Categories
AI

Report: 80% of consumers prefer to speak with AI to avoid long hold times

A new survey conducted by Replicant found that nearly 80% of consumers indicated they would prefer to speak with a virtual agent or machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57% of consumers would speak with conversational AI even if the hold time was only five minutes.

Beyond consumers’ willingness to speak with AI, the survey found pervasive customer service problems, with 91% of consumers reporting they have experienced poor customer service in the past six months.

Consumers say auto and home insurance companies have had the best customer service since the pandemic began, while cell phone and internet providers ranked the worst. Airlines, in the news for long hold times, came in second place for worst customer service overall since the pandemic began.

However, airlines didn’t present the most issues for summer travelers. For the 77% of summer travelers who reported they encountered customer service issues, rental car companies topped the list, as nearly a third of travelers using rental cars had issues.

Overall, brands that don’t address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76% of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty. The pandemic and its continued impacts have exacerbated extant staffing issues, but companies haven’t made changes to have more resilient staffing in the face of uncertainty. For many of these companies, AI could provide needed support. With the pandemic still in play, staffing and uncertainty will continue to impact recovery if not addressed.

Replicant commissioned the survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who have interacted with customer service in the past six months late this summer, amid reports of issues with airline customer service and product shortages, to examine public attitudes toward customer service.

Read the full report by Replicant.

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Categories
AI

Visa’s Melissa McSherry shares why leaders must hold themselves accountable for D&I

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.


Melissa McSherry, SVP Global Head of Data, Security, and Identity Products at Visa, came to the AI space in a roundabout way — she was originally a social studies major as an undergrad, with only one statistics class under her belt when she graduated. But in her first role out of school, she became hooked on data when she started diving into solving business challenges using statistical methods.

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with leaders in the AI space about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a white cis male-dominated field, McSherry answered some questions for us about her role at Visa, the efforts she’s made to ensure that DE&I is top of mind for the team she leads and the company as a whole, and her own ongoing focus on breaking the silence where racism and prejudice thrive.


See the others in the series: Intel’s Huma Abidi, Redfin’s Bridget Frey, Salesforce’s Kathy Baxter, McAfee’s Celeste Fralick,  ThoughtSpot’s Cindi Howson and Levi-Strauss’ Katia Walsh.


VB: Could you tell me about your background, and your current role at your company?

I lead Visa’s Global Data, Security and Identity Products team, which serves our clients and partners with predictive models and benchmarking tools to reduce fraud and drive customer engagement, underwriting, and marketing effectiveness. As Chair of Visa’s Data Council, I’m also leading Visa’s strategy on data-related activities, with a focus on making sure we are making the investments now to position us for a future where data is even more important.

I have a fairly atypical background for this kind of work, with a social studies major and just one semester of statistics, but after diving into survival models and statistical approaches for my first role out of college, I’ve enjoyed translating business and technical problems, and landing at Visa where we are using AI in exciting ways to solve complex problems.

VB: Any woman in the tech industry, or adjacent to it, is already forced to think about DE&I just by virtue of being “a woman in tech” — how has that influenced your career?

I think almost everyone has, at some point, experienced being an outsider — for women in AI and tech, I can guarantee this has been part of their experience at least some point in time.

And we all know how hard it can be. The extra bandwidth that gets taken up dealing with being an outsider can be a drain on the mind space and effort one needs to deliver the kinds of amazing outcomes necessary to become more successful leaders of larger organizations. In my experience, having a strong sense of purpose can help keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted with some of the challenges we often face — it gives you permission to do things that may feel risky but that you need to do in order to grow.

VB: Can you tell us about the diversity initiatives you’ve been involved in, especially in your community?

We’ve built a mentorship program to enable belonging and inclusion within our Data, Security and Identity Product team, and more widely at Visa.

Studies have shown that underrepresented minorities and women who engage in mentoring (both as mentor and mentee) achieve greater career outcomes and higher job satisfaction — so we’re focused on building out this program to facilitate both personal and professional growth. We also started a book and podcast club to discuss matters of inclusivity and social justice, and recently read So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo.

Finally, we’ve spearheaded a newsletter with discussion of current and topical issues relating to diversity and inclusion. For example, we recently highlighted the disproportionate effect the COVID pandemic has had on minority-owned small businesses.

Structural racism and prejudice thrives on silence — so it’s critical that we have these conversations and foster greater awareness, which is a key step in dismantling these systemic issues.

VB: How do you see the industry changing in response to the work that women, especially Black and BIPOC women, are doing on the ground? What will the industry look like for the next generation?

I do think the industry is becoming more inclusive, largely because we’ve had amazing talented people pointing out how badly change is needed. People like Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, and Cathy O’Neill, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality. These leaders are holding us accountable and identifying where we have gaps.

