Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gone mainstream when it comes to customer interactions, according to a new report from the Capgemini Research Institute. More than half of consumers (54%) have daily AI-enabled interactions with organizations – a significant increase from the 21% reported in Capgemini’s 2018 research on the subject.
The report, ‘The Art of Customer-Centric Artificial Intelligence: How organizations can unleash the full potential of AI in the customer experience’, reveals that COVID-19 has accelerated consumer adoption of AI-based systems, such as voice assistants and facial recognition. Over three-quarters of consumers (77%) expect to increase the use of touchless interfaces to avoid direct interactions with humans or touchscreens during COVID-19, and 62% will continue to do so post-COVID. This figure is even higher in countries such as Germany (73%) and Brazil (71%). The fact that touchless interfaces are becoming integral to the customer experience in a health and safety-conscious world is also recognized by organizations: 75% believe that increasing consumer appetite for non-touch practices will persist even in the post-pandemic world.
Consumers have significantly increased their preference for AI-only interactions; Kelly Anderson, Director, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Procter & Gamble confirms this saying, “I believe that consumer expectations have evolved to the point where they almost expect for interactions to be AI. So, when you actually put a human in the loop, they are very pleasantly surprised and sometimes shocked. This clearly shows that chatbots/ Natural Language Processing/AI are making progress and have evolved.”
From a sector perspective, Automotive (64%) and Public Sector (62%) stand out as the strong performers for using AI. The widespread usage of in-car voice interfaces explains the dominant position of automotive, in part. For instance, BMW, which has been deploying their own in-car AI based voice assistants for many years, plans to make them more natural, with gesture recognition or gaze recognition capabilities for its 2021 series.
Trust and human-like interactions have improved
Trust was identified as an area for improvement in 2018 and the latest research reveals that organizations have made great strides in this area. Just over two-thirds (67%) of consumers trust the personalized recommendations and suggestions provided by AI-enabled interactions. Moreover, close to half of consumers (46%) find AI-enabled interactions to be trustworthy – compared to 30% in 2018, while the share of consumers who say that they do not trust machines with the security and privacy of their personal data has dropped to 36%, down from 49% in 2018.
Consumers also wanted more human-like interactions, and here too organizations have delivered. Overall, 64% of consumers believe that their AI interactions are more human-like (compared to 48% in 2018). China (74%), Australia (72%) and the US (70%) lead in the percentage of consumers who believe that their AI interactions are more human-like. Organizations have been consciously trying to build in human-like features in AI applications: 72% of organizations agreed that they are actively trying to make their AI interactions more human-like.
Customer satisfaction levels have fallen
While consumers have increased their AI interactions since 2018, their level of satisfaction has dropped. Overall, 57% of consumers are satisfied with AI interactions, compared to the more than two-thirds (69%) who were satisfied in 2018. Additionally, 51% of consumers say they will consider an AI experience to be ‘positive’ if it provides a unique experience beyond their expectations.
Most organizations struggle with bias and to measure AI with basic KPIs
Few consumers have experienced AI in a way that far exceeded their expectations. This can be linked back to the fact that a majority of organizations (73%) only follow a basic KPI (key performance indicator) for measuring customer experience, which only looks at the number of customers served by AI interactions. Organizations must add measurement and feedback management into AI design and development, cites the report, so that AI systems can deliver their true potential of learning and improving over time. Weaving ethics into AI systems is also essential and will make a great impact on levels of trust. The research found that 61% of organizations have attracted legal scrutiny as a result of data handling procedures for AI tools, and 43% have discovered bias in AI systems where they discriminated against certain demographics.
The future of customer experience
When Capgemini conducted this study in 2018, its research found that most organizations (93%) had less than 30% of customer interactions enabled by AI. Today, only 10% of organizations are at that low bar, with 80% saying that 30% to 50% of customer engagements are AI-enabled. According to the report, in two to three years’ time, the vast majority (80%) will have more than half of their interactions enabled by AI.
“AI as a customer-facing tool is clearly here to stay. COVID-19 has been a catalyst in moving organizations towards AI implementation, and changes in consumer behavior mandated by the crisis have created a clear opportunity to scale AI implementations,” says Darshan Shankavaram, Head of the Global Digital Customer Experience Practice at Capgemini. “However, it is integral that businesses focus on using AI to delight their customers and create better interactions and experiences, rather than simply using it to address volume and speed or as a gimmick. This means continuing to invest in trustworthy, human-like AI experiences and evolving their KPIs to become more sophisticated. By making these changes, we expect to see consumer satisfaction improve and their openness to using AI further along the customer journey increase.”