Artificial intelligence is here.
It’s been here a while, but it’s really starting to change how services are delivered and how business is done. Day by day, it’s embraced by more professionals in more professions. Everywhere companies are working AI into their services.
But are consumers ready for it?
To find out, we partnered with QuestionPro to ask 1075 consumers if they’d like their service providers to get help from AI. We included questions about nine different services, from healthcare to haircuts.
The data shows that consumer readiness to use AI-supported services depends on the service.
For each service in the chart below, the lighter colors indicate less interest in AI. The darker colors indicate more interest in AI.
Generally, people want their service providers to use AI to help them do their jobs. For each type of service (with one exception, hair stylists), the majority of our 1000+ respondents want providers to use AI to some extent. Few of us want a robot to replace the human professional, but most of us want AI to help.
Let’s look at how the AI-readiness of consumers varies across these nine different service categories.
This is obviously interesting from the sociological perspective (where’s our culture headed?), but because this is a marketing blog, we’ll also provide a marketing perspective (is it time to put AI into our marketing messages?).
You’re hiring a marketing company to create an advertisement. Which company sounds best to you?
We start with creative services. Do businesses want their marketers to use AI to draft copy and create visuals? It seems that the answer is yes, more than the other categories. 70% of respondents want their creative agency to get help from AI.
There are a lot of AI applications for creative firms: audience research, competitive analysis, draft copywriting, editing, generating design concepts and visual assets, reporting and analytics. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately, marketing is a test of empathy, so I agree with the 5% of respondents who would like to replace creatives with robots.
- 29% Our designers/writers do everything by hand
- 40% Our designers/writers do the heavy lifting, but we check our work with AI
- 25% We start with AI-generated designs and copy, then our team checks the work
- 5% Your ad will be created by a AI bot
We asked social media agency founder, Chris Madden, for his thoughts on embracing AI.
Chris Madden, Matchnode
“Our team at Matchnode has consistently embraced technological advancements, with strategic growth and lifelong learning among our core values. Thus, we experiment with AI tools, looking for productivity boosts (and potential disruptions to our business) on a regular basis. To some extent, an individual’s or a company’s mindset towards AI in marketing services serves as a revealing Rorschach test, reflecting their confidence, adaptability, and capacity to act in uncertain times.
The genie is out of the bottle. The creative explosions, sheer human delight, and efficiency gains provided by Midjourney, ChatGPT, AutoGPTs, and the forthcoming personal AI agents are truly awe-inspiring.”
What would a marketing message promoting an AI-supported agency look like?
“Our team uses AI for rapid prototyping of design mockups and draft copy, which we tune up by hand with loving care and attention.”
You’re looking for a new doctor. Which option sounds best to you?
We’re answering the question: Are we ready to have AI involved in our healthcare?
AI is already powering some medical decisions, but we’re not really seeing AI in healthcare marketing messaging yet. I’ve never seen a healthcare ad promising to have computers check the work of doctors. On the contrary, healthcare marketing usually emphasizes a human, personal angle.
The results show that the majority of respondents would like AI involved in their healthcare decisions. Almost a third of respondents want AI to be in charge of medical decisions.
Surprising to see that 7% are ready for a robot doctor.
- 32% “Our doctors never rely on AI”
- 37% “Our doctors use AI to help make better decisions”
- 25% “We use AI to make decisions, but our doctors check everything”
- 7% “All medical decisions are driven by AI”
Ahava Leibtag, Aha Media
“Right now in healthcare, misinformation is our biggest challenge. Specificity in content is everything.
What do we mean when we say AI? There’s a major difference between using a Chatbot to interpret and define symptoms, as opposed to a doctor. But do we mean using AI to comb through research and determine the best results for a clinical trial?
Healthcare is the most innovative industry we have, but it doesn’t seem that way because of regulation that determines when interventions are safe and efficacious. It usually takes a long time for a discovery to come to market, but even in the case of the Covid vaccine, you saw that some people were afraid because they felt it hadn’t been tested for long enough. That’s why we’re so careful in healthcare marketing about the claims we make and the plain language we use to be clear.
Doctors use AI as a tool all of the time, but they also don’t tout that they use scalpels, stethoscopes or X-rays. Instead, we focus on something that AI just doesn’t have—thinking critically about the problem and how to use a solution that is the least harmful for that patient.
