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Artificial intelligence tools such as chatbots helped increase worker productivity at a tech company by 14%, according to a new study from Stanford and MIT first reported by Bloomberg.
The study is considered the first major real application of generative AI in the workplace. The researchers measured the productivity of more than 5,000 customer support agents, mostly based in the Philippines, at a Fortune 500 enterprise software company over the course of a year.
Support agents who used AI tools that created conversational scripts increased their productivity, measured in problems solved per hour, by an average of 14%, but the improvement was even more pronounced for “novice and low-skilled workers” who were able to get their jobs done 35% faster.
In some cases, the use of AI outweighed actual work experience: customer service agents with two months of experience who used AI support performed as well or better than agents with more than six months of non-AI experience.
Meanwhile, the use of AI tools showed minimal impact on “experienced or highly skilled workers”, the authors note, and sometimes served as a distraction.
AI support can be especially helpful for entry-level or early-career workers, says Lindsey Raymond, who holds a Ph.D. from MIT. candidate and co-author of the article. Less experienced workers benefit from the AI by following its recommendations to upgrade and learn skills that usually come with experience.
That said, AI tools benefit from the best and brightest workers who train the AI itself by providing examples of best practices, which the technology then turns into recommendations for other workers to apply.
Companies need to understand that despite less dramatic changes in productivity, top performers need to be recognized and rewarded for generating solutions that others can learn from, Raymond says.
The year-long experiment also found that AI support improved customer satisfaction, reduced requests for management intervention, and improved employee retention.
The research is not intended to hypothesize whether AI will replace workers, Raymond says, but rather concludes that the technology will help workers multitask more efficiently and deal with more complex issues faster.
Better and faster work made customers happier, which in turn were nicer to customer service agents and improved employee retention, Raymond says.
Tools that make people more efficient at their jobs make the work experience less stressful, she adds.
According to Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI and co-author of the report, the findings that generative AI can boost productivity are generally good news, even if the biggest benefits are not. maybe not evenly distributed. . “There’s no guarantee we’ll all benefit from it, but it certainly sets the stage for us all to be better off,” he says.
Brynjolfsson says call centers are a great place to use generative AI because it involves a lot of scripted language, but “almost any kind of information or knowledge work that involves language could benefit from it,” including including legal, marketing, medical, education and other fields.
Workers at all levels can benefit from technology, he adds — he recently spoke with a CEO who used generative AI to prepare for a board meeting.
“Probably more than half of the American workforce will be significantly affected by these tools,” Brynjolfsson says.
He adds that workers, especially young workers, can stay ahead of the curve by embracing the reality of technology: “Workers who embrace technology, play with it and learn to use it are the ones who will succeed and benefit the most”, Brynjolfsson said. “I don’t think generative AI is going to replace workers, but workers who work with generative AI will replace those who don’t.”
Some experts say generative AI tools could affect how two-thirds of current jobs are performed and could potentially increase global gross domestic product by up to 7%, according to an economic report from Goldman Sachs.
A recent survey of LinkedIn’s top companies found that nearly 70% say AI is already helping them be faster and smarter, and an additional 32% say they expect to see more gains. important through the use of AI in the years to come. And companies like EY have explicitly listed AI among their top three hiring priorities, while Wells Fargo and Kaiser Permanente are implementing AI into their workflows.
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