The growth of AI technologies is a hot topic and it’s feeding uncertainty as organisations like OpenAI and DeepMind are continuing to innovate their AI technologies.

So what is AI technology? The ONS, whose data is used throughout this blog, currently defines AI technology as “an umbrella term for a group of interrelated technologies. In general, AI behaves in a way that mimics some human cognitive processes, using data to inform decisions”.

Consumer awareness of AI
Recent data from the ONS shows consumer awareness of AI increasing, with 72% of adults able to provide a partial explanation of AI in 2023, compared to 56% in 2022. But does this awareness correlate with more consumers using AI technologies?

Source: Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from the Office for National Statistics, 14 May 2023, 2,043 consumers. Data from 2020 from Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s Public Attitudes to Data and AI Tracker Survey (PADAI), July 2022. Business data Odigo/Davies Hickman, 2022.

Consumer use of AI
Despite the increase in awareness of AI, consumers are not always sure when they are using AI technologies. As many AI technologies work ‘behind the scenes’ in telecoms networks, search engines, manufacturing processes or delivery and logistics operations, consumers may be unaware of their use of AI or its benefits. Further, when AI solves a problem successfully, the AI input is not necessarily recognised over time and this is known as the AI effect. Only 5% of adults report they are directly using AI a lot, while 45% use AI a little and 50% not at all.

AI chatbots create awareness
Consumers are most aware of AI through their use of chatbots, according to the ONS study. In the last month, 34% say they have used them with 50% of adults using AI chatbots for customer service, 33% to try it out (ChatGPT and others) and 19% for entertainment purposes. In the 16 – 29 age group, 58% use AI to simply try it out and 29% use AI for entertainment purposes. The challenge for the companies behind AI technologies is to ensure these consumers continue to use these AI-facilitated services.

Trust in AI
As AI technology is currently highly publicised, there is a need to prove and garner trust in its abilities. At the public policy level, there is a fierce debate about the regulation of AI.

A Deloitte survey of 4,150 UK adults found that of those who had used generative AI (AI tools which produce convincing text or images in response to human prompts), more than four out of 10 believe AI always produces factually correct answers. However there is a growing awareness of the presence of factual errors in the dialogue provided by some forms of generative AI as these failings are often reported in traditional media, through podcasts and on social media.

In addition concerns have been raised over AI taking jobs, AI being emotionless, its environmental impact and AI bias. In a recent BSI webinar on the subject of AI use in healthcare, the panel addressed the question of bias by advising that biases only come from humans and there are many steps in place to eliminate these biases from AI output.

AI is part of customer experience
AI continues to facilitate customers’ experiences when consumers need to contact an organisation. According to Odigo’s latest eBook Six ways to improve CX using AI in your contact centre, European businesses recognise the value of AI technologies to understand customers, support agents and to gain customer insights. 82% of business executives agree AI technologies can help agents understand customers’ demographics and 74% believe AI can be used to understand customers’ emotions and intentions.

However mistrust in customer service chatbots is growing and consumers report frustration with chatbots not understanding their queries or failing to provide answers to anything more complicated than the most basic question. 71% of consumers like the idea of organisations using text-based AI, such as ChatGPT, to provide an immediate answer. So organisations providing customer service powered by AI need to implement chatbots carefully so that consumers recognise the benefits  of them without losing trust at the outset. BT and Cisco’s Autonomous Customer 2023 report describes customers’ views about the uses of AI in large organisations more fully.

The future impact of AI on customer experience may well be more significant. In Business Insider Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, said the company had been experimenting with AI and the technology had been incorporated into their systems. Staff began letting AI reply to some customer emails in February and now AI replied to more than a third of customer emails, equivalent to the work of about 250 people although these people were redeployed.

Extending the use of AI positively
Recent data from the ONS indicates 18% of consumers believe the impact of AI technology will be positive, 62% moderate and 21% negative. So with AI technology gaining more traction, organisations incorporating it into their customer service function must carefully consider how to build trust in AI products while minimising frustration.

Davies Hickman Partners
Understanding what customers of organisations want when using AI-driven technology is very different from what the AI-driven technology buyers in organisations want. Davies Hickman supports technology companies with evidence about customers’ and buyers’ needs, aligning prospects buying journeys with product roadmaps. Since 2007, Davies Hickman has worked with some of the best-known technology brands. See Davies Hickman’s short video to find out more.