Generative AI and the fourth why: Building trust with your customer

When positioning new emerging technologies, like generative AI platforms, solutions providers must be able to answer these questions with clarity, precision, and relevance.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer
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Generative AI could add up to $4.4 trillion annually to the global economy, according to the latest research from McKinsey.

Research on generative AI's impact on the future of work also reveals that AI has the potential to automate 40% of the average workday. In fact, one prediction for productivity gains from generative AI in marketing sees marketers saving one month a year by using this technology. 

Most industries are recognizing the power of AI to improve the customer experience. One example is the financial industry. Financial services customers are switching providers for a better digital experience. In the past year alone, 25% of customers switched banks. AI, trust, digital experiences, and data security are key issues for finance firms and their customers. 

Also: AI is coming to a business near you. But let's sort these problems first

How do full-time desk workers feel about the benefits and obstacles of using generative AI to advance their careers? 

According to a recent survey of over 4,000 full-time desk workers by Salesforce, 54% of workers believe generative AI will advance their career, while 62% say they don't have the skills to effectively and safely use the technology. Prior research shows that the employee skills gap and trust are the biggest impediments to business adoption of generative AI: More than 50% of sales and service teams do not know how to get the most value out of generative AI, according to a survey of over 2,000 sales and service professionals.

Recent research forecasts that generative AI will soon go mainstream, say nine out of 10 IT leaders. According to McKinsey, 50% of organizations used AI in 2022. IDC is forecasting global AI spending to increase by a staggering 26.9% in 2023 alone. A recent survey of customer service professionals found adoption of AI had risen by 88% between 2020 and 2022. Customer Service leads AI use cases; organizations are using AI in the following ways: service operations optimization (24%), new AI-based products (20%), customer service analytics (19%), customer segmentation (19%), AI-based product enhancements (19%), customer acquisition and lead generation (17%), contact center automation (16%), and product feature optimizations (16%). 

That said, there are still significant concerns regarding the adoption of AI in business. The biggest obstacle is trust: Trust in the technology, trust in the data quality, trust in the large language models, trust in the automated workflows, trust in the AI vendor's core values and guiding principles, and trust in AI's impact on gaining a competitive edge.

Can AI boost automation in business and, if so, what is its impact on jobs? IT departments report an array of challenges to consider when determining how, where, and to what extent to embed automation. Only 42% of IT leaders are completely satisfied with the state of their organization's process automation. The top IT challenges include security and privacy concerns, compatibility of legacy systems, inadequate budgets, competing priorities/lack of team capacity, and difficulty finding the right technology. 

And the concerns about automation and generative AI go beyond IT. For example, in the financial industry, trust and data security go hand-in-hand. Increased awareness of personal data security has made trust between providers and customers more crucial than ever. The majority of customers would share data in exchange for better experiences.

Also: 73% of consumers trust what generative AI wants us to see

A recent report found that 23% of customers do not trust AI and 56% are neutral -- this deficit in trust can swing in either direction based on how companies use and deliver AI-powered services. The report also found that the benefits of AI are unclear, with only 46% of respondents agreeing that AI will speed up transactions. Increased awareness of personal data security has made trust between providers and customers more crucial than ever. In fact, 78% of customers say they would switch financial service providers if they felt their data was mishandled.

All of these concerns with generative AI solutions beg the question: What questions should AI solutions providers be able to answer? How can sales professionals ready themselves to be in the best position to accurately demonstrate value? It's all about the Fourth Why, and building trust with your customers. The Fourth Why is not just about selling new ideas and powerful new capabilities. The Fourth Why and the other accompanying questions are required to be addressed in every selling situation. But when it comes to positioning solutions that are in their infancy, the level of importance for the Fourth Why is at its peak. 

If you're in Sales, there's one question that every buyer you ever meet will ask about you. Do you know what it is?

During the sales cycle, it's good practice to work with prospective buyers to uncover hidden expectations, craft a compelling business case, create a competitive advantage, and establish a sense of urgency. We are told that every sales professional must be able to answer three questions from their colleagues in order to gain support and approval for a prospective purchase beyond a given size or complexity. And those three questions are called the Three Whys: Why do anything? Why buy from this vendor? Why buy now? These questions get progressively harder to answer. But as it turns out, your customer has a question for you. It's a question that they're unlikely to actually ask you, regardless of how senior they are or what their title is. And they will always come up with their own answer, whether you like it or not. The question is this: Can I trust you?

