Watch out call center employees, competition is on the way! Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) product called Google Duplex, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant capable of speaking like a human, is appearing awesome to some and scary to others. It was launched by the technology giant to make day-to-day tasks easy for human beings.
However, the same powerful technology has a flip side for some, as it now appears capable to take away the jobs of telemarketing professionals and call-center operators. Google may be on its way to use its human-sounding assistant for handling customer calls. During a developer conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai held a demonstration showing how Duplex could make a reservation at a salon or a hotel without the person on the other side supecting that they were communicating with an AI system.
Google is reported to have at least one potential customer, a large insurance company, which wishes to use Google Duplex in its call-center operations. It aims to use Duplex to handle repetitive customer queries, and human operators will step in for any complex queries. The company is conducting early-stage testing, though it remains unclear how long will it take for the project to go live.
Talking Like a Human
Amid rising ethical questions over the implications of using such a technology, Google has issued a statement mentioning it “isn’t actively testing the technology with business clients” and that it remains “focused on consumer uses of Duplex.” The Information quotes a company spokesperson who said that businesses could be exploring ways to use the technology on their own. “It’s important that we get the experience right both for people and for businesses, and we’re taking a slow and measured approach as we incorporate learnings and feedback from our tests,” the spokesperson said. With a big list of corporate clients in Google’s corner, time may not be far away to see many more companies jumping on the bandwagon in attempts to save costs, reduce operational overheads and increase efficiency.
Tech firms are vying to grab a pie of the burgeoning cloud-based call-center market, which is expected to shoot up from around $6.8 billion in 2017 to over $21 billion by the year 2022. Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) announced last year its willingness to sell the Alexa technology that powers its Echo line of speakers to call centers. (See also: Alexa Might Soon Be Answering Call Center Queries.)
Other technology giants, including International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), India's Genesys International Corp Ltd. and France's Snips have also made similar offerings as the competition gets intense in the space. (See also: The Battle for Dominance in AI Is Heating Up.)
Google believes it has a head start over others owing to its superior natural language processing, a technology that allows answers to same question asked in different ways using different words, and even enables follow-up questions in case the answer is not available immediately.