In response to "Twists and Turns" (June 2017, pp. 16-20): Very informative. It's true the emotional part is usually missed.

Sydney Machafa
Maputo, Mozambique


In response to "Try This Today: The Whole Picture" (April 2017, p. 64): Ramaswamy Ganesan makes an excellent point that "there could be two reasons that, individually, don’t have an effect, but together, may cause the problem."

In my experience, we don’t often systematically use the available process knowledge (that is, mechanisms) to guide us in developing hypotheses for the occurrence of a phenomenon. The traditional cause and effect method doesn’t explicitly nudge us to do it, and we forget.

I was so impressed by the piece that I bought the book P-M Analysis (Productivity Press, 1995) to develop a deeper understanding of the method.

Shrikant Kalegaonkar
Austin, TX

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This month’s question

Is there anything Amazon can’t do? Not only does it sell just about anything you could imagine, it also offers same-day shipping and one-click ordering, uses drones to deliver packages and even manufactures some of its own products.

Now, the retail giant is expanding into the brick-and-mortar grocery store business with its most recent venture—purchasing Whole Foods. Considering Amazon is well known for dabbling in automation, how might this acquisition change Amazon’s supply chain implementation model? What new challenges might Amazon face in the fresh food industry?

Last month’s question

Recent news has touted the benefits of using chatbots— a computer program that uses artificial intelligence to convincingly mimic conversation with a human—to improve the cost and quality of customer service.

Wells Fargo, for example, is testing out a Facebook chatbot that will provide around-the-clock customer service answering inquiries about customers’ account balances and where they can find the nearest ATM. And a recent study by Juniper Research predicts that, by 2022, chatbots will save more than $8 billion per year in customer service costs.

How else might chatbots change the customer experience in the future? Are there any drawbacks to using artificial intelligence over human intelligence?

Philip Scalise, Utica, NY, writes:

In my view, improving the quality of customer service suggests an enhancement or higher level of service. That said, the word "and" even further suggests an improvement in cost. Collectively speaking, this implies an increase in service "and" a decrease in the price of said service. I am left wondering how a chatbot can be better at the job than an actual carbon-based lifeform? Further, how they can do so at a lower cost? My questions stem from the fact that is not every day we are offered more for less?

Harry Rowe, Indianapolis, says:

In my limited experience, chatbots are more likely to increase customer frustration than to improve customer service. They may reduce cost per interaction, but increase the probability of a customer abandoning the interaction and going to a competitor. That is just what I did in a recent situation. The chatbot could not understand that I wanted to make an appointment for a particular day of the week. It kept trying to schedule me for the next available appointment. So a competitor with a human customer service agent got several hundred dollars in revenue.

Send us your take at editor@asq.org.

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