What would a marketing message promoting an AI-supported doctor’s office look like?
“Our team of doctors use the world’s largest medical datasets, using AI to confirm that every diagnosis is as accurate as humanly possible.”
You’re considering using a new financial advisor. Which option sounds best to you?
There is already a trend toward apps for investing. Some of these apps recommend investments based on inputs given by the users. Probably some use AI. So there is already wide adoption of algorithm-driven financial advice. But the question assumes that you’re looking for a person, so the answers are in that context.
This is a category of services where buyers are very interested in AI. There’s strong interest. Two-thirds of consumers want AI involved in their retirement planning.
- 32% Our financial planners never use AI to guide recommendations
- 46% Our financial planners do their homework, but it’s checked by AI systems
- 18% We use AI to make all recommendations, but our team of human check everything
- 4% We use AI for all research and recommendations
This is a category that has serious security requirements, so using publicly available tools, trained on large language models isn’t always an option. Financial marketing pro, Stacy Klein, explains.
Stacy Klein, VP of Marketing, Wintrust Financial
“In highly regulated industries like finance, some content marketers don’t have online work access to non-proprietary tools like ChatGPT due to risk. But they can continue to rely on SEO and search to provide content context–that reliance on that part of AI is not going away (until it does).
These survey results show that the goal for marketers in this field stays the same: The value of the human relationship between a consumer and their financial expert is the most crucial point to make.”
So what might a marketing message promoting an AI-powered financial planner look like?
“Our financial models combine AI and our proprietary datasets, producing insights that are unavailable to investors who simply rely on public data.”
…a little wordy, but you get the idea.
You’re considering using a new accountant. Which option sounds best to you?
Another money question with similar responses. Maybe because accounting is a matter of accuracy and compliance, we trust professionals who adopt technology. Technology correlates with competence.
1970’s You want an accountant who uses a calculator
1980’s You want an accountant who uses a computer
2000’s You want an accountant who uses your software
2020’s You want an accountant who uses AI
2030’s You want an AI accountant…
This is another category where consumers are very interested in AI. Two-thirds of consumers want their accountants to get help from AI.
- 34% Our accounts do every step by hand
- 43% Our accountants’ work is checked by AI systems
- 18% We use AI to do your books, but humans check everything
- 5% We use 100% AI-powered systems with no humans involved
This may be a category where AI marketing messages begin to appear first. Here’s what it might sound like.
“Our AIs are trained in-house on decades of financial records, checked by certified human experts, ensuring accurate and efficient returns.”
You’re using a rideshare app to call a car. Which option do you prefer?
Rideshare passengers are greeted with a human hello. That’s nice. But we all know that the convergence between apps and self-driving cars is coming. Are we ready for it? Not yet.
95% of respondents want a human in the driver’s seat. We’ll see how that changes when price is factored in.
What about safety? We’ve all seen headlines about self-driving cars involved in fatal accidents. There have been several. Never mind that human error causes 46,000 car-related deaths per year in the US alone. This is a case study in how stories are more persuasive than data.
- 41% A human driver without AI-assist
- 39% A human driver supported by AI
- 14% A self-driving car with a human driver in the driver seat
- 5% A self-driving car with no human driver
But safety and price aren’t the only factors. It’s nice to chat with your Lyft driver. Hear what they’re listening to. It feels good to tip. But marketing for self-driving ride-share cars will likely come down to price.
“…or save 92% with a self-driving car.”
You’re considering subscribing to a new source of news. Which of these options sound best to you?
We’ve all used apps that aggregate news stories. But the articles themselves are written by human journalists, vetted by human editors. Are we ready to have robots choose the topics and write the stories?
Apparently, yes. 20% of respondents want AI to write their news.
- 45% All news stories are researched, written and edited by human journalists
- 35% Our stories are created by human journalists, with help from AI
- 13% AI generates our news stories, but humans check everything prior to publishing
- 7% All news stories are researched, written and edited by AI systems
This one I really don’t understand. News media is critical to democracy. I just don’t trust algorithms that much. Newsrooms have already been hollowed due to tech-driven disruption (Thanks, Craig’s List). If news readers don’t care, the trend will continue.
We asked news media strategist, Charlie Meyerson, for his thoughts.
