Survey Says 73% of Consumers Uncomfortable with Having AI Like Google Duplex Make Phone Calls for Them

A survey from research firm Clutch and digital agency Ciklum found that 73% of consumers are “unlikely to trust an AI-powered voice assistant to make simple calls for them correctly.” The most common response at 39% was “very unlikely” to trust the AI service. The finding comes from a survey of 501 U.S. adults that had made at least three calls to businesses over the past six months.

Just 4% of respondents said they were “very likely” and 23% “somewhat likely” to use a service like Google Duplex to make a call for them to a small business. “Overall, consumers’ hesitancy toward AI voice technology such as Google Duplex may result from the fact that a phone call is a higher-stakes responsibility than people are accustomed to assigning to AI,” according to the report.

The article cites Aiqudo co-founder Rajat Mukherjee who explains that setting a reminder on your phone is a low-stakes transaction because you can immediately check its accuracy and the downside risk may be minimal for an error. By contrast, it is more difficult to confirm a restaurant reservation. You don’t have immediate access to it, and the downside risk could be a long wait or the need to find a new dinner location if the reservation was not properly recorded.

Google Apparently Understands the Risks

It is interesting timing that this study circulated the same week we learned that Google Duplex restaurant booking is often completed entirely by humans. Google told the New York Times that about 25% of all consumer restaurant reservation requests to Google Assistant are actually conducted by humans and another 15% that are initiated by the Google Duplex AI service require some human intervention. The company is doing this for a variety of reasons related to the newness of the technology, but ultimately Google wants to avoid the high-stakes errors of users thinking they have a reservation when they do not. Reservation errors that lead to inconvenience or embarrassment could undermine consumer perception of Google Duplex at a time when opinions are being formed.

The Clutch report also cites which is an email-based AI service that helps users schedule meetings. Even several years after launch and numerous improvements based on real-world interactions, this service also uses humans to complete tasks where the AI struggles. The goal is a successful transaction and the AI service providers are acutely aware that errors can undermine confidence and abandonment of the solution.

Consumers Also Concerned About AI Assisting with Written Communications

The Clutch survey also found that consumer concerns extend to written communications such as emails. Seventy-percent of survey participants said they were unlikely to trust an AI-powered email assistant to answer simple messages for them correctly. This doesn’t necessarily extend to solutions such as the “smart replies” feature which is used in nearly one-in-ten email exchanges through the Gmail app. In that case, the user has control but are simply selecting a quick reply. This contrasts with a solution that would communicate on your behalf as if it was you or your assistant., the AI-based meeting scheduling service, faces these same hurdles to human adoption as it operates completely via email as do some Google Assistant features displayed on a smartphone screen as a text conversation.

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