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THE OXYMORON OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

As my mom would say, think before you do

Column by STEFANO LIESSI

We have come to the close of 2021, the Christmas season soon upon us, a time for humanity to put some extra effort forth to appreciate one another.

The past two years have delt 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 up grade my phone as I am composing it. Why, you ask? Well, it stems from the fact I have been dealing with their AI process for over an hour, I’m on my third 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 three times via a chat dialog. If I call and I am greeted right off the bat with “your call is important to us” one more time, I cannot be held accountable for what may ensue. Clearly, my call is not important to you. If it were, a human would answer it. And no, I don’t want to choose the music I am being subjected to 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? It is 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, you don’t get that option.

I am not the only one that has experienced it, 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; but I coin it more as “customer processing.”

In the collision world we have been coerced into believing that the faster the better; 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!

Stop. Just stop.

Read the next paragraph 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 important 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 in a proactive manner. It involves human interaction, active listening, and thought processing, it involves time, and effort. AI exhibits none of this.

For the simplest straight forward part of a process, it has its merits. Dealing with consistency and repetition it can perform rather well if 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, we do not manufacture “widgets.”

No, I don’t want to choose the music I am being subjected to 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.

When we place the convenience of AI and PBE (Photo Based Estimating) over the value of human interaction, we lose a great 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 no longer can make decisions, educate, or advise on damages and procedures. I like to categorize this as false hope for the client.

Sadly, the collision centre is the entity that receives the brunt of the fallout, adjusters are over worked due to the number of claims initiated and struggle to keep up with the file load, so the shop becomes the major contact in the process. You get to explain why that AI or PBE was less than accurate, and why you need seven more days, and why its $7,000 dollars more than originally 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 a world of sense. I can see how it would, creativity will make anything look good on paper. When processing claims is one of the key functions of your industry, then consistent actions streamlined may make sense, 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 percent of claims would be handled virtually. The reality is that the use of AI is on the climb, however it is no where near that—yet.

Technology is here, and here to stay, however, 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 proven 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 offered some human interaction.

I would like to express my gratitude for all that take the time to read my contributions, it is greatly appreciated. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

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