AI can improve productivity in workers by as much as 35%, research finds

A new study indicates that generative AI is especially helpful for novice and lower-skilled workers.
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Generative AI helped customer service workers increase their productivity, according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. It’s one of the first studies of generative AI in the workplace, and it examined the customer service sector because of the industry’s high AI adoption rate.

Researchers measured the number of customer issues resolved per hour among 5,000 agents working for a Fortune 500 software company, and found that novice and lower-skilled workers benefited greatly from the assistance of AI, by as much as 35% for those with the lowest skills.

Researchers noted that because the machine learning algorithms studied and mimicked the behaviors of the company’s more productive and senior employees, their impact on those workers’ productivity was minimal.

“Turnover is high” in the customer service industry, the researchers said. An estimated 60% of agents in contact centers leave each year, leaving supervisors to spend an average of 20 hours each week training and coaching new employees, and $10,000–$20,000 per agent to replace them, researchers noted. Generative AI, used as a tool to help new employees gain experience more quickly, could free up a supervisor or trainer’s time.

Businesses are using AI in growing numbers. A recent Goldman Sachs report found that the technology could boost labor productivity and global GDP by as much as 7% over the next 10 years. The report also warned that AI could impact more than 300 million jobs worldwide, replacing some and complementing others.

One company is all in on AI. Akash Nigam, founder of tech company Genies, is spending $2,400 a month on generative AI. Instead of using OpenAI’s free version of ChatGPT, Nigam told Insider that he bought ChatGPT Plus for his 120 employees to use at work.

The Genies teams use ChatGPT to debug code, write scripts, “generate creative briefs, write legal documents like internal policies, and answer technical questions.”

“It’s almost like you have the most sophisticated operating partner at your disposal that’s able to quickly center your thoughts and ensure that you’re consistently on track,” he told Insider.

Proponents of using ChatGPT at work, suggest the technology is helpful in ideation or starting a project. If you’re a reporter, for instance, you can ask it help organize an outline. It can provide feedback and analysis on work employees have already completed, and improve writing in company communications and emails.

But not everyone is jumping on the ChatGPT train. Some businesses are even banning it. Skeptics argue user privacy is a major issue, and others warn against sharing client or proprietary information with the tool. And others say that although the tool will majorly impact corporate America, companies and HR teams need time to explore the ramifications and create guidelines for the nascent tech.

The NBER study only examined the use of AI in concert with human agents, noting that the agents could ignore the AI suggestions.—AD

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