(This column originally appeared in Forbes)
There has been a lot written about ChatGPT, the open-source, AI-driven conversational chatbot released late last year by OpenAI. It’s a powerful tool and its underlying technology will have a big impact on both our professional and personal lives in the coming years. But the media loves to over-hype things — particularly tech things — so it’s important to know what’s real, and what’s myth, about this new platform. So let’s focus on the myths.
Myth 1: ChatGPT is new.
ChatGPT is not new. It is a conversational chatbot. There have been countless applications like it over the past few years.
Anyone who knows customer relationship management knows this. Just visit any site with an online chat, or respond to a text from your pharmacy reminding you of prescription renewal or answer a question posed by an automatic telephone system or confirm a dentist appointment via text. CRM applications have had these features for a while now. The global chatbot market was valued at $3.78 billion…back in 2021 and was projected to grow 30 percent by 2027.
I’m betting, however, that those projections are going to change significantly. That’s because ChatGPT is much better and takes conversational AI to a whole new level. That’s because it’s really conversational. Instead of responding with a number or letter you can actually have a back and forth with the application like a real person and then the bot will help accomplish tasks (see below). That experience will continue to get better as the technology matures.
Myth 2: ChatGPT will replace Google.
Just this past week, Gmail creator Paul Buchheit predicted that A.I. bots like ChatGPT “will destroy search engines within two years.” That seems pretty terrifying if you’re a Google shareholder. But no one at the search engine giant should panic yet. The difference between ChatGPT and Google is that Google lists websites containing answers to searches and ChatGPT gives direct answers based on its own research and then can further “chat” with the user to refine that answer. However, the answer could be flawed, incomplete or otherwise inaccurate so we’re not killing off Google just yet. One thing’s certain — ChatGPT has the potential to turn the online advertising market upside down.
But we all know Google isn’t going plead for mercy. The company announcedthat it’s working on its own conversational chatbot to rival ChatGPT. I agree that ChatGPT will cause an enormous disruption to Google’s search model. But my money’s still on Google to address this. And if all those smart people at Google didn’t see this coming and don’t have a battle plan, then they deserve to go the way of Kodak.
Myth 3: ChatGPT can do things.
As of now, ChatGPT doesn’t really DO that much. It just gives information and helps to create things like essays, a research report, computer code or recipes. That’s cool and I’m going to list a lot of these things in a future On CRM column. But a chatbot, no matter how advanced, can’t interact with humans the way humans do and probably never will. It can’t console, empathize, motivate or innovate. It also can’t sell products like a great salesperson does or persuade a customer to pay an invoice or fix a printer…at least not yet.
However, ChatGPT will start actually doing many more things pretty soon. That’s because companies like Microsoft plan to take the technology and merge it with its own AI processes to allow a command from ChatGPT to trigger a workflow that will do things like create PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets and Outlook emails. And, very soon, ChatGPT will be used to launch actions within CRM programs, machines and equipment based on conversations and other triggers.
Myth 4: ChatGPT will replace people.
OK, some people. But not most.
This is an app. It can’t mow a lawn, fix roofs, pick up trash or provide the kind of customer service that a great support representative does. It is, however, a powerful tool that will help the best people doing knowledge work — developers, scientists, engineers, accountants, HR managers, sales and marketing professionals — do more and do it faster and more productively.
There’s no question that ChatGPT will replace some jobs. Low level work — writing blogs, updating websites, creating policies — will be cut back significantly, elevating the people who rely on that work to do more and better things with their time. But smart leaders shouldn’t look at ChatGPT as a job killer. It’s a powerful tool to help reduce overhead and allow workers to do their jobs much better and faster. Technology has replaced many jobs that were once important in the past. And, like always, people will adapt.
Myth 5: Your business should be using ChatGPT now.
Hold your horses. While there are reports that some businesses like real estate agents and software developers are making use of the application there’s still a long, long way to go. ChatGPT’s results are still incomplete, inaccurate and biased. There are privacy issues that need to be resolved and there’s a cost to all this because it’s an open-sourced application that needs experienced developers to turn it into something useful.
So what’s the takeaway from these myths? If you’re thinking of using ChatGPT with your CRM system, or in any other part of your business, you’re thinking the right way. But keep thinking for now.
In the meantime, let’s let the big tech companies and the startups do the heavy lifting and create applications and tools built on ChatGPT that have been tested, reviewed and vetted. Then we can buy or subscribe to them if it makes sense. When that time comes we probably won’t even be calling it ChatGPT anymore as the technology — and its many competitors which are already appearing — will be white-labelled and incorporated into many of the CRM and business applications we’re already using.
So keep paying attention, have an open mind and prepare for change. But don’t pay any money. Yet.