IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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AI assistant tech increasingly popular in Australia
Thu, 10th Feb 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Almost a third of Australians think that voice assistants are more efficient at resolving enquiries than SMS or email.

This is according to a new survey from Curious Thing, a voice AI communication platform, administered by Pureprofile.

The survey shows Australian consumers are increasingly open to businesses using voice AI assistants in their communications, as long as there is transparency ahead of time, the AI assistant resembles a human voice and there is the option to speak to a human if required.

The survey sampled 1000 Australians over the age of 18 years old and found 32% of respondents believe that an AI assistant can resolve their enquiries better than SMS or email, suggesting that Australians are increasingly comfortable dealing with AI assistants to address their needs.

The top three conversations that Australian consumers are comfortable having with an AI assistant are for appointment reminders and confirmations (72%), special offers and discounts (43%) and first-instance customer service help (33%), with almost half of respondents reporting they have interacted with AI assistants previously and can see the technology is improving.

One in two Australians prefer to speak to an AI assistant that sounds like a human, provided that they are informed in advance, with 68% of respondents feeling more comfortable using an AI assistant when there is an option to be transferred to a human if required.

Curious Thing co-founder and CEO Sam Zheng says, “Today when marketers and business leaders talk about digital channels they typically discuss emails, programmable SMS and webchat.

"While these channels are scalable they are usually subject to issues of low deliverability and less real-time action-taking. Voice AI provides a new digital channel that is equally scalable like email and SMS but in addition offers high-energy conversations with real-time back and forth, similar to human phone calls.

Zheng continues, "For use cases where businesses want to proactively engage and encourage customers to make a decision now, voice AI delivers significantly stronger results compared to SMS and emails.

"Also, for some demographic groups where emails are not working well, voice AI provides a unique approach with great outcomes."

He says, "Voice AI is in transition from interesting toy to strategic business tool. When businesses properly introduce AI to their customers and tell them why and how AI would give them a call, it helps to deliver strong customer feedback and unify the overall communication strategy.

"It's a process of trust-building between human and AI, and businesses and their customers. When thinking about the future of the human-technology relationship, I would describe voice AI as an extension of human agents.

"It's not simply that AI will do the repetitive conversations and human agents will do the more complex jobs. It means individual human agents will have to spend more time planning and thinking about the strategy of what their AI should cover. It essentially makes every human agent a team leader and enables them to think more, plan harder and work more strategically."

The survey also uncovered key ways businesses can help build trust around AI assistant calls to avoid them being viewed as spam by Australian consumers.

The option to speak to a human if requested is the top way businesses can guarantee legitimacy. Sending an SMS beforehand so consumers can confirm the source of a call, staff advising consumers that the company uses an AI assistant, and publicising use of AI technology on the business website, are all important considerations for companies.

Quitline, a program of Cancer Council Victoria set up in partnership with VicHealth to reduce the health, financial and social inequities caused by smoking, is one local organisation currently trialing the Curious Thing platform as a proof of concept to better understand how its clients respond to the technology.

Manager of Quitline, Lindsay Whelan, says, “Curious Thing is a cost effective way to re-engage with customers who have not used the service for six months.

"There is also the possibility that it could act as an economical way for us to support clients even during non-operating hours. This technology allows Quitline to gain invaluable insights into customers satisfaction with the service that we provide and what we could improve on. We are always looking for new and exciting innovations when communicating with customers to keep the service relevant.

Whelan says, “Our major consideration was whether our customers would be negatively impacted in terms of seeing this technology as a scam type of call. We took steps to ensure that it was clear that the communication was legitimately coming from Quitline and affording clients the opportunity to confirm this."