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Klarna deepens automation fears with claim AI assistant does work of 700 people

Klarna deepens automation fears with claim AI assistant does work of 700 people

In a statement that’s likely to spark controversy, Klara announced that its AI assistant does the work of 700 full-time agents.

The statement might raise skepticism for those who remember that the Swedish fintech unicorn laid off roughly the same number of people in 2022, citing inflation and economic uncertainty. Others might also recall that in December, the company freezed hiring on account of AI “productivity gains.”

Klarna partnered with OpenAI last year, integrating ChatGPT technology into a plug-in for shopping.

The app-based assistant can perform a range of customer service tasks such as inquiries, refunds, and returns. It’s — naturally — available 24/7 and can communicate in over 35 languages.

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Now, one month after the AI assistant’s global launch, Klarna says that the feature has been a huge success. According to the buy-now-pay-later startup, the chatbot has handled two-thirds of its customer service chats. It’s also reduced repeat inquiries by 25% and can resolve customer errands in less than two minutes — compared to the 11 minutes when done by a human agent.

“This AI breakthrough in customer interaction means superior experiences for our customers at better prices, more interesting challenges for our employees, and better returns for our investors,” said Sebastian Siemiatkowski, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

Klarna also expects that the feature will drive a $40mn (€37mn) investment improvement in 2024.

But while the financial gains AI can bring to businesses are undeniable, the startup’s statement might also trigger further fears of job losses, as company announcements on AI replacing human workers keep growing.

Meanwhile, analysts have linked Klarna’s announcement to a decline in Teleperformance’s shares earlier this morning. Shares fell on a seven-year low (down 28%), raising concerns over AI’s impact on the company’s call centre business.

TNW has reached out to Klarna for a comment and we will update the piece accordingly.

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