In a shocking turn of events, the CEO of an e-commerce platform is facing intense criticism online for his decision to lay off 90% of the company’s customer support staff after an AI chatbot supposedly outperformed them. Suumit Shah, a 31-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of Duukan, a Bengaluru-based online storefront setup company, took to Twitter on 11th July to announce the controversial move.
“We had to lay off 90% of our support team because of this remarkable AI chatbot. It was a tough decision, but a necessary one,” Shah’s tweet read, garnering over 1.5 million views within a short period.
Shah elaborated in his Twitter thread that the AI chatbot responded to customer queries in under two minutes, while the human support team took more than two hours to provide assistance. The efficiency of the chatbot led to a staggering 85% reduction in customer support costs for the company, according to Shah’s claims.
Duukan’s layoffs took place in September 2022, resulting in the dismissal of 23 out of 26 members of the customer support team. However, the justification given by Shah has faced strong skepticism from users on Twitter and Reddit. The backlash has been substantial, with over 600 Twitter users quoting Shah’s tweet to express their disapproval of the layoffs.
One Twitter user, @adityarao310, whose tweet gained more likes than Shah’s original post, argued that the layoffs were not a result of AI but rather due to the company’s financial struggles. They wrote, “Make no mistake. The support team was laid off here because business is failing and funding is dry. Not because of AI.”
Similarly, another user, @samikshagoel20, criticized Shah’s handling of the situation, stating, “This is not how you announce layoffs.”
The concerns were not limited to Twitter alone, as Reddit user u/kakapoopoopeepeeshir voiced their fears about a future devoid of human interaction in customer support. They commented, “I’m terrified of the future where we will never speak to a human again in customer support which means we will never get a problem solved, you’ll just be passed around between bots.”
Responding to the growing online backlash, Shah admitted that initiating a conversation about layoffs on Twitter was a mistake. However, he remained steadfast in his belief that AI is a significant factor in job displacement. “AI is taking our jobs,” Shah asserted.
Shah’s actions are part of a larger trend, as many companies have resorted to similar layoffs due to the implementation of AI technology. According to a report by human resources firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, this trend is likely to continue. The report suggests that the replacement of human workers with AI is an ongoing phenomenon, impacting various industries.
While the debate rages on regarding the use of AI in the workforce, it remains to be seen how companies will navigate the delicate balance between automation and human employment. The case of Duukan serves as a cautionary tale, sparking discussions about the ethical implications of relying solely on AI in customer support and the potential consequences for those who are left unemployed in its wake.
It is crucial to consider the broader implications of AI’s increasing role in customer support. While the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of AI chatbots may be appealing to businesses, there is a genuine concern among users about the loss of human interaction and personalized assistance. Many individuals value the empathy and understanding that human customer support agents can provide, which cannot be replicated by an AI system. The fear of being passed between automated bots without receiving satisfactory solutions to their problems is a valid one. Striking the right balance between AI and human involvement in customer support will be a key challenge for companies in the coming years.
As the conversation surrounding AI and automation in the workforce intensifies, it is essential for businesses and policymakers to address the potential impact on employment. While AI can enhance productivity and streamline operations, it is important to consider the ethical and social consequences of widespread job displacement. Efforts should be made to reskill and upskill workers whose roles are at risk, ensuring a smooth transition into new areas of employment. Additionally, exploring ways to integrate AI technology as a supportive tool alongside human workers can lead to more successful outcomes, combining the efficiency of automation with the unique skills and capabilities of human employees. By proactively addressing these challenges, society can harness the benefits of AI while mitigating its potential negative effects.