An anonymous Shopify employee has apparently claimed that the company has been using AI to replace staff that it quietly laid off.
In a tweet, the co-founder of CheckMyAds, Nandini Jammi said that the employee had shared the news with them despite being under an NDA. The unnamed employee said that the layoffs had been happening across the US, Canada, and Ireland and that Shopify was planning to use chatbots to provide customer support services.
-has been quietly firing their global customer service team across US, Canada and Ireland
-is about to replace them with AI chatbots
Good luck to all Shopify shop owners out there — shit’s about to SUCK. https://t.co/TwizyV0waP
— Nandini Jammi (@nandoodles) July 19, 2023
Earlier this year Shopify assured staff that their jobs were safe but then the company embarked on a round of layoffs in May where it shed 20% of its workforce.
While not directly addressing the potential for AI to replace staff Shopify CEO, Tobi Lütke was clear on his views on AI when the layoffs happened.
In his internal memo, Lütke said “But now we are at the dawn of the AI era and the new capabilities that are unlocked by that are unprecedented. Shopify has the privilege of being amongst the companies with the best chances of using AI to help our customers.”
The response to the latest claims of AI chatbots taking support jobs was understandably not positive. Responses to Nandini’s tweet ranged from outrage at the plight of workers to skepticism about the kind of support AI could possibly provide.
Is AI the future for Shopify support?
While there’s no clarity from Shopify about how it plans to use AI to offer support on its platform, it has recently rolled out AI tools for its users.
If you have a store on the Shopify platform you can now access their AI assistant called Sidekick. The tool can give you info on sales trends, make changes to your store, or answer questions about customer feedback.
This is undoubtedly a huge timesaver if you’re running a store on Shopify. But now it seems that if you have a question that Sidekick can’t assist with then you may have to talk to another AI, rather than getting support from a human.
Nandini said she expected Shopify wait times to “skyrocket” because of the customer support team layoffs.
The whistleblower said that Shopify customers would soon be speaking to bots and would have to wait for hours to be escalated to a human rep.
Lütke may be focusing on different stats. In February he tweeted an interesting, if ominous, graph about the decline in the staff complement a company needed to generate $1m in revenue.
Chart of the day pic.twitter.com/dueo864Ze8
— tobi lutke (@tobi) February 23, 2023
Based on this and recent company decisions it seems highly likely that the claims of Shopify’s “AI in, humans out” approach may well be true.
In his company memo, Lütke used computer game analogies to describe aspects of Shopify, its staff, and the company’s “quest”. Gamers will note that to level up you often have to beat the “boss”. One response to Nandini’s tweet said that it’s the CEOs that should be replaced by AI and not the customer support staff.