Also: Employee skills gap and trust are biggest impediments to business adoption of generative AI

"We all have a trust issue. We all have a gap," says David Horsager, CEO of The Trust Edge Leadership Institute. "There is no communication issue. No collaboration issue. No sales issue. No marketing issue. There is only a trust issue."

To help your customer answer in the affirmative, there's a question that you need to ask in return, a Fourth Why. But this time it's not your customer that you're asking, and it's not the customer that needs the answer, it's you. It's a question that any sales professional should ask themselves, and the question is this: Why make this sale?

Sellers sell, it's what they do. For many sales professionals selling is in their blood. So asking the question "Why make this sale?" may seem like a pointless exercise. But it's all about understanding intent. It is all about benevolence -- the desire to do good to others.  Having the right intention or motivation for making a sale can be a crucial differentiator in sales success. Let's explore this in more detail.

Building trust is the key to long-standing business relationships of mutual value. We've all experienced the difference between interacting with someone we trust and someone we don't, but this experience isn't just personal or anecdotal. Trust has a direct, quantifiable impact on a company's success, both organizationally and financially

In The Neuroscience of Trust, Paul J. Zak writes:

"Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout." 

And the vast majority of us (95%, according to the Salesforce Connected Customer report) are more likely to be loyal to companies that we trust. Being loyal means that we're likely to buy more from them, try out their new products, and refer and recommend them. In  "The Value of Keeping The Right Customers," it was discovered that the costs of retaining customers are anywhere from 5 to 25 times less than the costs of acquiring new ones. In other words, there's a direct line, from trust to loyalty to increased revenues and reduced costs.

Also: Human oversight key to keeping AI honest

All of which sounds good but what can be done about it? After all, trust is one of those words that we all understand instinctively but that sounds fuzzy or "soft". According to expert sources (including Rachel Botsman and Deloitte Digital among others), however, trust can be broken down into four components, all of which are behaviors that can be directly and unambiguously (or "un-fuzzily") demonstrated. These four are:

  • Competence (or Capability): The ability to carry out the activities and perform the functions expected of you.
  • Reliability (or Consistency): Doing what you say you will, when you say you will, every time.
  • Integrity (or Honesty, Transparency): Telling the truth, doing the right thing, without regard for personal consequences.
  • Intent (or Benevolence, Motivation, Humanity): Putting the interests and success of the customer first in your decisions and actions.

The goal of the Fourth Why is to answer the last of these components, to understand your Intent. The important thing here is to demonstrate to the buyer that your intent, your interests, and motivation are aligned with theirs. Rachel Botsman has made the point that the root cause of a breakdown of trust between two parties (which could therefore also include the trust between employer and employee or even between two colleagues) is most often a misalignment of intentions. Buyers can tell when the seller has their own interests, and trust is easily broken when the two sets of motivations or intents are misaligned. Demonstrating to a customer that your motivation for selling is aligned with their best interest is the best way for you to build trust. 

How can you demonstrate that your intent and your customer's intent are the same thing (or at least two sides of the same coin)? In the words of Jonathan Raymond, author of "Good Authority", you can do this by taking the perspective of standing next to them. Buyers, and especially senior leaders, are being sold to all the time. They know that they're seen as keepers of the corporate purse strings. The more senior they are, the more budget authority they hold and the fewer hoops they have to jump through to make a procurement decision. And so they have a steady stream of people wanting to sit across the table from them trying to convince them that their company's offer is just what they need. 

Also: AI, trust, and data security are key issues for finance firms and their customers

It can be a lonely place, knowing that your popularity is based only on the size of your budget. But standing next to them is a different proposition. It forces the seller to see the world from the leader's perspective, to see all the challenges and opportunities that are in front of them. And it tells the buyer that the seller is on their side and is ready to go into battle with them.

This is obviously similar to the advice to "walk a mile in their shoes" and to "see the world through their eyes". The difference, and what makes this stronger, is that standing next to your customer goes further than demonstrating empathy with them. It demonstrates not only that you empathize but that you're right there with them as an active, trusted partner.

So the answer to the Fourth Why will always depend on the specific circumstances but in general it will always be the same. The only answer that really counts is this: Because it will make my customer successful and that is my goal. Making this investment in this solution, from me, at this time, will help my customer achieve their objectives and the objectives of their company, and I am going to stand next to them to help them succeed. And if you show your customer that your intent and their intent are the same, then you might just answer their own question for them.

This article was co-authored by Henry King, business innovation and transformation strategy leader at Salesforce, and co-author of Boundless. "Boundless: A New Mindset for Unlimited Business Success" by Henry King and Vala Afshar (published by Wiley) is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will be available in bookstores September 14, 2023. 

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