Charlie Meyerson, Chicago Public Square
“I’m torn on this for personal and professional reasons. I so enjoy the writing and reporting process that I can’t get fully excited about technology that would mean fewer such opportunities for humans. And yet I must confess that my own writing—for my email news briefing, Chicago Public Square (voted Best Blog by Chicago Reader readers!)— is made better daily by artificial-intelligence-driven tools like Grammarly, which catches typos and grammatical errors galore.
And, in fact, as Politico’s Jack Shafer has noted, ‘technology has been pilfering newsroom jobs for more than a century’—from cameras that obsoleted illustrators; to digital composition that displaced typesetters; to software that gutted editing slots; to the internet, which threatens the livelihoods of press workers, delivery folks and newspaper librarians; to transcription bots that have displaced stenographers. Why should reporters be any different?
I can attest from personal experience over the decades that some of the best reporters aren’t great writers. If AI can help people with a nose for news—but not a great grasp of English, some because it wasn’t their first language—write better under deadline, I call that a win.”
What’s the pitch of an AI-driven news source?
“Our AI crawlers read 1M+ articles per day, then summarize it all into the three stories that are most important to you.”
You’re buying a plane ticket. The airline offers several options. Which sounds best to you?
In this case, consumers are behind the tech trends. 45% of respondents said they’d like a human pilot to fly without any help from automation, but that’s not how commercial airlines work.
In reality, except for takeoffs and landings, autopilot is flying the plane. This frees the pilot to do other important things, such as track weather, monitor the fuel system, follow the clearances from Air Traffic Control, etc.
- 45% We use human pilots with no AI or bots involved
- 37% Our human pilots are assisted by AI
- 13% Our AI-piloted planes have human pilot backups
- 5% Our plans are 100% piloted by AI
Because consumers aren’t ready for it, don’t expect to see AI in the marketing messages of airlines anytime soon.
You’re hiring a lawyer to help with a contract. Which law firm sounds best to you?
Lawyers are word merchants. They’re definitely impacted by AI. An AI-powered law firm should be more efficient and more thorough. But do consumers even want their attorneys to use AI? It’s split.
About half of the respondents would like their lawyers to get help from AI. If you’re paying by the hour, anything that saves time is a good thing, right?
- 46% 100% of our legal work is done by human lawyers.
- 38% Our lawyers do the work. They are supported by AI.
- 13% We let AI do the work, but human lawyers check everything.
- 3% Our contracts are created by AI. Humans are not involved.
This is a category where AI in marketing messages may appear soon. Here’s what you may soon see on a lawyer’s website:
“Our AI-powered legal discovery process analyzes centuries of case law in minutes, saving you time and strengthening your legal position.”
You’re considering a new hair salon. Which option sounds best to you?
Hard to imagine a BarberBot? Me too. Sounds weird. This was the only question where the majority of respondents wanted no AI involvement at all.
How could AI help you with your hair? Maybe by showing pictures of you sporting various styles based on your input. “Show me what I’d look like with full-bodied, dark hair on top, with a tight fade on the sides. No, try it a little longer. Yeah, that’s good. Let’s go with that…”
- 64% Our human stylists cut every strand by hand
- 21% Our human stylists use AI to help do the job
- 10% Our AI-powered hair stylists are closely monitored by humans
- 5% Our AI-powered hair stylists cut hair better than any human barber
Source: This terrifying image was generated in 10 seconds using Bing Create. I have no idea who owns it.
We’re grateful to our research partner, QuestionPro, for collaborating with us on this quick project. The tool is easy to use and responses came together quickly.
Who responded to the survey?
There were 1,075 respondents to the survey, gathered on April 18, 2023 from a broad section of the general population. Here is a bit about the demographics:
- Age: 16% were 18-24, 23% were 25-34, 22% were 35-44,14% were 45-54, 25% were 55+
- Gender: 67% female, 32% male
- Race or ethnicity: 66% identified as White, 14% identified as black or African American, 10% identified as Hispanic or Latino
How did we select these service categories?
We referred to Open.ai’s recent research on the labor market impact of AI, and selected the occupations with the highest exposure to impact from AI, according to their various data models.
“Exposure” is defined as AI tools driving a reduction in time it takes to complete a task by at least 50%. So these are the service categories where AI impact is most likely. We added the hairstylist category, partly for comedy and partly for reference, putting the other data in context.
Here is the most relevant section of their research, with the professions with an estimated 100% exposure highlighted: