Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer alien to consumers, with close to three-quarters (73%) indicating they have interacted via AI, and 69% of those who have used AI being satisfied with those interactions, a new study from Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute finds.

However, consumers prefer engaging with organisations through a mix of AI and humans, and 64% want AI to be more human-like. These human-like qualities can generate significant goodwill and drive a greater propensity to spend for nearly half (48%) of consumers. However, many organisations are failing to take consumer pain points and preferences into account when applying AI technology to their customer experience (CX), focusing more on traditional metrics such as the cost of implementation and expected return on investment (RoI).

The report, which surveyed 10,000 consumers and over 500 companies across 10 countries, found that 63% of AI-aware consumers like AI because of its 24/7 availability and how it provides greater control over their interactions. Consumers are also opening up to the possibility of digital alter egos – 48% say the opportunity to be able to delegate tasks to an electronic personal assistant is exciting, with another 46% believing it will enhance their quality of life.

Human-like, not human-looking AI

Consumers’ growing comfort in using AI is also increasing their reassurance in AI having human-like attributes. More than three in five consumers (62%) are comfortable with human-like intellect. Nearly half (49%) say they would have a higher affiliation to a company if their interactions enabled by AI were more human-like. Surprisingly, this preference transcends the generations. Across all age groups between 18 and 55+ years, consumers prefer interactions to be enabled by a mixture of human and AI.

However, customers want their AI to be heard, and experienced, but not seen. While they are keen for AI to have a human-like voice (62%) and the ability to understand human emotions (57%), physical features are deemed ‘creepy’. Over half (52%) 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%) would like to be made aware when companies are enabling interactions via AI.

Businesses fail to prioritise CX

Despite consumer appetite for AI-powered customer experiences, businesses are prioritising traditional metrics over customer preferences. The report found that 62% of organisations are prioritising cost and 59% of organisations are prioritising ROI as the most important factors when implementing AI technology. Just 7% of organisations rank solving known consumer pain points, and 10% rank impact on customer experience as important factors in implementing AI-enabled use cases. That is a clear oversight, details the report, given that consumers are willing to spend more when the experience is positive. The report found that 38% of shoppers have purchased more following a good AI-enabled experience, with a quarter increasing their spend by up to 10%. In addition, AI-enabled interactions also foster more loyalty to and higher trust in the company.

Mark Taylor, chief experience officer, Digital Customer Experience Practice at Capgemini said, “It is somewhat ironic that natural language processing and machine learning provides 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.”

About the research

This research surveyed 10,000 consumers and over 500 executives at leading organisations across 10 global markets. All organisations had revenue above 1 billion dollars in FY17. The global survey took place in May 2018 and was supplemented with three virtual focus group discussions with 8-10 consumers per focus group in USA, France, and Germany. The research also included interviews with several key industry stakeholders and academics.

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