Quick take: The sixth edition of Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer reveals how customer engagement with businesses has changed with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and a shifting economy.
Editor’s note: Visualisations included throughout this article set global responses as default. UK responses are available via filter.
Businesses could face an AI trust gap with customers unless measures are taken to implement ethical guidelines and provide better visibility into how the technology is applied, according to a new survey of 500 UK consumers and 150 UK business buyers.
These findings, part of Salesforce’s latest global State of the Connected Customer survey of more than 14,000 consumers and business buyers across 25 countries, reveals evolving influences on purchase decisions and what customers look for from marketing, commerce, sales, and service interactions.
Customers seek trust, responsible use as companies embrace generative AI
Forty-nine percent of UK customers now expect companies to understand their changing needs and 78% expect faster service in light of new technological developments, such as generative AI.
Survey results, however, 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 77% of customers trust companies to make honest claims about their products and services, only 53% trust them to use AI ethically.
58% of UK customers say greater visibility into companies’ use of AI would deepen their trust of the technology
Fifty-eight percent of UK customers say greater visibility into companies’ use of AI would deepen their trust of the technology, putting a growing onus on brands to earn customers’ confidence as technology matures.
As brands race to take advantage of generative AI to transform marketing, commerce, sales, and customer service, UK customers urge a thoughtful approach to adopting the technology, grounded in security, ethics, and human oversight. Ninety percent, for instance, believe it’s important for brands to communicate when customers are communicating with AI or a human.
“Ethical AI is a pressing concern for our customers and for our customers’ customers,” said Kathy Baxter, Principal Architect, Responsible AI & Tech at Salesforce. “Getting it right means creating AI with trust at the centre of everything you do. That means gathering data with transparency and consent, training algorithms on diverse data sets, and never storing customer information insecurely.”
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.
Customers reveal how experience demands may be met
Customer experience remains the defining brand differentiator: 81% of UK customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products and services. 62% have switched brands at least once in the last year.
The quest for better deals is the leading reason for switching brands across every generation — Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials – reflecting concerns around the rising costs of living. This is unlikely to change soon, keeping pressure on brands to increase efficiencies.
However, customer demands can be tricky to meet at scale — for instance, 74% of UK customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company, and 56% expect companies to adapt to their changing preferences.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways to boost customer experience at scale.
- While personal assistance is crucial in complex cases, for simpler issues, customers generally prefer the convenience of self service tools like account portals, FAQs, and chatbots.
- Over a third of customers express that they would be willing to pay extra for better customer support
- If companies clearly explain why they are requesting personal data, customers are more likely to trust them with it — increasing opportunities to build great sales, commerce, marketing, and service experiences.
“As brands find new ways to keep up with rising customer expectations, they must also consider diverse viewpoints among their base,” said Michael Affronti, SVP & GM, Commerce Cloud at Salesforce. “Leading with strong values and ethical use of emerging technologies like generative AI will be a key indicator of future success.”
“At Salesforce, we believe now is the time for companies to build secure, innovative, and efficient experiences with trust at the forefront,” said Affronti. “And insights from today’s ‘connected customers’ are an essential guide for how to do that.”
- Download the full State of the Connected Customer report
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- Explore more top generative AI statistics
Data is from a double-blind survey of 500 United Kingdom consumers and 150 business buyers conducted from May 3 through July 14, 2023. The global survey entailed 11,000 consumers and 3,300 business buyers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the United States. Additional methodology and survey demographic details can be found in the State of the Connected Customer report.