Call center giant Teleperformance is facing the dizziness of artificial intelligence

Call center giant Teleperformance is facing the dizziness of artificial intelligence

Teleperformance has never earned as much money as it will in 2023: more than 8 billion euros in turnover and an operating result of 1.3 billion. However, as he took the stage in London on March 7 before an audience of financiers, Daniel Julien, the president and co-CEO of the world’s largest customer relations company, looked concerned. “Before we formally begin this meeting, I would like to talk about the“elephant in the room” »this topic that everyone has in mind: the” artificial intelligence (AI) New Generation “the manager says immediately.

Since the release in November 2022 of ChatGPT, the first generative artificial intelligence tool for the general public developed by the American OpenAI, Teleperformance has been caught in a whirlwind of existential questions. Will AI-powered robots, capable of solving all problems and answering all questions, replace these battalions of humans? Can a gigantic company like Teleperformance, which employs more than 500,000 people worldwide on all continents, disappear? The concern is becoming reality: in a year and a half, Daniel Julien’s group has lost two-thirds of its value on the Paris Stock Exchange, weighing only 5.7 billion euros. The CAC 40 arrived in June 2020 and is now very close to the exit.

Call center groups, which appeared widely in the United States in the 1960s with the rise of consumer society, developed thanks to their ability to manage customer relationships for companies or government services at lower costs, with a simple recipe: outsource these services to countries where labor is cheap. Of its 500,000 employees, Teleperformance has barely 3,000 in France, compared with almost three times as many fifteen years ago, while most of its forces are now in India, the Philippines, Colombia, Portugal and Greece.

But if generative AI allowed these large customers to perform these functions internally, efficiently and under better financial conditions, it would make less sense to entrust them to a service provider. AI thus calls into question the foundations of the existence of groups such as Teleperformance or its major American competitor Concentrix, owner of Webhelp, the French number two in the sector, since April 2023.

“Use common sense or empathy”

These concerns were especially evident on February 27. That day, the young Swedish financial services company Klarna, a client of the French group, announced that its AI assistant, powered by OpenAI, does the equivalent of the work of 700 full-time advisors and has 2.3 million conversations in just one month fed. after implementation, which corresponds to two-thirds of the messages (chats) that the customer relations department receives. The AI ​​tool made it possible to solve problems much faster and achieve a customer satisfaction level equivalent to that of humans, Klarna supports. Following these statements, Teleperformance shares fell 35% in one week.

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