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Artificial Intelligence Coaches for Sales Agents: Caveats and Solutions

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Document pages: 51 pages

Abstract: Firms are exploiting AI coaches to provide training to sales agents and improve their job skills. The authors present several caveats associated with such practices based on a series of randomized field experiments. Experiment 1 shows that the incremental benefit of the AI coach over human managers is heterogeneous across agents in an inverted-U shape. While middle-ranked agents improve their performance by the largest amount, both bottom- and top-ranked agents show limited incremental gains. This pattern is driven by a learning-based mechanism in which bottom-ranked agents encounter the most severe information overload problem with the AI versus human coach, while top-ranked agents hold the strongest aversion to the AI relative to human coach. To alleviate the challenge faced by bottom-ranked agents, experiment 2 redesigns the AI coach by restricting the training feedback level and observes a significant improvement in agent performance. Experiment 3 reveals that the AI–human coach assemblage outperforms either the AI or human coach alone. This assemblage can harness the hard data skills of the AI coach and soft interpersonal skills of human managers, solving both problems faced by bottom- and top-ranked agents. These findings offer novel insights into AI coaches for researchers and managers alike.

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