The Oxymoron of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As my mom would say, “think before you do.”
(previously published in CRM Dec 2021)
The Christmas season will soon be upon us, a time for humanity to put some extra effort forth to appreciate one another. The past three years have dealt some definite challenges to many in the industry; regardless of segment, it has pushed some to implement new ideas and processes; one that stands out is the implementation of technology. Technology seems to be the saviour of all that is wrong in the world, just as Covid is currently blamed for all that is wrong in the world. Now I may come off a little jaded in this article, and I am sure it has nothing to do with the less-than-stellar experience in trying to upgrade my phone as I am composing it. Why you ask – well, it stems from the fact that I have been dealing with their AI process for over an hour, I’m on my 3rd virtual assistant, and have not actually spoken to a living being. Now I am not an IT wizard; however, I can generally hold my own with using software and computer technology, so you can sense my frustration when I am asked the same question 3 times via a chat dialogue… read the previous reply, take the initiative to… oh never mind you’re AI, you cannot process a thought, you’re not a real person, my bad. If I call and I am greeted immediately with “your call is important to us” one more time, I cannot be held accountable for what may ensue. Obviously, my call is not important to you if it was…. A HUMAN WOULD ANSWER IT! And no, I don’t want to choose the music I am being subjected to in order to pass the time while I wait for Wall-E® to tell me, “Your call is important to us; we will be with you shortly” for the 39th time. “We are currently experiencing a high call volume” Do you know why you are experiencing a high call volume? Because your AI can only answer what is consistent and within the parameters, you set out, I would even choke back leaving a message, but I can’t… because the AI wouldn’t know what to do with it. So, I don’t get that option!
I am not the only one that has experienced it, and I guarantee that every person reading this has because this is what we have become. It is everywhere; it has become the go-to answer for many segments of our industry and others. This is the “customer service” everyone has grown to love and accept – except me. I coin it as “Customer Processing.” In the collision world, we have been coerced into believing that “the faster, the better,” and that speed is what customer service is all about; get that claim settled ASAP. Watch the LOR; Cycle time is too long, not enough touch time. Faster-faster- the customer is waiting; get them a magazine! GET THEM ANOTHER COFFEE!
Read the following paragraph very, very closely - Empathy is the ability to sense and understand the emotions of others. It's essentially putting yourself in the emotional shoes of the customer. Many will argue that empathy is the most critical customer service skill out there. Client servicing involves creating a rapport with customers. Often referred to as customer care, it is about understanding the needs and desires of the customer and moving to meet those needs proactively. It involves human interaction, active listening, thought processing, time, and effort. The aforementioned seems to be lost in the world today, actions that many place little value on. AI exhibits none of this.
For the simplest, straightforward part of a process, AI has its merits. Dealing with consistency and repetition, it can perform relatively well as long as everything is neatly tied up in the parameter box. Here is where the problem lies, in the collision industry, things are not consistent; they are not a form of repetition, and we do not manufacture “widgets.” When we place the convenience of AI and PBE (Photo Based Estimating) over the value of human interaction, we lose a significant portion of what is reality. Empathy and compassion. For our payees, the implementation of AI and PBE is of value to them to increase the speed of “initiating the claims process,” a buzz term used widely in the adjuster office. This is generally where it ends. The initiation is consistent and repetitive; after that, when reality sets in, AI can no longer make decisions, educate, or advise on damages and procedures. I like to categorize this as “false hope” for the client. Sadly, the shop is the entity that receives the brunt of the fallout; adjusters are overworked due to the number of claims “initiated” and struggle to keep up with the file load, so the shop becomes the primary contact in the process. You get to explain why that AI or PBE was less than accurate, why you need seven more days, and why it costs $7000.00 more than initially expected, not to mention the LOR. All while juggling your KPIs to meet the scrutiny of the payee, or banner, that has graciously set the parameters you need to follow using what is now flawed data.
Now when you analyze the ideology from a chair in a corporate boardroom sipping espresso and having biscotti, it makes sense. I can see how creativity would make anything look good on paper. When processing -claims- is one of the critical functions of your industry, then consistent, streamlined actions may make sense (some will have you believe); humans mess that up, so remove them from the equation. Yet, despite the uptick in virtual claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers still crave human interaction in their claims interactions; according to an April 2021 report from LexisNexis Risk Solutions, “No matter how great the technology is, consumers still want human touch when they need it,” reads the company’s whitepaper. In 2017 co-founder of Snap Sheet (CJ.Pryzbyl) expressed that by 2020, 90% of claims would be handled virtually. (bias, perhaps?) reality is that it is on the climb. However, it is nowhere near that (yet). Technology is here and here to stay, but that does not mean we should use it to cloud our judgement and responsibility to the client (the person at the centre of the loss); I am a great supporter of technology when implemented thoughtfully, what I am not; “pro ignorance.”
In my opinion, and you are entitled to my opinion, slow down and think about your customer. Covid has made many of us make rash, unthought-out decisions with flawed data, trying to be the “leader.” This is a tried, tested, and failure proved method of advancement. It has also made some of us reflect and take a breath. Technology will serve us well when used for the right reasons and not for selfish ones; as with anything, in moderation with respect for humanity, carefully implemented, it will find its place.
* As for my phone, the situation was rectified as soon as the provider provided some human interaction.