Consumers are rapidly acclimatising to artificial intelligence, but organisations’ adoption of the technology is largely being driven by cost, not customer benefits, according to a new global report.
Research from Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute reveals that AI is no longer an alien concept to most consumers, with close to three-quarters (73 percent) indicating that they have interacted with AI in some form. Sixty-nine percent of those who have used AI said they were satisfied with the experience.
Sixty-three percent of AI-aware consumers like the technology because it opens up the possibility of 24×7 services, says the report.
Winning hearts and minds
The document, The Secret to Winning Customers’ Hearts with Artificial Intelligence: Add Human Intelligence presents the results of a survey of 10,000 consumers and over 500 companies across 10 countries.
It reveals that 55 percent of consumers prefer interactions enabled by a mix of AI and human beings, and 64 percent want AI to be more human-like. Human qualities within the technology can generate significant goodwill and drive a greater propensity to spend for nearly half (48 percent) of consumers, says the report.
Sixty-two percent of people are comfortable with AIs displaying human-like intellect, found the survey. Indeed, nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said they would pursue a closer relationship with a company if their interactions were enabled by human-like AI – findings that were broadly shared across all age groups.
However, customers want their AI to be heard or experienced, but not seen, found Capgemini. While people are keen for AI to have a human-like voice (62 percent) and the ability to understand human emotions (57 percent), any display of physical features by the technology was deemed “creepy” by respondents.
Over half (52 percent) of customers are not comfortable when AI is set up to look like a person. The report also finds that two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) would like to be made more aware when companies are enabling the technology for customer interactions.
The report would seem to play to the view of AI as a seamless, voice-enabled experience that announces its presence, rather than as something that should be extended to human-like machines. This may be a challenge to Amazon’s rumoured plans to be launching a domestic robot powered by its Alexa assistant.
Digital you versus digital them
The report finds that many consumers are open to the possibility of digital alter egos: 48 percent say the opportunity to be able to delegate tasks to an electronic assistant is exciting, with another 46 percent believing it would enhance their quality of life.
However, it’s less clear that many organisations attach much importance to that, according to the survey. Companies are failing to take consumer pain points and preferences into account when applying AI technologies, says the report, and are focusing more on traditional metrics, such as the cost of implementation and the anticipated return on investment (ROI).
According to Capgemini, 62 percent of organisations are prioritising cost and 59 percent ROI when implementing the technology. By contrast, just seven percent of them rank addressing consumer pain points as a priority, and barely 10 percent see impact on customer experience as an important factor.
That’s a clear oversight, says the report, given that consumers are willing to spend more when their experiences are positive. Capgemini found that 38 percent of shoppers have purchased more following a good AI-enabled experience, with a quarter increasing their spend by up to 10 percent.
The results mirror the sentiment of another recent Capgemini survey, which found that customers will actively support companies that take care of their data, and punish those that do not.
AI-enabled interactions foster greater trust, according to the survey: a surprising finding, given the low levels of consumer trust in companies’ ability to protect their data.
Mark Taylor, Capgemini’s chief experience officer at its Digital Customer Experience Practice, said, “It’s somewhat ironic that natural language processing and machine learning provide organisations with the opportunity to build deeper, more human relationships with their customers.
“By focusing their AI implementations to reimagine, streamline, and simplify customer interactions, organisations can boost customer spend and loyalty. To see the biggest bottom-line boost, firms need to make both artificial intelligence and customer experience a strategic priority.”
Plus: Google going into call centre market?
In related news, a report on The Inquirer suggests that Google may be entering the call centre market via its Duplex conversational AI system – conceivably augmented by human workers.
Internet of Business says
The Capgemini survey provides a welcome and surprising boost to organisations’ AI ambitions, especially in the wake of recent reports that suggest there is low consumer support for robots and driverless cars.
Ironically, some AI applications could be said to be putting the humanity back into customer interactions, which have long been the domain of automated call systems that keep people jumping through hoops before solving their problems – assuming the interaction leads to any resolution at all.
However, one set of findings from the report is not surprising, and yet deeply troubling: that organisations’ application of the technology is driven principally by cost and internal financial benefits, rather than on solving consumers’ problems. A tactical, operational move, rather than a strategic, business-focused one.
This suggests that many companies see AI as merely the latest in a long line of technologies that can help them slash costs, rather than be better businesses. Meanwhile, customers have a very different perspective: for them it’s about trust and closer relationships, an obvious mismatch between buyers and sellers’ respective goals.
When organisations rush to cut costs the results are often messier and more complex than they had anticipated – as the offshore call centre boom demonstrated, which in some cases was followed by damaged reputations and expensive repatriation programmes.
The idea of organisations, en masse, rushing to join the AI boom while these technologies are still in their infancy at enterprise scale is worrying. That’s because if they are focused largely on cost – and little on the customer experience or benefit – then this suggests they may be giving almost no consideration to the ethical dimensions of the technology, and the concomitant risk of automated bias and other problems.
For example, a survey by the consultancy Avanade three years ago found that 77 percent of C-level executives admitted to giving no consideration to the ethical impact of automation and new technology on their organisations.
‘Automate first, worry about the details later’ is a bad strategy, as is an overarching focus on tactical gains and a belief in instant cost-cuts. Organisations that rush into adopting the technology for the wrong reasons are not only increasing their own risk, but also missing out on a huge opportunity to get closer to their customers.