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Business Adopting AI Risk a ‘Trust Gap’ with Customers

by Marco van der Hoeven

Businesses could soon face an AI trust gap with customers, according to a new survey of more than 14,000 consumers and business buyers across 25 countries. As brands increasingly adopt AI to increase efficiency and meet increasing customer expectations, nearly three quarters of their customers are concerned about unethical use of the technology.

Notably, consumers have become much less open to using AI over the last year. While 73% of business buyers and 51% of consumers are open to the use of AI to improve their experiences, those figures have dropped significantly since 2022’s survey, from 82% and 65%, respectively. Companies therefore have an opportunity to close this gap by implementing ethical guidelines and providing better visibility into how the technology is applied.

Survey results show a clear distinction between customers’ overall trust in companies and their faith that those companies will take advantage of new AI innovations responsibly. For example,  while 76% of customers trust companies to make honest claims about their products and services, only 57% trust them to use AI ethically.

This is striking because 68% of customers say advances in AI make it more important for companies to be trustworthy, putting a growing onus on brands to earn customers’ confidence as technology matures.

Brands are racing to take advantage of generative AI as its growing power to transform marketing, commerce, sales, and customer service comes into focus. Their customers, however, urge a thoughtful approach to adopting the technology, grounded in security, ethics, and human oversight.

“Ethical AI is a pressing concern for our customers and for our customers’ customers,” said Kathy Baxter, Principal Architect, Responsible AI & Tech, Salesforce. “Getting it right means creating AI with trust at the center of everything you do. That means gathering data with transparency and consent, training algorithms on diverse data sets, and never storing customer information insecurely.”

Millennials and Gen Z have a generally brighter view of generative AI than baby boomers and Gen X. This underscores that brands deploying generative AI for a broad customer base will need to tailor messaging for different demographics and prepare for varying degrees of uptake and reception.

Emerging technologies are far from the only influence on differing generational attitudes. Gen Z stands out for their willingness to take their dollars elsewhere in search of brands that better reflect their priorities. In the past year, 59% of Gen Z consumers switched brands, far exceeding older generations and introducing a new battleground for customer loyalty. In fact, Gen Z is nearly twice as likely than baby boomers to switch brands that better align with their personal values (21% vs 11%), showing the importance for brands to tap into what guides this group’s beliefs.

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