Are Consumers Ready for AI? Exploring Shifting Sentiments in Customer Engagement

How prepared are businesses and consumers for the AI takeover? In a landscape dominated by artificial intelligence (AI), a recent survey conducted by LivePerson reveals a disparity between business leaders and consumers. Delving into the dynamics of customer engagement, digital experiences, chatbots, and AI, the survey highlights a critical divide, shaping perceptions, and expectations for both consumers and businesses.

Last year's LivePerson report highlighted similar ideas, shedding light on the different perspectives of businesses and customers regarding digital experiences, conversational commerce, chatbots, and AI.

"We’re at a pivotal moment where brands need to start bridging the gap between today’s costly, call-driven contact center and the digital-first, AI-empowered contact center of the future. A future with conversations at the center of your business, and people — your agents and your customers — at the center of those conversations," said Nirali Amin, SVP of Global Solutions and Success, LivePerson.

Unmasking the AI gap 

The survey primarily reveals a stark contrast in sentiments between business leaders and consumers regarding the adoption and impact of AI. While 91% of business leaders express positivity towards leveraging AI for customer engagement, only half of the consumers share the same sentiment. This shift marks a significant decline from the previous year, where 62% of consumers held a favorable view of engaging with AI. The diminishing enthusiasm among consumers stands in paradox to the escalating excitement and investments made by businesses in AI and automation technologies.

Evolving consumer preferences 

Additionally, 49% of consumers feel more comfortable engaging with companies through AI this year, while 51% feel less comfortable. This fluctuating comfort level underscores the need for businesses to actively address concerns, demystify AI, and foster positive AI-powered experiences.

Prioritizing Conversational AI 

A critical tipping point is underscored by the fact that 84% of business leaders currently employ AI for customer engagement, with more than half prioritizing messaging with AI over traditional channels such as phone, email, and ticketing systems. This shift signifies a critical juncture where businesses are recognizing the transformative potential of conversational AI in understanding customers, streamlining processes, and enhancing overall customer experience.

Consumer expectations and the long game 

Despite the existing skepticism, two out of every three consumers anticipate improvements in their interactions with businesses over the next five years, attributing this positive outlook to the anticipated benefits of AI. Moreover, consumers' expectations operate on a longer timeframe than those of business leaders. Brands that proactively create engaging and helpful AI-powered experiences stand to gain a competitive edge as consumers gradually familiarize themselves with the safety, utility, and support embedded in these interactions.

The power of options 

Today's consumers express a preference for businesses that seamlessly connect interactions across various platforms such as phone, email, and messaging platforms like text messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. As many as 74% are more likely to purchase from a company that offers messaging options alongside calling, while 76% desire the flexibility to seamlessly switch between calling and messaging based on their preferences at the moment. Furthermore, 67% express a higher likelihood of purchasing from a company that allows them to browse, buy, and get answers over messaging.

However, Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will fail to unify engagement channels, resulting in a disjointed and siloed customer experience.

Transparency in AI conversations 

The survey underlines a unanimous consensus among consumers and business leaders – transparency in AI interactions is paramount. As many as 95% of consumers and 97% of business leaders believe it's crucial for businesses to disclose whether a human agent or AI is behind the conversation. This shared perspective reinforces the importance of maintaining authenticity in AI-powered experiences.

Speaking of AI dominance, LivePerson has recently expanded its portfolio with two new offerings: the Conversational Intelligence suite, which leverages AI and automation to enhance customer interactions, and LP 360, an enterprise-managed services solution to assist businesses in shifting customer conversations to digital channels for improved outcomes.