The unexpected reason AI could be great for furniture stores | Bill McLoughlin

Hardly a day goes by without another story in the news about the coming AI revolution. The technology and the breadth of its application across myriad aspects of business processes and consumer lifestyles promises to change society in ways not seen since the beginning of the Internet.

According to some estimates, AI will impact 40% of current occupations, a significant portion of which will be eliminated altogether. Anyone with an iPhone or Alexa or who has encountered a chatbot has encountered a form of AI, albeit limited compared with what’s being rolled out even now and what is on the horizon.

What appears to be the low hanging fruit of AI implementation, the place where the largest number of companies are finding it easiest and most understandable to implement, is customer service. Automating customer interactions, whether it be answering questions, responding to complaints or scheduling appointments, is already underway and is likely to become commonplace in the next year or two.

Anyone who remembers the emergence of voicemail and automated phone lines may have some idea of how that’s likely to go. Remember those circuitous phone prompts that left you frantically punching zero hoping to escape the endless loop of useless options that always seemed to lead back to the same place. You get the idea.

Certainly, AI has already moved well beyond that ability. However, it’s already apparent that the key to successfully interacting with AI is understanding how to ask it the right questions. There will be entire courses taught soon on writing prompts.

For those of you who have not yet had a fruitless conversation with ChatGPT or Gemini, give it a try. It’s not a search engine, and its ability to provide information is limited by the information provided to it. Imagine, for example, asking an AI bot on CBS what the best NBC program is. If you don’t think it will be subject to the same territorial imperatives and copyright restrictions as virtually every other aspect of communication, you’re likely to be frustrated.

How long will it be before consumers become frustrated by their inability to find the right phrasing, right prompts or to obtain information that the AI’s programming simply does not have. Unlike a human being, AI does not care whether you get angry at it or even curse at it.

I speak from experience here.

It’s reasonable to expect that the ability to speak with a live human being who can empathize, who can creatively work toward a solution that comes not from its programming but from its innate desire to help another human being, will become a powerful differentiator.

We’ve already seen companies advertise the human component of their customer service operations. For furniture stores that offer trained staff as part of their DNA there could emerge a real benefit to touting that personal touch.

A recent Connecting Consumers study by Momentum Worldwide found that 70% of consumers are worried that human connections will be lost as AI continues to grow. For furniture stores that have the ability to offer personal interaction this could turn out to be a very powerful, positive point of differentiation.

See also:

  • Retailers tell attendees AI can be ‘the answer engine’
  • It’s all about control: AI-powered solutions create value, a few challenges, for retail

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