May 24, 2022

Reading time minutes

Digital distrust poll: A healthier society starts with trust in technology

What can our experience of the past year tell us about what needs to happen to foster trust in technology in the future? We surveyed 200 consumers to find out.

Ed McQuiston

Ed McQuiston

Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer

Person stands in front of plant frond holding a cell phone.

Key takeaways from the 2021 trust-in-technology poll:

  • Distrust of modern technology is high, even for items many of us use every day like social media and smart speakers
  • 57% of respondents say they believe AI has the potential to do damage over the next 10 years due to misuse, even as respondents’ adoption of AI technologies grew
  • Respondents trusted in-person customer service interactions over text messages, website contact forms and email, even amidst lockdowns and social distancing
  • The newer the technology, the least likely it was to be trusted

Navigating the pandemic has led consumers to carry a healthy dose of skepticism about technology and whether it deserves to be trusted.

And who can blame them? Many spent the early days of working-from-home learning Zoom or teaching family members how to use videoconferencing technology. Some turned to apps for grocery deliveries, got help from chatbots to track lost packages and welcomed doctors, coworkers and coaches into living rooms. If it felt like new ways of using technology were coming at you fast and furious, you weren’t alone.

As a technology company, we were curious.

Tech Use Was Way up, Even Emerging Tech

  • 71% of respondents to our survey said their technology use increased during the pandemic
  • 44% said it was up significantly

Naturally, it must be the shift to remote work that is the main factor for this trend, right? Not exactly.

The answer might not surprise you — we’re just bored.

The biggest reason for increased technology use during the pandemic was to pass the time. Of course, more practical uses also contributed to increased technology use — 34% said they’re using tech more because of remote work, and 29% said technology is their primary way to shop for groceries.

Trust in Technology Starts With Familiarity

As we take a deeper dive into our findings on the increased use of technology and how it has impacted trust, it’s important to keep this in perspective. And for those in the business of building new technology, there are many lessons to be learned about the role content plays in new consumer experiences.

Additionally, understanding consumers’ attitudes toward technology now is the first step to tech leaders creating an environment of trust with consumers.

The bottom line: Emerging tech can overwhelmingly benefit consumers, but some of the uneasiness in certain technologies — like AI, chatbots and smart speakers — needs to be addressed. And it’s important to note the healthy skepticism consumers currently have isn’t a particularly new trait. In the 1930s, people were wary of standing too close to a telephone during a thunderstorm for fear it would explode. Irrational fears can impede adoption of emerging technology.

Thankfully, more time on the market and greater exposure to the emerging technology can belie fears. Now, consumers rank the telephone as one of the most trusted pieces of technology they interact with, according to our data.

So what’s new?

Overwhelmingly, videoconferencing was the tool most consumers tried for the first time during COVID-19 — 45% of those surveyed said their first encounter with videoconferencing happened after March 2020. We also asked consumers how they ranked their trust in the new technology they have tried over the past year.

A Pulse Check on Our Trust in Tech

  • 5G: 20% used it for the first time during COVID-19, and 20% also had no trust or limited trust in it
  • Smart speakers: 19% used them for the first time during COVID-19, and 39% had no trust or limited trust in them
  • Gig service: 18% used these services for the first time during COVID-19, and 27% also had no trust or limited trust in them

Where else does distrust exist, and what are the implications? As the intersection of content and technology is near and dear to us as a leading content services provider, we’re eager to share exactly how content can positively influence consumers’ attitudes toward technology, both old and new.

Overwhelmingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and applications that rely on AI are the most distrusted technologies.

In fact, 41% of consumers distrust AI, and the tools powered by AI have skeptics as well, according to our survey results.

Why? Aside from the bad rap AI gets in movies and pop culture, there seems to be a deeper trend in the data we collected: The more established the technology, the more trusting the public is of it. Since AI and the applications it powers are newer on the scene, the public is wary of them.

