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01 November 2023

Virtually Human: Risky Business: AI vs Customer Trust   

By Jan Iverson
Virtually Human

AI is having an impact on the customer experience.

According to a recent survey conducted across 25 countries, businesses may soon face a growing trust gap with their customers due to concerns about the unethical use of AI. As companies increasingly adopt AI technology to improve efficiency and meet customer expectations, nearly three-quarters of consumers surveyed expressed worry about the technology’s potential unethical application. 


Notably, consumers have become less open to using AI over the past year. In 2022, 82% of business buyers and 65% of consumers were open to AI use to enhance their experiences, but these figures have dropped significantly to 73% and 51%, respectively, in the latest survey. To bridge this trust gap, companies have an opportunity to implement ethical guidelines and offer greater transparency regarding AI’s application. 

The sixth State of the Connected Customer report by Salesforce sheds light not only on AI, but also on evolving factors influencing purchase decisions and customer expectations in marketing, commerce, sales, and service interactions. 

Ethical AI 

One significant finding is the distinction between customers’ trust in companies overall and their faith in those companies to responsibly leverage new AI innovations. While 76% of customers trust companies to provide honest information about their products and services, only 57% trust them to use AI ethically. This underscores the increasing importance for brands to earn customer confidence as AI technology continues to evolve. 

As brands rush to harness the transformative potential of generative AI in marketing, commerce, sales, and customer service, customers emphasize the need for a thoughtful approach grounded in security, ethics, and human oversight. A substantial majority (89%) of customers want to know when they are interacting with AI or a human, and 80% believe it’s crucial for humans to validate AI’s outputs. Furthermore, 63% express concerns about bias in AI, emphasizing the importance of ethical AI development. 

Kathy Baxter, Principal Architect, Responsible AI & Tech at Salesforce, underscores the pressing concern surrounding ethical AI and highlights the need to prioritize trust in AI development through transparent data gathering, diverse training data sets, and secure customer information handling. 

Generational Acceptance 

Generational differences in sentiments and motivations are also noteworthy. Millennials and Gen Z generally have a more positive view of generative AI compared to baby boomers and Gen X. Brands implementing AI for a diverse customer base must tailor their messaging and prepare for varying levels of acceptance among different demographics. 

Gen Z, in particular, stands out for its willingness to switch brands to align with their values, with 59% of Gen Z consumers having switched brands in the past year, compared to older generations. This shift introduces a new battleground for customer loyalty and highlights the importance of brands aligning with the values of this group. 

Ethical AI

Customer Experience 

Customer experience remains a defining brand differentiator, with 80% of customers considering it as important as products and services. Meeting customer demands at scale is challenging, as 77% of customers expect immediate interaction with companies, and 67% expect companies to understand their changing needs. To enhance customer experience: 

  1. Companies should provide self-service tools like account portals, FAQs, and chatbots for simpler issues, particularly for digital natives (millennials and Gen Z).
  2. Nearly half of customers are willing to pay extra for better customer support.
  3. Transparency in requesting personal data builds trust and opens opportunities for creating outstanding sales, commerce, marketing, and service experiences.

In summary, the survey highlights the increasing importance of ethical AI use, the need for transparency, and the varying attitudes of different generations toward AI. As customer expectations evolve, brands must lead with strong values and ethical use of emerging technologies like generative AI to ensure future success and meet customer demands effectively. 

  • Download the full State of the Connected Customer report.


Data is from a double-blind survey of 11,000 consumers and 3,300 business buyers conducted from May 3 through July 14, 2023. Data was collected from respondents in 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, United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Jan Iverson is Head of Studio at FS Studio and an award-winning product leader with over 20-years of extensive experience in digital media and marketing, with a specialization in the design and development of AR, VR and 3D activations: mobile apps, games, LBE, sales tools, digital twins; with XR cross-platform content development, and a track record of success in leading award-winning digital creative teams. Virtually Human is her bi-weekly series.