Leaked audio details Shopify’s plans for AI-first customer support as workers fear they’ll be replaced by AI

  • Shopify executives laid out their plans for an AI-first Support org during a recent town hall.
  • It plans to use AI at multiple points of the customer-support experience.
  • Some employees expressed concern that their jobs may not be safe.

Earlier this month, Shopify executives unveiled a road map for the company’s support division, putting AI squarely at the center of the company’s plans.

Some support staff were concerned that they would be replaced by AI as a result of the updates shared during the town hall. The Support organization is in charge of troubleshooting problems for Shopify’s millions of merchants.

During the town hall’s question-and-answer session, one employee asked how support advisors could be assured that their jobs are safe. The first round of layoffs at Shopify occurred in July of last year, and the company conducted a second round of layoffs in May. The second round affected 20% of Shopify’s workforce, or over 2,000 people.

In response to the question, executives urged employees to hone their skills and stay on top of emerging technology.

“To be fair, I don’t think any technology company — or any company, for that matter — would be able to guarantee that everyone will have jobs, or that every single job will be completely safe.” “I think all of us, including myself, are constantly proving ourselves in our jobs every single day,” Clovis Cuqui, Shopify’s vice president of merchant acceleration, said during the town hall, a recording of which Insider reviewed.

“My encouragement here is always to lean in and figure out how else each and every one of us can add value,” he said.

A presentation outlined the Support organization’s future priorities, including becoming AI-first and more data-informed, centralizing decision-making, shipping new features quickly, and remaining lean.

Shopify executives also discussed their plans to use AI to position customer support like a funnel.

If a merchant has a question or an issue, they can first try to solve it with the new AI-powered Sidekick tool built into the Shopify admin. If Sidekick wasn’t resolving the problem adequately, merchants could go to the help center and interact with the new AI assistant there.

If the problem was not resolved, merchants would be referred to a human support advisor. These advisors could use generative AI tools built into their systems to facilitate conversations with merchants and resolve the problem.

During the town hall, executives stated that the goal is to make it easier for merchants to get answers to simple questions without involving Shopify employees unless absolutely necessary. This could mean that support advisors’ overall workload decreases, but the amount of time they spend on each case increases, according to Glen Worthington, vice president and chief of staff at Shopify, during the town hall.

“There will probably be more nuanced, bespoke, novel situations rather than answering the same question over and over again with humans,” Worthington predicted.

The Support organization is also utilizing AI for translations via a tool that staff began testing in June.

Representatives from Shopify did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Entering the second phase of Code Yellow

The presentation also provided updates on Code Yellow, a project launched by Shopify in March with the goal of improving the customer-support experience. Shopify executives stated at the time of its launch that customer service had “deteriorated beyond acceptable ranges.”

According to the presentation, the Support org is now entering the second phase of that plan after seeing strong results in the first phase. It stated that the percentage of merchant interactions that received the highest rating had increased from 72% to 76%, and that merchant wait times had decreased from six minutes to less than one minute.

Worthington expressed optimism about AI’s impact on both the Support organization and the business world as a whole.

“It’s rare in one’s career that you get to work through an industry sea change,” he said.”Isn’t it cool that we get to be in the spotlight and apply whatever skills we learn from this elsewhere, or here, or in other jobs?”

On Wednesday, the company unveiled a suite of new AI tools that can be used across the Shopify platform at its bi-annual product event Shopify Editions. Shopify Magic, a generative AI tool that helps merchants generate instant responses to shopper inquiries, build personalized FAQ sections, and create email marketing campaigns, was among them.

“Right now, because of AI, we are sitting on the edge of so much possibility, where tomorrow’s commerce looks very different than today’s,” President Harley Finkelstein said in a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We also believe that AI is for everyone,” he continued, “which is why we are incorporating AI into our backend and across our products to make it easier for merchants and brands to start and scale their businesses.” “We are ushering in a new era of entrepreneurship, where AI helps people create businesses faster than ever before, and where the latest cutting-edge technology is used to eliminate time-consuming administrative tasks so you can focus on what’s important: building and shipping incredible products.”

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