While many of us still think of robots and science fiction films when we think of artificial intelligence (AI), the truth is that AI is already all around us. From Siri and Alexa to smart fridges and smart meters, AI is a part of everyday life for many people across the globe.
And the use of AI will only continue to grow. As technology advances and machines get smarter, we’ll see AI adopted in more ways. Indeed, IDC expects global spending on AI solutions to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 54.4% through to 2020, when revenues from AI will exceed $46 billion.
This growth comes at a time when users and customers are beginning to warm to AI. Where once we viewed machine learning and AI with distaste and distrust, nowa recent PwC study has found that 63% of American consumers believe that ‘AI will help solve complex problems that plague modern societies’.
But if AI continues to advance at its current rate – and if organisations begin using it without fully understanding its impact and consequences – AI will face a backlash. So, how far is too far when it comes to AI, and how can you reap its benefits without alienating customers?
The pros and cons of artificial intelligence
Most businesses are already using AI to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Whether it’s a chatbot that allows real-time, anytime communication between customers and brands, or algorithms that deliver tailored content, AI is improving business processes and customer experience in one fell swoop.
But while AI can do great things, it can also cause distrust between brands and consumers. Algorithms, for example, were once heralded for their ability to recommend highly relevant content; now customers are becoming wary of them, questioning the reasoning behind these algorithms and how much the companies that use them know about us. Combine this lack of transparency with the inability to opt out, and it’s clear that customers are beginning to get concerned.
Businesses are also seeing AI backfire due to unintended consequences. A child’s doll that uses an AI chip to detect emotions, for example, has been lambasted over a lack of privacy and security because the chip records and takes images which are then transmitted back to a data centre for analysis.
Learning from the mistakes of AI gone by
The key thing that businesses who want to make use of AI should do is keep trust and privacy central to everything they do. Before implementing a new solution, ask yourself whether this will genuinely improve customer experiences, whether the technology is completely secure, and whether there are any unintended features or consequences that could make customers nervous.
In line with this, businesses should always be transparent about their use of AI. If you’re using a chatbot to answer questions, tell customers upfront and let them know the limitations of the bot. If you want to make use of algorithms to deliver personalised content, tell users so they know what they’re seeing has been selected for them – and let them know how and why it was selected. Being open, honest and upfront about your use of AI will help alleviate customer concerns.
As with most technologies, a slow and steady approach can help avoid unintended consequences. Focus on the small things that can improve your customer journeys rather than large, flashy products and solutions which your organisation and your customers might not yet be ready for.
Finally, businesses should always use AI as a way to complement rather than replace existing skill sets. Keeping the human element makes it easier to spot potential pitfalls before a solution goes live, and can help maintain customer trust. Giving customers an option to switch from a chatbot to a human adviser, for example, can not only improve customer experience but also reassure customers that businesses are still human at heart.
AI can be ethical
Ultimately, AI will always be as ethical as the humans that use it. As long as you maintain the importance of security, privacy and transparency within your culture, and policies, AI can and will continue to flourish.