We know we need more diverse representation of women and other minority groups in data and AI building these tools, because if you don’t have that diversity of experience, viewpoints, and opinions in the model-building and governance stages, places where bias can inadvertently creep in are less likely to occur to you, and the risk of building biased AI goes up.

Building in fairness through diversity and inclusion is a critical part of building good, responsible AI. At Visa, for example, we’ve launched a cross-company program to develop a permanent approach to fighting bias and promoting fairness in our growth as well as our use of AI and algorithms.

This is supported by initiatives such as the Visa Black Scholars and Jobs Program — a $10 million investment over the next five years that we launched in December 2020 in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to commit to increasing the diversity of our teams and develop the next generation of future Black leaders in technology.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact.

Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

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Categories
Tech News

Galaxy S21 FE production reportedly put on hold due to chip shortage

There will be no Galaxy Note 21 this year, Samsung has pretty much confirmed. In its place will be three phones, two of the foldable kind and the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition. The latter carries the torch for the Galaxy S21, which reportedly isn’t selling well after all. Now it seems that even the Galaxy S21 FE runs the risk of ending up being a failure or at least missing its window of opportunity if rumors are true that Samsung has paused production due to this or that problem with a critical component.

On paper, the Galaxy S21 FE would be quite the contender in the market. Of course, it won’t be as high-end as even the base Galaxy S21 model but that’s not exactly the point. For a rumored price of around $630 to $720, the phone will offer at least a Snapdragon 888 and other premium components, perhaps 8GB of RAM, for example, inside a most likely plastic body.

It seems, however, that the Galaxy S21 FE is running into problems even before it sees the light of day. ETnews has deleted a post that claims that production on the affordable handset has been put on hold due to the ongoing chip shortage. Samsung has reportedly decided to allocate the processors it has towards the more expensive Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Other tipsters paint different but equally discouraging pictures. Ice universe likewise deleted tweets saying that battery quality issues, a very sore point for Samsung, are to blame. Roland Quandt from WinFuture makes it sound even worse, saying that production may not have even started at all.

In a brief response to Bloomberg, a Samsung spokesperson clarifies that the company hasn’t made any decision yet about the alleged production suspension. That indirectly confirms not just the existence of the issue but also the existence of the unnamed phone. With an expected launch in August, delayed production of the Galaxy S21 due to issues with critical components doesn’t bode well for it.



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Categories
Tech News

Twitter verification requests are on hold again

Twitter has once again put verification requests on hold, only a week since it began taking blue check applications again. Users with a claim on notoriety – whether by virtue of their role as an activist or influencer, journalist, or professional athlete – will now have to be patient once again before they can request the coveted blue badge, though this time around the social network says the wait will be a little shorter.

“We’re rolling in verification requests,” Twitter’s Verified account said this afternoon. “So we gotta hit pause on accepting any more for now while we review the ones that have been submitted. We’ll reopen requests soon! (we pinky swear).”

Verification has been one of the least-understood elements of life on Twitter since the blue checkmarks first began appearing. Initially, the rules by which the company decided who was worthy of the badge were pretty clandestine, though over time it explained a little more about its policies. Generally, the mark is designed to indicate that a person is who they claim to be, helping avoid fake accounts from being taken seriously.

However the way verification was managed had confused that process. Some users had their checkmarks removed after breaking Twitter rules, for example, leading to suggestions that the system was as much punitive as it was about validating authenticity. With fake news rising exponentially, Twitter opted to put verification requests on hold about three years ago.

When the system returned, it was with a little extra transparency. Those requesting the badge must now fall into one of six general categories:

Government
Companies, brands and organizations
News organizations and journalists
Entertainment
Sports and gaming
Activists, organizers, and other influential individuals

However, they must also have a complete profile, with a name, image, and either a confirmed phone number or email address. Twitter may request a copy of government-issued ID to verify identity, and users wanting to be verified need to have been active on the site within the past six months. Beyond that, though, there are also requirements around behavior on Twitter.

If, for instance, you were punished with a 12 hour or 7 day lockout within the past 12 months for violating Twitter’s rules, you won’t be able to get verified.

Twitter was progressively adding the application option to user accounts after announcing it was reopening for verification requests. Now, they’ll be disappearing again as it works through this new backlog. No word at this stage on when, exactly, it’ll be activating that again.



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Categories
Computing

Asus tells other dual-screen laptop makers to hold its beer, revealing the dazzling ZenBook Pro Duo

In the race to make dual screens a must-have laptop feature, Asus just did the equivalent of asking the competition to hold its beer. Because, damn, if you want an impressive dual-screen laptop, how do you beat the ZenBook Pro Duo? This engineering marvel somehow manages to jam a 15.6-inch screen and a 14-inch screen into a 5.5-pound laptop.

