Google Duplex Assistant could replace call centers, report says

Joanna Estrada
July 7, 2018

What wasn't touched on was the possibility that Duplex may have a use on the other side of the line, taking over for call centre employees and telemarketers. It's an unnamed large insurance company and the plan is to use it for simple and straight-forward service calls. As we shared last week, Duplex is created to operate in very specific use cases, and now we're focused on testing with restaurant reservations, hair salon booking, and holiday hours with a limited set of trusted testers.

We're now focused on consumer use cases for the Duplex technology and we aren't testing Duplex with any enterprise clients.

Google's voice-calling Duplex bot - which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic a human voice to make appointments and book tables through phone calls - is reported to be attractive to call centres, meant to assist humans with customer queries.

We've been seeing the natural-language abilities of the Google Assistant continuously evolve over the years, slowly getting better at listening to us and responding.

With cloud-based call centres predicted to grow into a $21 billion market by 2022, there's plenty of reason for the likes of Google and Amazon to take an interest in the sector. Don't forget: Google Assistant was used to shoot a gun recently.

According to The Information, one "large insurance company" is already testing, but it's still in "early stages" and months from going live. That would be devastating for a nation like the Philippines, which has an estimated 1.2 million call-centre workers according to the Wall Street Journal. A 2015 survey conducted by The Conversation found that the vast majority of people - 90 percent of those questioned-call into customer service hoping to speak with a human.

There is precedent for Google making Duplex available to third-parties.

One of the features of Duplex that attracted so much attention is the way the voice not only sounds so naturally human - it also includes the intermittent pauses, the "ums" and "ahs" that show up in normal conversation.

Google adopted the bot's introduction so it clearly explains it's not a human, but now it turns out that some big companies are in the very early stages of testing Google's technology for use in other applications, such as call centres.

Google emphasized that it is "taking a slow and measured approach" with Duplex - likely due to the initial backlash - and reiterated the three limited domains that the company has so far announced.

When Google unveiled Duplex at its I/O conference in May, it caused quite a stir.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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