In The Age Of AI, Human Value Is Clearer Than Ever

Published: July 19, 2024

The chatbot market is growing fast: The industry’s U.S.-based revenue was around $190 million in 2016, and by 2025, it’s projected to become a $1.3 billion industry. But don’t let the explosion of chatbots — aka AI-powered conversational robots — fool or scare you. The limitations of AI are becoming increasingly apparent and consequently highlighting the irreplaceable value of humans.

Consider these recent incidents:

  • In June 2023, The National Eating Disorders Association took down its chatbot within a month of launch after it started doling out advice that would exacerbate eating disorders;
  • In January 2024, Dynamic Parcel Distribution’s AI chatbot started swearing at customers and then disparaged its own employer; and
  • In April 2024, New York City’s AI chatbot was caught telling businesses to break the law, even though it was launched to help small businesses navigate the city’s rules and regulations.

These examples are the tip of the iceberg and fit into a broader pattern that contradicts the increasingly erroneous — yet popularly held — narrative that AI will replace humans. For example, “A December EY survey of 1,000 U.S. workers showed that two-thirds are concerned about AI replacing their own job,” per CNBC.

Although AI is advancing and poised to remake much of the modern workforce — especially as natural language processing, machine learning and generative AI become more capable — the value of humans has never been clearer.

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As AI Grows, So Does Humans’ Impact

It’s paradoxical that as computers grow more powerful, they’re actually revealing the indispensability of humans.

I speak from experience. As COO of Blazeo — formerly ApexChat — we’ve helped more than 35,000 small businesses since 2008 across North America leverage chatbots. I know first-hand at a professional level what bots can do for small businesses and what they can’t. Our firm has leveraged AI to its maximum capacity, and we continue to train our bots to become increasingly useful. But at the same time, we’ve also grown our human headcount and made live human agents the core differentiator of our business model.

For our customers, relationships matter, empathy matters and so do flexibility, complexity and nuance. For example, drug treatment programs and mental health centers use our services. When you approach a clinic for help with addiction, you don’t want an impersonal bot on the other end. Law firms use Blazeo to help find new clients. When people want a lawyer, they’re often in the middle of a crisis. They want an understanding voice on the line that only humans can offer. Plumbers use our services. If you have a pipe burst in the middle of the night, you want a human agent to talk to when you’re scheduling service. To be sure, there are plenty of customer cases, like ordering food or an Uber, where chatbots can get the job done well. But for the industries where relationships matter, humans provide indispensable value.

Affirming The Integral Role Of Human Intervention

That’s my own professional experience, but a growing body of corporate and academic research seems to confirm the irreplaceability of humans, particularly in customer-facing applications.

Car dealerships, for example, have found that consumers want to communicate with humans before they purchase a car. Deloitte’s 2024 automotive report found that 79% of American consumers want to interact with real people when buying a car. In India, China and Germany, the share of consumers who want a human salesperson ranged between 80% and 90%.

Early last year, in the Journal of Retailing and Customer Services, a team of Chinese and Italian academics found that “customers hang up on AI tele-sellers faster than their human counterparts,” because customers feel no empathy for bots — and vice versa.

A survey of 2,201 consumers by SurveyMonkey is particularly revealing, as it found that consumers value product recommendations provided by AI. Gen Zers, especially, like personalized deals that AI can create. However, when it comes to customer service, it’s not a close contest. Nine out of 10 consumers “prefer to get customer service from a human rather than a chatbot,” per SurveyMonkey.

When the report drilled down into the details, it found an important explanation behind consumers’ insistence on human interaction, “61% of consumers say that humans understand their needs better than AI.”

Ultimately, as people worry about their role in a labor market increasingly disrupted by admittedly powerful AI, what they need to know is this: Humans’ greatest asset is, and will always be, their humanity.

Cory Halbardier is the Chief Operating Officer of Blazeo, a provider of ad conversion tools and expertise.


Posted in: Demanding Views

Tagged with: Blazeo

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