As organizations increasingly turn to AI, study reveals how consumers feel about “the new normal”
Franklin, Mass., May 7, 2020 — Interactions, LLC, the world’s largest standalone artificial intelligence (AI) company, today uncovered how the coronavirus has shifted opinions about AI. In a survey of 1,000 adult consumers across the U.S., Interactions found that the pandemic has altered how people feel about AI in a variety of categories: customer service, grocery, self-driving vehicles, healthcare and privacy.
The pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on businesses across industries—from airline contact centers overwhelmed with callers, to retailers facing an urgent need for contactless delivery. To keep things running smoothly and safely, many organizations—from hospitals to grocery stores—have turned to AI. But until now, we’ve had little insight into consumer sentiment around the growing prevalence of AI in daily life.
“As the coronavirus continues to have a radical impact on business and society, it’s ushered in a fresh urgency for technological progress,” says Jim Freeze, CMO of Interactions, LLC. “It’s well understood that AI can play a powerful role in operations. At the same time, it’s crucial that consumer comfort is kept front and center as organizations navigate the new normal. As part of Interactions’ ongoing effort to understand the impact of AI on the world around us, we sought to determine whether today’s unprecedented circumstances have shifted consumer comfort with the technology.”
With social distancing orders in place, many people have grown wary of human-to-human contact; AI offers a clear alternative. To determine the extent to which the coronavirus era has impacted consumer sentiment around AI, Interactions teamed up with SurveyMonkey to launch Comfort with AI in a Post-COVID World.
In the survey, Interactions asked consumers how they felt about AI in a variety of settings. Key findings by category are below.
As businesses experience unusually high call volumes, consumers are split on whether they’d prefer to wait and speak to a human or allow an AI-powered system to respond to their inquiry. However, this near-even divide indicates a considerable increase in comfort with AI compared to earlier reports about automation in customer service, which have found the preference for humans as high as 87%.
- 45 percent of consumers prefer to have their inquiry handled by an AI system if it’s faster, while 55 percent prefer to wait on hold for a human—a preference that likely stems from the complex nature of coronavirus-related questions and concerns.
- While many report their comfort with AI in customer service has held steady, more than a fifth (21 percent) indicate that they are now more comfortable with having a full conversation with an AI-powered system.
In the coronavirus era, consumers generally feel comfortable with delivery robots, but are far less comfortable with the idea of physically riding in a self-driving vehicle.
- Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of respondents will still place an order online if they know a robot will deliver it instead of a human. In fact, nearly 40 percent of respondents say they are now more comfortable with delivery robots, compared to just 23 percent that say they are less comfortable.
- However, a larger-than-expected percentage of respondents (25 percent) say they will refrain from ordering items online if they know a robot will deliver instead of a human.
- When it comes to riding in a self-driving vehicle, 55 percent of respondents say their feelings have not changed. Just over a quarter (26 percent) say they are now less comfortable with the idea, and just 18 percent noted that they are more comfortable.
The majority of respondents report that their comfort with the idea of robots in grocery stores has changed in the coronavirus era. Within that group, the number of people more comfortable far exceeded the number that are less comfortable.
- 57 percent of respondents say their comfort with the idea of robots in grocery stores has changed.
- 33 percent are now more comfortable with the idea of robots in grocery stores, while 24 percent say they are less comfortable
With hospitals strained across the U.S., the coronavirus era has increased consumer comfort with the idea of AI helping out in the medical field.
- One third (33 percent) of respondents say the coronavirus era has made them more comfortable with the idea of AI helping doctors and nurses, while only 24 percent say they are now less comfortable.
- Nearly one third of people (30 percent) report that they are now more comfortable with the idea of relying on an automated tool, like the CDC chatbot, to determine if they need medical care, while 26 percent of people report that the coronavirus era has made them less comfortable.
- More than a third (35 percent) of respondents are now more comfortable with AI-powered screenings to determine who can and cannot enter a hospital, while 27 percent of respondents report that they are less comfortable.
The concept of sharing personal information for the common good proved particularly divisive. However, the majority of respondents aired on the side of sharing. When asked how the coronavirus era has changed their willingness to share anonymized personal data to make communities safer and healthier:
- 31 percent of respondents say they are more willing to share their data, while 22 percent are less willing.
- Meanwhile, 47 percent of respondents say the coronavirus era has not impacted their willingness to share anonymized personal information: 25 percent are always willing to share this information and 22 percent are never willing.
Comfort with AI in a Post-COVID World was conducted through SurveyMonkey April 28, 2020 – April 29, 2020. Data was collected from a pool of 1,000 adult (18+) consumers in the United States. For more information on the survey, including a full breakdown of questions and responses, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.