Can You Trust AI Systems In Customer-Facing Situations?

Artificial Intelligence is marvelous in repetitive counting, measuring, and placing activities. An AI system however has no ability to judge the validity of an input that is outside its acceptable parameters for input data. If your AI system does not provide immediate access to human oversight, it will invariably take action which will frustrate the customer and give them a negative impression of your business goals.

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When an AI-based customer support system like tax preparation produces a tax filing with an error, the customer wants to understand what exactly went wrong. When the customer finds out that the human tax professional who supposedly reviewed the tax preparation does not exist. This casts a dark shadow on the integrity of the tax preparation and the corporation that produced it.

Furthermore, when the customer cannot contact ANY human being regarding this error, the customer’s trust in the corporation and in AI systems, in general, goes to zero. There are a few voices of caution in this glorious new world of customer support automation, but the majority of consultants and CEOs seem to be occupied with high-fiving each other on the savings they are achieving by eliminating humans from the customer interface.

I have had two incidents this year, each involving thousands of dollars, where AI systems made serious mistakes and no human being could be contacted to rectify the mistake. The most recent AI system error was generated by H&R Block’s online tax preparation system. This system helps you prepare your income tax returns for the IRS and the state with an AI system that asks questions and guides you to produce answers. You never see a standard tax form until you are in the final stages. All in all, it was an interesting experience and I was able to complete it in an hour or so.

When I had completed it, I was asked if I wanted to select a TAX Professional to review my return for the best results. It was only a few more dollars and I felt it was a good precaution because I was given the name of the Tax Pro who would be doing the review. When I had completed my tax preparation with the online system, it appeared that I would get about $900 as a tax refund. When the named Tax Pro completed reviewing my return the tax refund had miraculously increased to $3500 and I was elated.

After my tax return was filed, the IRS sent me a notice that errors had been made on my return and my refund was now about $500. I tried contacting H&R Block and there was nobody by that name at H&R Block. I looked the Tax Pro lady up on Facebook and she told me she had not worked for H&R Block since 2019. I got a call from my other contact at H&R Block and he said he did not know her either.

H&R Block has now closed down its online tax preparation website until January so there is no place to review what was done on my 2021 return.

My experience so far with H&R Block and Square is that they have been very successful in erecting an AI wall between customers and live employees and while they may be saving money by the bucketful, they are alienating customers in the process because they prevent customers from contacting live human beings to resolve issues that are being caused by certain frailties of the AI systems.

My recommendation to any small business person is to avoid dealing with either of these corporations as they cannot resolve issues caused by AI deficiencies. Would you trust a self-driving car if you could not take control if necessary? You should be very careful in using AI-controlled systems for your financial transactions as well.

I expect to see an AI warning group develop on Twitter and other Internet channels any day now. The potential for widespread financial and reputation damage is growing rapidly and very few industry voices are being raised in alarm. I do not think it is a cover-up like COVID vaccine problems, but it is more of an early excitement at the savings possible by replacing humans with robots. People forget that robots do not have judgment. They only do as they were told. Those of us who are older should remember what happens when humans would only obey orders. The results were tragic.

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Can You Trust AI Systems In Customer-Facing Situations? was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.