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Trust is central to business relationships among the enterprise and the consumer, partner companies and employees. Without trust, no aspect of business can flourish. The newest player in the enterprise customer experience -- AI -- is now standing at a crucial relationship precipice. Can AI earn the consumer's trust?
The typical consumer has already been prominently exposed to positive and negative experiences with AI. On one hand, AI-powered chatbots are becoming ubiquitous with customer service and are gradually gaining acceptance. On the other, consumers who use Amazon or Netflix have had the experience of seeing highly personalized ads pop into their RSS feeds, and sometimes, this experience can be alarming and intrusive.
The use of personalized AI can enhance a consumer's positive connection to the enterprise. However, many surveys report customers feeling a general discomfort or ambivalence toward AI. Now, experts are looking toward building trust in AI through explainability.
Jetsons or Terminator?
There remains a tension between personalization, which is so desirable in enterprise consumer relations that it is rapidly becoming mission-critical, and privacy, which, from a cultural standpoint, seems under daily assault. The tension is exacerbated by the choice emerging for the consumer: Would you rather have convenience via personalization or be more vulnerable as your privacy erodes?
Both the embrace of empowerment and wariness of privacy intrusion depend upon the individual's feelings and opinions about AI -- and there's a wide range of feelings and opinions there, among both consumers and industry pundits.
Tech leaders like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg promote the empowerment view and push for consumer engagement with AI. Other tech industry observers see a more dystopian future of privacy erosion ahead.
"For the first time in my technology life, I tend to believe we really are heading for sci-fi," said Mo Gawdat, former Google X chief business officer, at the Credit Suisse Global Megatrends Conference in Singapore last year. And he didn't mean it in a good way.
"Control is an illusion. There is no control, especially if you are trying to control a species that is much smarter than you are," he continued.
Trusting AI, then, means trusting the enterprise and its motivations, and it's up to the business leaders to cultivate consumer trust in the era of dystopian cinema and skittish media.
A recent Salesforce report shed light on how to start building consumer trust in AI. According to the data, negotiation between the enterprise and the consumer can go a long way toward encouraging and nurturing the consumer's trust in both AI and the enterprise.
The report highlighted that consumers today are 9.5 times more likely to rate AI as "revolutionary" as opposed to "insignificant." Consumers can feel the rapid advancement of AI but are overall extremely wary of AI.
Fear that their personal data is being compromised has risen 62% over the past two years, and almost half of all consumers in the study felt confused about what the enterprise is doing with it. Most alarmingly, 54% of consumers don't believe the enterprise has their best interests at heart.
The Salesforce data included some good news where customer trust is concerned, and this data can serve as an enterprise blueprint for success in cultivating that trust.
Eighty-six percent reported that the customer's trust improves when the enterprise explains how personal data improves their experience and when it asks permission to use the data. It improves most of all when the customer is given control over what personal data the enterprise may collect. Here, raw data is confirming what enterprises already knew: Consumers wary of AI benefit from increased transparency, negotiation and data protection.
To establish trust, enterprises need to begin using transparency, honesty and education to increase consumer faith. Once a baseline trust is established, there are additional steps the enterprise can make to take the customer relationship forward and continue building trust in AI.
Not only will increased consumer trust in AI benefit the customer and business relationship, but it will lead to advancements in AI. Customers reported that they will share their personal data with the enterprise in exchange for more consultative help with a sales representative, for connections between their digital and in-person experiences and, most of all, for proactive customer service.
No single perception of AI or how the enterprise is using it dominates the marketplace. There are plenty of starting points at which companies using AI for personalization can begin working toward improving consumer trust, while bolstering their customer experience methodology. It's a matter of listening to the data and, more importantly, remembering that the customer relationship is based on transparency and give-and-take for equal success.