Summit: the patriarchy is real, mentorship matters.  I also liked Madeline's What I’d say to me back then – CircleCI’s Jane Kim on being bold enough to make a scary mid-career change. Phil isn't easily swayed by upstart enterprise vendors - what did he think of his talk with Canva's co-founders? Canva - taking digital visual design 'wall-to-wall inside the enterprise'.

Finally, Stuart managed to restrain himself from unloading another heaping helping of vinegar onto a well-deserved target (Meta), but he's right - there are bigger implications to consider: Europe’s mega Meta fine has implications for the entire enterprise tech sector - and that’s not good news.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top six

Overworked businessman


Speaking of the downside of digital tech in action:

Use ChatGPT on Twitter, impress your friends. Use it in a courtroom, unimpress a judge:

Sometime bad designs become good ones:

And, sometimes, bad characters make for great television:

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.

Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Loser and Winner © ispstock - all from Adobe Stock.

Disclosure - Workday, Confluent, ASUG, ServiceMax, ServiceNow and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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