A Balanced Approach to AI Integration: Lessons From Klarna’s Customer Service Success

Klarna, a Swedish international fintech company, has introduced an AI assistant developed in collaboration with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. Klarna says it has significantly transformed its customer service operations.

In a press release on 27 February, Klarna itemised an impressive list of achievements in just one month of the global deployment of the AI assistent, essentially a chatbot:

  • The AI assistant has had 2.3 million conversations, two-thirds of Klarna’s customer service chats
  • Doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents
  • On par with human agents with regard to customer satisfaction score
  • More accurate in issues resolution, leading to a 25% drop in repeat inquiries
  • Customers now resolve their issues in less than 2 minutes compared to 11 minutes previously
  • Available in 23 markets, 24/7 and communicates in more than 35 languages

While the AI assistant has led to operational efficiencies and is projected to contribute $40 million in profit improvements for Klarna in 2024, it also raises concerns about job displacement. What isn’t clear is whether this move to AI has resulted in layoffs in the reduction of Klarna’s customer service workforce from 3,000 to 2,300 employees where “doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents” is a convenient equivalent number on the difference between 3,000 and 2,300.

What is clear is that Klarna’s deployment of an AI chatbot in customer service not only showcases the potential of AI to streamline operations and improve customer satisfaction, but also highlights the critical need for a balanced approach to AI integration, one that enhances human capabilities rather than replacing them.

Klarna’s Balancing Act

In this context, it’s worth noting that clerical-type jobs such as customer service representatives are among jobs often predicted to be among the most at risk from AI replacement.

Indeed, the conversation around AI in the workplace commonly revolves around its potential to replace human jobs. However, experts argue that AI should augment human intelligence, not replace it. AI and humans bring different strengths to the table, and the most successful applications of AI in the workplace will be those that leverage both to achieve augmented intelligence.

So while AI in customer service can lead to significant improvements in efficiency, availability, and personalization – Klarna’s example clearly demonstrates that – it is important to balance these benefits with the potential drawbacks. The human touch remains a core component of customer service. This approach can help mitigate job displacement concerns and ensure that customer interactions remain empathetic and contextually aware.

It’s a key point that Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Klarna’s co-founder and CEO, seems to have grasped as indicated in a comment on how this example underscores the profound impact on society that AI will have, mentioned in the press release, and in his post on X. In a post on LinkedIn published by Klarna last week, there’s some lively discussion in the comments on this point.

As AI continues to evolve, fostering a symbiotic relationship between human and artificial intelligence will be key to harnessing its full potential while mitigating its societal impacts.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.