Least-trusted Technologies:

  • Social media: 20% have no trust whatsoever, 32% have very limited trust
  • Chatbots: 18% have no trust whatsoever, 24% have very limited trust
  • Smart speakers: 15% have no trust whatsoever, 24% have very limited trust

Most-trusted Technologies:

  • Landline telephones: 38% completely trust, 39% have some trust
  • Mobile telephones: 31% completely trust, 49% have some trust
  • Fax machines: 30% completely trust, 44% have some trust

AI doesn’t just rank high among distrusted technology; it’s also ranked as the most likely to cause harm in the future by consumers — 57% said AI has the potential to do damage over the next 10 years due to misuse. But this distrust may wane as consumers discover AI’s benefits for everything from enabling better healthcare imaging to helping them find the documents they need in order to provide excellent experiences for their customers and stakeholders.

Further, AI adoption grew 15% last year and maturity continues to rise as firms move past small incremental solutions, according to Forrester analysts[1]. The projected market growth is expected to surpass $37 billion by 2025.[2]

So, while right now it seems consumers are simply playing catchup with all the applications of AI, technology leaders have an incredible opportunity to communicate how it impacts their customers.

Blockchain Technology Suffered From a Lack of Understanding

It also seems that blockchain is a bit of a mystery to many: 43% selected “not applicable” when we asked about their trust of blockchain, meaning they didn’t have enough information to make a decision.

This will be important to watch, as consumers begin to encounter blockchain technology everywhere from their banks to their inboxes. As blockchain becomes more common for recordkeeping, allowing credentialed access and securing documents, it’s an opportunity for tech leaders to debunk any myths and educate against unknowns about the technology to help consumers understand how valuable blockchain is to their data security and privacy.


Consumers Trust a Human Touch in Customer Service

Could the information many of these technologies deliver factor into mistrust? It certainly seems that way when looking at the modern customer service experience.

Despite lockdowns and social distancing, 46% of respondents said in-person customer service is the most trustworthy method of getting their issues resolved. A video call is next, with 30% saying they completely trust video technology. Phone calls come in third at 24% with complete trust.

The common thread? All three include some level of live, human interaction.

Less personal contact methods earn less trust from consumers:

  • Text message: 33% say somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy
  • Website contact form: 28% say somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy
  • Email: 22% said somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy

All of this proves the importance of having well-trained, informed human voices and faces interacting with customers. But that’s impossible without the appropriate tools and methodology to store and distribute the content used for training and customer service agent support.

If you’re curious about how customer communications management works, and best practices to deliver automated, consistent and personalized interactions, we have more information for you here.

A Reckoning for Trust in Healthcare Technology

More people than ever have accessed telehealth services since the pandemic began, but we found that patient portals and doctors’ office websites are causing friction for consumers who seek care.

Friction in digital health services:

  • Healthcare portals: 27% of patients have had an issue scheduling an appointment on their provider’s portal
  • Telehealth tools: 23% have had difficulty accessing/downloading these applications
  • Insurance information: 20% had difficulty locating health insurance information

Inconveniences like these can drive patients away and cause them to question their trust in their providers. Fifteen percent of respondents said they distrust the healthcare information provided by the state they lived in during the pandemic, and 9% have no trust or some distrust in their own healthcare provider’s information.

Here, it seems consumers aren’t receiving the guidance or digital wayfinding tools necessary to have a seamless experience.

The good news for healthcare providers? They can easily fix some of these issues through the marriage of the right tools and content strategy.

Build Trust in New Technology Through Better Content

While businesses and organizations are using technology in new and different ways as digital transformation trends shift, it’s clear there is still a level of skepticism among consumers. This data illustrates a growing challenge for the tech community — maintaining consumer trust as technology becomes a bigger part of their lives than ever.

Hyland can help your organization increase trust by helping you manage your content and ensuring you deliver correct information quickly and easily to the people who need it. So much of this hinges on having the right suite of content services solutions to help you meet customer expectations. That’s why we’ve compiled a purpose-built set of tools that address these challenges head-on.

Ready to hear more about how smarter content management and processes can help build stronger, more trusting customer relationships? Contact us today.

[1] Predictions 2021: Artificial Intelligent, Forrester Research, October 22, 2020 by Mike Gualtieri, Brandon Purcell, Michele Goetz, Craig Le Clair, Martha Bennett, Srividya Sridharan with Aldila Yunus

[2] The AI Software Market Will Grow To $37 Billion Globally By 2025, Forrester Research, Andrew Bartels, Mike Gualtieri, December 10, 2020