First study to look at AI in the workplace finds it boosts productivity
Productivity improved considerably within the customer service department of a Fortune 500 company that used generative AI, per a new study from researchers at Stanford and M.I.T.
Why it matters: The researchers believe it's the first empirical evidence of the effects of generative AI — artificial intelligence that creates (generates) content, like text or images — on the workplace.
What they did: Researchers tested AI software with a customer service team of more than 5,000 agents at an unnamed Fortune 500 company that provides software to small businesses.
- The AI monitored customer chats and gave agents real-time suggestions for how to respond, including ideas for wording — key to keeping customers from growing hostile — and links to technical information to help troubleshoot issues.
- Agents were free to ignore the advice.
What they found: Use of the AI led to a 14% increase in the number of customer service chats an agent successfully responded to per hour.
- Agents spent less time handling individual chats, and were able to take care of more customers per hour — there was also a small increase in the share of chats resolved successfully.
- The AI had the biggest impact — and helped reduce turnover — among the lowest-skilled customer service agents new to the job. Experienced customer service agents saw only a slight lift.
- That's because they already have learned the information the AI was sharing — in this case, the AI basically serves as a way for more experienced customer service agents to transfer knowledge to newbies.
The bottom line: This is just one study of a single workplace, where the product (the software) doesn't really change much. Many more studies of more workplaces are needed to truly understand its impact.