Klarna news may confirm workers’ worst fears: AI replacement

Dive Brief:

  • Klarna’s OpenAI integration is doing the work of 700 live agents, the payments company announced on Feb. 27. 
  • In the month since the integration has launched, the chatbot has had 2.3 million conversations, handling two-thirds of the company’s customer service queries. 
  • Workers are increasingly afraid of their workload being scooped up by AI. Gallup has noted an uptick in FOBO or the “fear of becoming obsolete” over the past two years.

Dive Insight:

Klarna claimed that its chatbot’s service is equally as satisfying as human interaction, based on ratings; the fintech company also said that its “AI assistant” has resolved customer issues more quickly and has led to “a 25% drop in repeat inquiries.”

OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap praised Klarna for being at “the very forefront” of practical AI adoption. “Together we are unlocking the vast potential for AI to boost productivity and improve our day-to-day lives,” Lightcap said in a Feb. 27 statement.

Klarna’s statement may address the rising concerns voiced by many workers, especially those in tech. Although less than a quarter of respondents to a Gallup poll expressed fears of AI replacing their jobs, the share of people who were concerned increased by 7%, moving the metric to 22%, the polling giant said. 

Klarna co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the OpenAI integration is emblematic of AI’s “profound impact.”

He added, “We want to reemphasize and encourage society and politicians to consider this carefully and believe a considerate, informed and steady stewardship will be critical to navigate through this transformation of our societies.”

The next day, international stock shares for a call center company dropped to a seven-year low due to concerns regarding AI managing telecommunications work. Analysts linked the drop in Teleperformance shares to Klarna’s OpenAI announcement. Leadership at Teleperformance said AI is already integrated into its work processes.

AI seems to have always been a part of Klarna’s talent strategy.

Late last year, Siemiatkowski told The Telegraph that Klarna had frozen hiring, with the exception of engineering roles. Following a 10% headcount reduction in May 2022, Klarna relocated 500 workers to roles at sister company Foundever in September 2023. Affected departments included cybersecurity, partner operations and product, and CX. 

While a chatbot has done the work of 700 live agents, Klarna users can “still choose to interact with live agents if they’d prefer,” the press release stated.