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BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IN THE AGE OF AI

November 2023

AI’s role in customer experience is being talked about everywhere; offering a peek into a glimmering, futuristic world that is suddenly nearly here. As business leaders, we will be left behind if we don’t understand, apply and adopt it. But it’s so new that it’s easy to get it wrong. And much is at stake if we don’t hit the mark, because we are impacting the heart of our relationships with our customers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AI Trust Gap

 

AI offers immense advantages toward creating a differentiated, personalized customer experience. In a very perfect near-future implementation, AI can help you to know everything about each individual customer to assist them presciently with whatever task they have before them. It can predict what they will do and need next. It can ensure that the experience they have is consistent across every channel. And it is constantly learning and endlessly improving. One might assume that’s the nirvana of a customer relationship. But is it? 

 

Let’s take our customer’s perspective. What do you trust a brand to do with all that personal information about you? You might be open to product recommendations, but how far does that trust extend? Would you, for example, allow a brand’s AI to make the purchase for you without your involvement? How far could your trust go and, crucially, how is trust built to get there? 

 

Trust in automated systems has been a topic of psychological study. However, AI poses unique challenges for user trust. According to a large study on the trust between humans and AI conducted by Pew Research in 2019, 42% of respondents worldwide (62% in the US) were skeptical about AI’s trustworthiness.  AI systems operate using patterns in massive amounts of data. They are executing tasks that humans can't, and they can learn and alter their own programming in ways humans don't easily understand. This black box contributes to a trust gap that must be bridged. 

 

The Key to Bridging The Gap

 

The trust-building process is variable, depending upon the participants. A human builds trust with another human through factors we’re familiar with, like reliability, integrity, empathy, and competency. A human builds trust with a traditional brand through factors we’re also familiar with, like consistent and reliable product or service performance, transparency and authenticity, troubleshooting reliability, and reputation. When considering trust building with AI (even as an extension of a brand) many of those factors apply, but additional factors are introduced. These factors are critical to using AI effectively to build customer relationships, and in fact, they are crucial to customer adoption of AI altogether. While this field of study is evolving, a few key factors stand out as critical: 

 

User Control And Agency

Allowing users to have some level of control and agency over AI systems can enhance trust. Providing options for customization, preferences, and fine-tuning allows users to feel more in control of their interactions with AI. This sense of agency fosters trust and reduces concerns about being overly dependent on AI.

 

Human-AI Collaboration

Designing AI systems that foster collaboration between humans and machines can build trust. When AI is positioned as a tool or partner that complements human capabilities rather than replacing them, it promotes a sense of teamwork and mutual support. This approach recognizes the value of human judgment and expertise, thereby building trust.

 

A Code Of AI Ethics

Addressing ethical concerns associated with AI, such as bias, privacy, and security, is crucial in building trust. That said, AI is a tool that is not inherently ethical or unethical. It is the brand’s implementation of AI that must be built with ethics. Ensuring fairness, transparency, and the protection of user data and privacy can help users feel more comfortable and trusting of AI systems.

 

Of course, not all customers have the same level of comfort with AI and not all will build trust the exact same way. And eventually, AI will be able to learn how to bridge the trust gap by itself. But we’ll need to begin by building and orchestrating these relationships ourselves. One giant technological trust fall at a time.

 

Image by Solen Feyissa
Image by Andy Kelly

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