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While artificial intelligence capabilities have been evolving, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of these tools and made intelligent machines part of our new normal lives, according to a new report from Capgemini. More than half of the consumers surveyed (54%) use AI daily–compared to just 21% in 2018, the report, “The art of customer-centric artificial intelligence,” finds.

Sweden, Brazil, and the US have the highest daily interactions with AI.

Contactless or non-touch interfaces are finding their way into numerous sectors, the report said. Over three-quarters (77%) of respondents expect to increase the use of touchless interfaces—such as voice assistants and facial recognition—to avoid direct interactions with humans or touchscreens during COVID-19, and 62% will continue to do so post-COVID.

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AI use in different sectors

For example, AI-powered delivery robots are being used in consumer product and retail to get groceries and medicines to people subject to shelter-in-place orders, the report finds.

In automotive, dealerships and OEMs have moved to digitize showrooms, offering a fully digital customer experience powered
by augmented reality and AI.

In the public sector, “AI is a driving force in health and safety, from using augmented reality glasses to check the temperature of hundreds of people in a matter of minutes, or recognizing whether commuters on public transport are wearing face masks or not,” according to the report.

Among the other findings:
· Consumer trust with AI engagements has increased to 46% (compared to 30% in 2018)
· Customer satisfaction levels have fallen to 57% since 2018 (compared to 69% in 2018)
· Automotive (64%) and the public sector (62%) have the highest customer satisfaction with AI, followed by banking and insurance (51%)
· Consumer products and retail have the lowest satisfaction (55%)

The dominant position of automotive can be attributed in part to the widespread use of in-car voice interfaces, the report said. For instance, BMW—which has been deploying its own in-car, AI-based voice assistant for many years—plans to make them more natural, with gesture recognition or gaze recognition capabilities for its 2021 series, according to the report.

In the public sector, citizens are increasingly using AI to interact with the government, the report stated. For example, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ chat interface receives about 14 million customer queries each year, the Capgemini report said.

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Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many French cities have used chat interfaces for query resolutions related to government policies and to assess health symptoms.

In terms of customer preferences, close to half (45%) want voice interfaces when engaging with organizations, followed by 30% who prefer chat interfaces, and 15% who prefer AI systems built in websites/apps.

Additionally, 53% of organizations are deploying AI in physical places like stores, branches or customer service centers, followed by 45% who are deploying AI at contact centers to enhance customer service.

Researching, browsing, and making a purchase are the key areas in the customer journey where customers have significantly increased their preference for AI-only interactions, according to the report.

Today, about half of customers aged between 31 to 40 prefer AI-only interactions for researching and browsing, the Capgemini survey found. Overall, 41% of customers prefer AI-only interactions for researching and browsing, up from 25% in 2018.

Consumers and employees want no touch

“As a result of COVID-19, customers are increasingly looking for digital, no-touch connections with organizations, given the constraints and concerns about physical interactions in a new-normal, socially distanced world,” Capgemini said. “Our research shows that even when lockdowns are lifted, customers across the world say they will still be looking to make increased use of touchless interfaces, such as voice interfaces, facial recognition, or apps.”

Touchless interfaces are moving beyond improving the customer experience in an increasingly health-and-safety conscious world into the enterprise. Three-quarters of organizations believe that increasing customer appetite for non-touch practices will persist even in the post-pandemic world.

This is helped by the fact that customers’ trust in AI is on the rise, with 67% of customers reporting that they trust the personalized recommendations and suggestions provided by AI-enabled interactions.

“Trust is something very difficult to gain and very easy to lose,” the report quotes Luciano Floridi, a philosophy and ethics information professor and director of the Digital Ethics Lab at the University of Oxford, as saying. “But a classic way of gaining trust, with AI interactions in particular, can be summarized in three words: transparency, accountability, and empowerment. That means transparency so that people can see what you are doing; accountability because you take responsibility for what you are doing; and empowerment because you put people in charge to tell you if something you did was not right or not good.”

The Capgemini report is based on a global survey of more than 5,000 customers across 12 countries, as well as focus group discussions with customers in the US and Germany, and a survey of more than 1,000 industry executives across eight major industries, the company said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to show the results were from consumers surveyed.