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ServiceNow shows how gen AI could rescue your Starbucks order

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ServiceNow shows how gen AI could rescue your Starbucks order

It’s the kind of mix-up that wouldn’t have been possible less than 10 years ago, but today it’s commonplace: You accidentally put in a mobile order for coffee at the wrong Starbucks location.

There are only two things you can do when this happens: either forego the coffee and lose your money, or reach out to Starbucks for help. At its Knowledge 2023 conference this week, ServiceNow showed how its use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) could make that second option a lot easier for both customers and service agents.

“We believe that this technology has reached an inflection point where we can do something meaningful for all of you here,” CJ Desai, ServiceNow’s president and COO, told the audience of customers and developers gathered in Las Vegas.

Dubbed Now Assist for Search, Desai said the tool will allow organizations to make use of their own language learning models (LLMs) and provide natural language responses to common questions asked in a portal or to a virtual agent.

“We don’t need 170 million parameters,” he said. “We can train with the right open source models for you with your data, and you get the privacy and the ability to trust the technology for the use cases that matter.”

How Now Assist works

In a live demonstration, a ServiceNow employee posing as a Starbucks customer showed how he could inform the coffee giant about sending an order to the wrong location through a chat window in the Starbucks app. Now Assist is designed to understand the customer’s intent as well as their tone as it provides more answers.

In practice, this means a company like Starbucks could apologize and offer the customer either a refund or the ability to have the order change so that their coffee would be ready at the correct location. In the background, ServiceNow’s platform would assist in automating workflows such as cancelling the initial order and placing one at the right store.

ServiceNow experts suggested Now Assist could be even more useful for the agents on the other end of a customer service issue. A second demo cast an employee in the role of a Starbucks agent who was dealing with a customer whose mug broke. Normally, an agent would have to scroll through long histories of chat interactions between that customer and the company to get up to speed on what happened.

Now Assist could create a case summary for the agent instead, while another panel within the Now platform would offer recommended actions the agent could take, broken down into steps. When it comes time to write a summary of how the case was resolved, the agent could use Now Assist to generate a summary of their notes within seconds.

While the Starbucks scenario shown at Knowledge 2023 was intended to be a representative example of what gen AI can bring to service interactions, the coffee chain is a real ServiceNow customer. During Desai’s keynote, he welcomed Dawn Lawson, Starbucks’ vice-president of technology operations, who said the coffee chain has been using ServiceNow’s platform in its employee contact center, and launched it in its customer contact center last fall.

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“One of the problems that we were trying to solve for is that we were forcing an org chart onto our store partners,” Larson said, describing situations where store managers might not know whether to reach out to facilities groups or its tech group for help. Meanwhile, Starbucks is continuing to grow and expand into new lines of business, such as delivery.

“It’s really creating a lot of complexity for our stores,” Larson added. “And so we’re working to streamline that support mechanism for our partners so that they can focus on craft and coffee with our customers.”

Other major customer wins at ServiceNow include the National Hockey League, which will use the Now platform to, among other things, connect the digital workflows that support the League’s fan experiences into one cohesive platform.

While best known for its tools to assist with IT service management and customer service management, ServiceNow chairman and CEO Bill McDermott admitted in a briefing with reporters that every single business leader he has spoken with recently has been asking about gen AI.

Perhaps as a result, in addition to Now Assist for Search, ServiceNow is also offering what it calls its Generative AI controller. The tool will allow organizations to connect ServiceNow instances to LLMs such as Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI and OpenAI, which created ChatGPT. This means companies could use gen AI to create or summarize content as well as answer questions.

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