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, according to a new survey by voice AI communication platform, Curious Things administered by Pureprofile.

The survey found almost one-third (32%) of respondents believe that an AI assistant can resolve their enquiries better than SMS or email. This is a notable improvement from previous studies of the same kind, where respondents mostly expressed their skepticism.

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 spoken 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 more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents feeling more comfortable using an AI assistant when there is an option to be transferred to a human if required. 

“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,” Curious Thing co-founder and CEO, Sam Zheng said.

“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.

“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.”

Voice AI is in transition from ‘interesting toy’ to ‘strategic business tool’, according to Zheng.

“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.”