AI expectation vs reality – is there a great divide?

Generative AI has emerged as a transformative tool, taking the world by storm and creating a dramatic cultural shift, particularly in the workplace. However, some view AI more positively than others. There is a clear divide between workers who view AI as a tool for positive change in the workplace, and those who see it as a potential threat. 

On one hand, generative AI and other technologies have the potential to automate work activities that take up 60 to 70% of employees’ time. This has led to concerns about certain roles becoming obsolete, particularly in the tech industry in the field of data science. On the other hand, certain industries, including customer services, have started to embrace AI as a tool for creating greater efficiencies and making their jobs easier. 

In fact, according to Dialpad’s recent ‘The State of AI at Work in 2023‘ report, 20% of workers believe that AI will improve their jobs, indicating confidence in the stability and longevity of their current job functions. In addition, 79% of customer service managers believe that AI positively impacts their company’s key metrics. However, as many are still sceptical about the benefits of AI in the workplace, it is important to understand why they see AI as a threat in order to overcome these barriers and encourage wider adoption of the technology. 

The reasons behind the divide

Despite the hype surrounding generative AI, adoption still remains low. Dialpad’s report indicated that 49% of businesses have not yet incorporated it into their business practices. AI adoption can be a challenge for a variety of reasons, but above all, budget constraints were cited as a key barrier for both small businesses and large enterprises. This is because across the board, AI is typically perceived as a technology that is costly to scale, maintain and implement within legacy IT systems.

An additional barrier to AI adoption is around the development of interpersonal relationships and communication with customers. Building relationships and personal connections are vital in many roles, especially in the sales sector, and there’s a worry that AI lacks the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that humans bring to the table, which could impact the quality of customer interactions with businesses. This perceived lack of human empathy and interpersonal skills, coupled with limited transparency in the data, may create uncertainty among both customers and employees that could impact sales opportunities.

One of the biggest concerns is the potential that AI will make certain career paths irrelevant. However, these concerns are unfounded as 70% of respondents don’t fear that AI will steal their jobs, suggesting a level of trust and understanding that AI tools are designed to augment rather than replace human roles.

Bridging the gap between believers and sceptics

To address any concerns, businesses should look to create an AI policy to help guide employees on how to best use AI in their roles. At the present moment, 84% of sales and customer service professionals stated that their company does not have a company-wide AI policy. Moreover, just over half of respondents believe AI is accessible. These findings indicate an increasingly emerging need for company-specific AI policies to guide its responsible usage. As some organisations will be faster to adopt AI than others – there is a need for policies across the board, but the urgency will differ depending on adoption and usage. This will depend on a company’s culture, size, the industry it operates in and the investment in AI.

Within sales, creating a supportive environment for collaboration between AI systems and human workers is also crucial for leveraging the technology effectively. Prioritising teamwork and fostering a culture of continuous learning enables employees to better understand AI’s role and use it as a tool to enhance productivity and efficiency. The majority of sales professionals (84%) believe that AI contributes positively to their company’s sales efforts, indicating they believe in the transformative power of the technology.

Embracing AI’s futuristic power

Looking forward, it’s evident that AI will continue to evolve and become an increasing part of the way we work. As AI technologies advance, organisations need to adapt to the changing landscape to ensure they keep a competitive edge. Through the implementation of AI policies to understand the potential of AI, businesses will be able to enhance efficiency and make use of data-driven insights that will help them thrive in their markets.

However, businesses must approach AI adoption with transparency and a human-centric perspective. Addressing scepticism and concerns about job displacement requires open communication and a commitment to empowering human workers through AI. By fostering a supportive environment for collaboration between AI systems and sales professionals, organisations can unlock AI’s true potential and achieve significant advancements in productivity, customer satisfaction and overall sales performance.

Dan O’Connell is Chief AI & Strategy Officer at Dialpad

Previously, he was the CEO of TalkIQ, a real-time speech recognition and natural language processing start-up that Dialpad acquired in May of 2018. Prior to TalkIQ, he held various sales leadership positions at AdRoll and Google.

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