Yes, we’ll say that again: The ZenBook Pro Duo features two screens, including one that’s 14 inches diagonal and occupies the entire space above the keyboard. 

zenbook pro 15 ux581Asus

With its 14-inch touch-enabled secondary screen, the Asus ZenBook Pro laughs at laptops with puny 6-inch auxilary screens.

The auxiliary panel’s resolution is 3840×1100 with an aspect ratio of 32:9. The horizontal resolution of the auxiliary panel matches the main panel’s 4K horizontal so you can drag windows between the two screens effortlessly. The main panel itself is a gorgeous 15.6-inch, HDR OLED 4K screen.

Both screens are also touch-enabled for normal Windows operations. The second panel also includes a set of fairly well-polished controls. Asus dubs it the “4K ScreenPad Plus.”

Asus Zenbook Duo ProAdam Patrick Murray/IDG

The laptop is primarily aimed at power users so its insides are top notch. The laptop offers Intel’s 8-core Core i9-9980HK or a 6-core Core i7-9750H. For GPU you get a GeForce RTX 2060, and up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Asus said it will come standard with Intel’s newest WiFi-6/802.11ax controller.

The battery in the ZenBook Pro Duo is decently sized at 70 watt hours, so battery life will at least be decent for the amount of hardware it has inside.

As the third production dual-screen laptop we’ve seen in the last year, we’ll say that it’s probably most impressive of the bunch. We recently played with HP’s impressive Omen X 2S, which claimed the mantle of first gaming dual-screen laptop.

The HP includes some unique software touches for the second panel, but the ZenBook Pro Duo is simply a head turner. With the 11-inch ScreenPad Plus, it should be far more usable for its intended audience: content creators. 

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Categories
Tech News

3.7 billion year-old rocks from Greenland may hold secrets of life on Earth

Earth hasn’t always been a blue and green oasis of life in an otherwise inhospitable solar system. During our planet’s first 50 million years, around 4.5 billion years ago, its surface was a hellscape of magma oceans, bubbling and belching with heat from Earth’s interior.

The subsequent cooling of the planet from this molten state, and the crystallization of these magma oceans into solid rock, was a defining stage in the assembly of our planet’s structure, the chemistry of its surface, and the formation of its early atmosphere.

These primeval rocks, containing clues that might explain Earth’s habitability, were assumed to have been lost to the ravages of plate tectonics. But now, my team has discovered the chemical remnants of Earth’s magma oceans in 3.7 billion year-old rocks from southern Greenland, revealing a tantalizing snapshot of a time when the Earth was almost entirely molten.

Hell on Earth

Earth is the product of a chaotic early solar system, which is believed to have featured a number of catastrophic impacts between Earth and other planetary bodies. The formation of Earth culminated in its collision with a Mars-sized impactor planet, which also resulted in the formation of Earth’s moon some 4.5 billion years ago.

These cosmic clashes are thought to have generated enough energy to melt the Earth’s crust and almost all of our planet’s interior (the mantle), creating planetary-scale volumes of molten rock that formed “magma oceans” hundreds of kilometers in depth. Today, in contrast, Earth’s crust is entirely solid, and the mantle is seen as a “plastic solid”: allowing slow, viscous geological movement a far cry from the liquid magma of Earth’s early mantle.

As the Earth recovered and cooled after its chaotic collisions, its deep magma oceans crystallized and solidified, beginning Earth’s journey to the planet we know today. The volcanic gases which bubbled out of Earth’s cooling magma oceans may have been decisive in the formation and composition of our planet’s early atmosphere – which would eventually support life.

Categories
Tech News

This rare meteorite found on a driveway might hold the answer to our solar system’s origin

As people in the UK were settling down to watch the late evening news on February 28, a fresh news story, quite literally, appeared in the night sky. A large and very bright fireball was seen over southern England and northern France at 21:54 GMT. It was recorded by many doorbell webcams, so it was a very well-observed fireball. More importantly, it was also captured by the automated cameras of the UK Meteor Observation Network and similar networks.

Working with colleagues in France and Australia, the meteor-watchers worked out the fireball’s trajectory and determined where the meteorite pieces could be located, just north of Cheltenham in the UK. Based on their calculations, Ashley King, a specialist in meteorites at the Natural History Museum in London, made an appeal on local TV and radio stations for information about any unusual black rocks seen to have fallen from the sky.

Among the photographs he received, there was one that caught his attention: a small mound of dust and pebbles on a driveway in the small village of Winchcombe. King asked Open University researcher Richard Greenwood (who lived closest) to check out the sample. Greenwood was overwhelmed to find that not only was it a meteorite, but it was also a very rare species. The UK had got lucky – we had a new member to add to our meteorite collection.