Due to increased call volume and staffing shortages in the past few years, contact center operators have turned more and more to AI technologies to help fill in gaps in their operations. But with all the growth in AI technologies at contact centers, it is useful to return to this basic question: What do consumers think? 

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Do consumers know that agents are leveraging AI technology to best serve them? If so, do they appreciate the benefits, or resent a perceived decrease in personalization? Consumer perception of AI could impact call outcomes, and therefore business outcomes; according to Gartner, 83% of customers refuse to do business with companies they don’t trust

Artificial intelligence can augment customer self-service, predictive call routing, sentiment analysis, real-time guidance, and more. By the end of the year, 20% of agents across contact centers are expected to be AI-enabled. Similarly, the market for AI technology in the contact center is expected to reach $3.5 billion by the year 2026. 

Given the growth of AI technology, Professors Nathan Hartmann and Dipayan Biswas of the University of South Florida wanted to explore the question of consumer perception. Hartmann and Biswas ran an experiment where they asked participants to imagine themselves interacting over video with a salesperson at a contact center. They were randomly assigned to one of four conditions:

  1. Control condition where a participant was simply asked to imagine they were having a conversation with a salesperson.
  2. Participants were asked to imagine a scenario where they were told in advance that the salesperson would be using AI technology on the call.
  3. Participants were asked to imagine a scenario where they accidentally found out the salesperson was using AI technology on the call.
  4. Participants were asked to imagine a scenario where the salesperson purposely told the participants that they were using AI technology on the call.

The goal of these conditions was to assess not only consumer perceptions of AI technology in a sales setting, but whether it made a difference if they found out about it intentionally or unintentionally. 

After each condition, participants were asked how much they trust the salesperson and how ethical they perceive them to be. Here’s what Hartmann and Biswas found:

  • Seamless AI is the best AI — participants who completed their interaction without being alerted that their salesperson was using supplementary technology gave the best trust and ethics scores. 
  • When in doubt, shout it out — salespeople who purposely told participants that they were using AI technology received better trust and ethics scores than any of the other non-control conditions. 
ControlTold in AdvanceUnintentional RevealIntentional Reveal

What does this mean? Simply, if AI technology is woven seamlessly into the agent experience — and therefore the consumer experience — consumers will have the highest perceptions of an agent as trustworthy and ethical. 

If agents need to talk about the tools they are using on their end, they should do so deliberately, and emphasize the reason behind them. For example: “I’m using Balto to make sure I give you all of the information you need in order to make an informed decision.” 

“While this is an important first step,” Hartmann says, “It is critical to replicate and extend these findings within real-life settings. For example, when during a call is it ideal for the agent to reveal they are using artificial intelligence? Do people respond differently to learning that an agent is using artificial intelligence based on their personal characteristics, and can these characteristics be identified and integrated into algorithms to optimize their experience? Do people respond differently depending on the purpose of the interaction?” 

AI technology is not going anywhere, and the question of how to best integrate it into the consumer experience isn’t either. In the coming years, AI will revamp the contact center and redefine the customer experience. When considering which AI tools to implement in your contact center, and how to integrate them into your agents’ workflows, take time to think about consumer perceptions and which strategies you want to employ to make the AI fit as smoothly as possible into your operations. 

Hartmann and Biswas are looking to partner with Balto users to explore these and other related questions further. Email cel@balto.ai to learn more. 


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Cite This Article

Balto. (2022, May 17). What Do Consumers Think About AI? – Balto Ai. RSS. Retrieved from https://www.balto.ai/research/what-do-consumers-think-about-ai/