Where exactly does AI rank in the digital distrust stakes?

Despite mistrust, we have reached a point of no return on the customer experience improvement curve, with the baton passing from human to digital interaction.
Read time 4min 50sec

Artificial intelligence (AI) doesn't just rank high among distrusted technology − research reveals it is perceived by consumers to be the most likely to cause harm in the future, with 57% saying AI has the potential to do damage over the next 10 years due to misuse.

But this distrust may wane as consumers discover the potentially immense benefits of AI to improve life as we know it, particularly due to its ability to touch all aspects of society, from healthcare, to helping businesses improve their customer service.

AI adoption grew 15% in 2020 and maturity continues to rise as it moves past small incremental solutions. The projected market growth is expected to surpass $37 billion by 2025. Therefore, while it currently seems consumers are simply playing catch-up with all the applications of AI, technology leaders have an incredible opportunity to communicate how it impacts their customers.

Blockchain, however, appears to be a bit of a mystery to 43% of respondents to the digital distrust poll. When asked about their trust in the technology, they replied 'not applicable', indicative of the fact that they did not have either enough information, or knowledge, to respond with a clear decision.

This attitude will be important to watch, as consumers begin to encounter blockchain technology everywhere. As it becomes more common for recordkeeping, allowing credentialed access and securing documents, it's an opportunity for tech leaders to debunk myths and educate against technology unknowns. This approach will help consumers to understand how valuable blockchain is to their data security and privacy.

Could the information many of these technologies deliver factor into mistrust? It certainly seems that way when looking at the modern customer service experience.

The human touch in customer service refers to the respect, flexibility and empathy with which customers wish to be treated. Technology is efficient, but it often fails on all these subtle service fronts. Up to 40% of customers explicitly want 'better human service'.

Despite lockdowns and social distancing, 46% of respondents noted that 'in-person' customer service is the most trustworthy method of getting their issues resolved. Video calls came second, with 30% saying they completely trust video technology. Phone calls come in third at 24% with complete trust.

"It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change," said Charles Darwin.

While businesses are using technology in new and different ways, it is clear there is still a level of scepticism among consumers.

However, it's important to note that like it or not, we are moving into a new generation of digitally-enabled customer experiences. Estimates vary as to the number of customer service roles that will be replaced by robots, cognitive technologies and AI, with market commentators appearing to agree that we have reached a point of no return on the customer experience improvement curve where the baton is passed from human to digital interaction.

Customer expectations continue to rise exponentially and possibly disastrously where businesses are unable, or too slow, to react.

Survey results reveal that less personal contact methods earn less trust from consumers. Just look at the numbers:

Text message: 33% say they are somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy.

Website contact form: 28% say these are somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy.

E-mail: 22% say e-mail is somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy.

All of this proves the importance of having well-trained, informed staff ready to interact with customers. But that's impossible without the appropriate tools and methodologies to store and distribute the content used for training and agent support.

One of the more obvious places, one would think, especially in the midst of a pandemic, is the trust levels or lack of same in the healthcare sector. More people than ever have accessed telehealth services since the start of COVID-19, but research indicates that patient portals and doctors' office websites are causing friction for consumers who are seeking care.

Rapid advances in digital technologies and data science over the last few years have had a vast impact on healthcare services, configuring a paradigm shift into what is now commonly referred to as digital health. COVID-19 has exemplified the critical role digital health plays in infection prevention and disease control. This sector is forecast to be a key aid to curbing rising health costs across the globe, with its success relying heavily on trust from patients, administrators and health professionals.

However, sadly, survey results indicate that 27% of patients had issues scheduling appointments on healthcare providers' portals during COVID to date. Simple matters like these can drive patients away, remembering the world has long since moved into a position of zero consumer tolerance for inefficient service.

Denting patients' trust in healthcare providers will result in the same situation as doing so in a retail environment − loss of business. The good news for these health suppliers is that they can easily fix some of these issues through the marriage of the right tools and content strategy.

While businesses are using technology in new and different ways, it is clear there is still a level of scepticism among consumers.

The data presented here reflects a growing challenge for the tech community if it is to maintain consumer trust as technology becomes a bigger part of our lives than ever before.

Monique Williams

Southern Africa regional sales manager for Hyland Software.

Monique Williams is the South Africa Country Manager for Hyland Software, where she is responsible for sales on Hyland's Content Services platform.

She has in excess of 20 years' experience in the information technology sector and holds an Honours Degree in Marketing Management and a Bachelor of Social Science in General Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, from the University of Cape Town.

Williams has worked for Hyland Software for over a decade and in that time, has been partner manager for UK and Scandinavia, and business development manager in South Africa. Her duties in her current role include generating revenue for Hyland Software by establishing and leading the execution of a plan to market, as well as managing existing and newly recruited partners in Southern Africa. Since being appointed to this role, she has increased sales revenue and has achieved year-on-year growth of a minimum of 30%.

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