AI Confusion Widespread Among Consumers

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Most people think they know what the term “artificial intelligence” means, based on the results of a survey Pegasystems released Tuesday. However, their responses suggested that they probably don’t fully understand how it’s being used today, including in the customer service realm.

Researchers polled 6,000 adult consumers in the United States, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Seventy-two percent of the survey participants said they understood what was meant by “artificial intelligence.”

While 32 percent said they weren’t sure if they had interacted with AI, 34 percent said they had. Another 34 percent said they had never had an AI interaction.

However, 84 percent actually had come into contact with AI, based on the devices or services they actually used, such as virtual home assistants, intelligent chatbots, or systems that incorporate predictive suggestions, including Google search and spam filters.

Perception vs. Reality

Only 41 percent of respondents knew that AI powered the technology used in Google Home or Amazon Alexa, even though both products have been marketed as bringing intelligent assistants into the home. However, 57 percent recognized that Apple’s Siri was based on AI.

Researchers polled a roughly equal number of men and women. Eighty percent of the male respondents and 66 percent of the women thought they understood the meaning of “AI,” but 60 percent of the women correctly identified that Siri was AI-powered compared to 54 percent of the men. Forty-three percent of the women said Alexa used AI, compared to 38 percent of the men.

“We didn’t provide a definition of ‘AI’ on purpose,” noted Pegasystems CTO Don Schuerman.

“We wanted to know what consumers associate with AI without leading them on,” he told CRM Buyer.

Respondents were’t tested on their AI knowledge, but “given how complex AI is, we were surprised that 72 percent said they understand it,” Schuerman noted.

“Most consumers’ perception of AI is tied to the image Hollywood has provided — robots and intelligent mainframes,” noted Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

They “don’t see the impact AI is playing in the technologies they use,” he told CRM Buyer. “If you pick up a smartphone and say, “Hello Google,” there’s no way to determine if the response was programmed or learned.”

That’s changing because of increasing press coverage and the growth in the use of digital assistants, McGregor suggested.

What People Think AI Can Do

Asked what AI could do, 57 percent of the respondents said it could learn; 51 percent said it could think logically; and 50 percent said it could solve problems.

Thirty-seven percent said it could interpret speech; 35 percent believed it could replicate human interaction; 31 percent feared it could replace humans in jobs; and 30 percent thought AI could store lots of data. Nineteen percent believed AI could play games.

Exposure to AI can help reduce fear of the technology, the survey results suggest.

Thirty-nine percent of non-AI users expressed neutral attitudes toward the technology; 25 percent said they were comfortable with it; and 36 percent said they were uncomfortable with AI.

However, 55 percent of those who used AI said they were comfortable with the technology; 26 percent were neutral; and 19 percent were uncomfortable.

Opportunities for Business Growth

Nearly 40 percent of the respondents thought that AI would improve customer service.

However, 38 percent did not believe that AI already delivered the same or better service than humans, while 27 percent thought it did.

“Typically, AI is used in isolated pockets with limited functionality that doesn’t follow the customer from initial contact to final outcome,” Pega’s Schuerman observed. “There’s a lot of hype in the industry about AI in customer experience, but the customers just aren’t seeing it yet.”

The proper use of AI can help businesses maintain or increase growth. For example, Sprint, which deployed Pegasystems’ AI-based Pega Customer Decision Hub in just three months, saw its retention offers double, slashing post-paid churn by 50 percent, Schuerman said.

The most important thing businesses can do, he suggested, is “make sure their AI-powered customer engagements are truly exceptional ones.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.

Email Richard.

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