“Hey Siri, lead a protest.”
Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, that are a growing a part of the digital customer experience, from discovery via search marketing to customer support, may soon be used by protesters to disrupt organizations by ﬂooding customer support channels, according to a study by Gartner. They imagine that is one consequence of the increasing use of virtual assistants for legitimate customer support requests.
By the tip of next yr there’ll be 8.4 billion virtual assistants in use, up from 3.25 billion in 2019, according to Statista. These devices are rapidly becoming more sophisticated and are being used by customers to interact with corporations. By 2025, 37% of consumers will try using a virtual assistant to interact with customer service, according to The Gartner 2023 Leadership Vision for Customer Service and Support report.
Currently these interactions are for entirely legitimate reasons, like waiting on hold and ordering a pizza. Making them as seamless as possible is an increasingly essential a part of a customer’s interaction with a brand, though the customer themselves aren’t directly involved.
Why we care. This is a captivating and worrying example of a technology’s unintended consequences. Making something more efficient and easier-to-use is a giant market advantage. Especially when it comes to customer service. As every marketer knows, few things construct loyalty like great customer support. Do it poorly and you have got a giant weak spot in your brand.
Now, it may be that technological ease-of-use could also be a weak spot. What to do? Automate more, increase capability and be ready to deploy more resources. Who knows if these attacks will come to pass, but be prepared is a prudent attitude.
As for the long run, it’s difficult to imagine all of the possible things that may occur. The Pentagon employs a panel of science fiction writers to help them anticipate future threats. If these attacks come to pass, private industry may want to do the identical.
Dig deeper: 3 steps to prepare for Siri, Alexa and other machine customers
Legitimate interactions with virtual assistants are going to increase. As of last yr, Amazon Alexa had greater than 130,000 skills people could potentially leverage to automate transactions. Soon virtual assistants will be able to request service, receive messages, make recurring transactions, report problems issues and gather product information via every customer service channel.
This by itself poses a challenge to organizations by increasing the demand for customer service. Within two years, 20% of inbound contact volume will come from virtual assistants, according to Gartner.
In response, many corporations are investing in systems that use these capabilities — like a printer ordering more ink so a customer doesn’t have to. They are also automating customer service with chatbots and interactive voice systems.
But these legitimate interactions using virtual assistants will pave the best way for protests, say Gartner’s analysts.
“Protests against business and government organizations are increasingly digital,” the report states. “In 2021 there have been not less than 9.84 million distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks designed to shut down organizations’ web sites by overwhelming them with trafﬁc. This was a 14% increase from 2019.”
Ease of use will make virtual assistants a robust vector for protest.
“Citizen-led denial of service attacks (cDoS) are a recent style of denial of service, led by average people, not hackers, and performed through virtual assistants,” according to the report. “By 2024, residents will shut down a significant global enterprise company’s contact center through denial of service attacks launched by virtual assistants.”
These attacks are expected to be triggered by people protesting “social issues as opposed to maliciously motivated hackers.” They could be costly, as large businesses could lose a whole bunch of hundreds of dollars in operational expenses responding to them. That’s as well as to the prices from lost productivity, customer churn and long-term brand impact.
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