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Let us burn the dust today once and for all and address five ethical questions for you with relevant answers about the future of customer experience.
There was a time when technology was despised. And even today, certain people pose ethical questions on customer experience. We understand the dilemma that people are contemplating.
In Hollywood movies like Terminator, we have already seen that technology can be detrimental to humanity. But, on the other hand, there are also positive aspects of the growing technology in various industries like healthcare.
We have come with lots of amazing innovations in the near past. And, looking at what we have seen so far, there are some ethical questions on the customer experience that are interestingly becoming a hot topic of debate in the CX community.
Let us burn the dust today once and for all and address these questions for you with relevant answers to them.
The first and foremost ethical question that should be asked the extent to which tech companies should have power over consumers and society. Giant tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, TikTok, etc., have a great influence on almost every aspect of people’s lives. The ethical question that arises here is whether it is right for these tech titans to have so much power over people and society in general?
The tech giants today influence what we buy and how we dress, but they also influence things like whom we vote for and how we feel. Where do we draw the limiting line on the increasing powers of these tech companies? It is not only about big tech companies; even smaller digital companies have gained much power with data.
Today, many companies are crossing over their industry lines gathering information about customers from various sources, and using them to influence customers’ behaviour. Time and again, giants like Facebook and Twitter have shown that they themselves cannot control their power and have let misinformation circulate like wildfire, especially around elections.
We need to ponder what extent of power should tech companies possess in the future. And, who will draw the line to limit the ever-increasing powers of tech companies? Government and regulatory authorities seem to be losing ground. Who will protect the rights of the consumer and how is a big question at the present moment.
The other big ethical question regarding customer experience is who should use or be the primary beneficiary of the generated CX data. The digital companies make the user believe that the data collected is for the benefit of the customers. These data are used to enhance customer experience but is that the whole picture? Certainly not!
Not all consumers understand this, but there is no such thing as free lunch. Digital companies provide customers with ‘free’ services, but these services are seldom free. Consumers pay the companies with their data and forfeit their rights over the data. Prima facie, it may seem, but in reality, it isn’t a balanced trade-off. Tech companies can use users’ data and may even by governments in many more varied ways than a layperson can imagine. The entire life and preferences of a person can be governed by those in possession of the data related to the individual.
It is high time that we start strong discussions about the ethical use of data. We need to find out ways to give back the rights to customers over their data. If tech companies become the primary beneficiary, then customers will become a puppet rather than the kings of the market in the long run.
Most individuals may not agree that technologies control their emotions, but we are already at that phase where we do not ultimately control what we feel. Social media is the easiest example to understand this. Research and studies have shown that social media has become one of the most important triggers of teenage anxiety, stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Various filters on social media and cameras of smartphones are already telling us subtly that we do not look good enough.
So, a very strong ethical question is who should have the ultimate control over what we feel? Should tech companies and other digital businesses be allowed to govern how people feel about themselves, their surroundings, their government, and even their history?
Today almost every aspect of our lives and our feelings are governed by someone or something out of our control. Unknowingly consumers have given the remote control of their feelings into the hands of others. Even those who understand all these have no way to walk out of the trap. The discussion on this topic is very important. New technological advancements like face recognition and AI have the potential to completely snatch the control from consumers and pass it on to businesses or even bad non-democratic governments like China.
The next big ethical question on consumer experience is about our trust over algorithms to make decisions for us. There’s no doubt that most of us trust the advice given by algorithm-based tools, and we actually enjoy them as they make our work easier. But, the question is whether we can rely on algorithms to make decisions that are good for us in the long run?
While ‘you may also like’ suggestions by Amazon seem to work fine for many of us but is the growing trend good for us? Technological advancements based on the algorithm are taking away lots of burdens from our shoulders, but we need to rethink whether it is a good thing for us in the long run? Can we trust an algorithm to give us advice that benefits us rather than the sellers of digital products and services?
If you buy chocolates online, the algorithm will show you more varieties of chocolates that you may like. But will it push you to control your cravings and consume chocolates in moderation? Seems a little difficult. After all, the algorithms have been set to make consumers spend more and more. They are not designed to make an intelligent decision for the overall benefit of the consumers. So, will it be okay for us to let algorithms govern our choices and take decisions for us?
Inequalities have been an integral part of every society. But, over the past few decades, human beings have been trying hard to do away with different kinds of inequality based on race, gender, age, etc. But, it seems that algorithms may further increase inequality in the world. The basic reason behind this is that AI learns things on its own based on the data it gets, and the data available for algorithms to learn is already biased. So, algorithms tend to make biased decisions based on biased data.
One of the interesting examples of this was seen with Amazon’s AI recruiting system. Based on the previous data available, AI learned that male employees are more preferable to female employees, and thus it marked the resumes of women applicant down.
Most of the data available for AIs today belong to Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) people. Therefore any conclusion made by algorithms is most likely to be biased against those who do not fall in the WEIRD category.
So, a big ethical question on consumer experience that demands a solution is whether there is any way to stop algorithms from increasing inequality in the world?
Technology has always been given precedence. But it is about time to contemplate some moral values that we need to set to ensure that the future customer experience does not worsen our lives. 25
The ethical questions on customer experience we have addressed in this write-up will serve you as a wake-up call and decide whether we should leverage technology to deliver customer experience.
Anshi has over 12 years of experience in demand generation, digital marketing, and managing global teams. In her prior role as head of marketing operations for a high growth US healthcare tech organization she transformed marketing from cost to revenue center.
Published 24 Dec 2021, Updated 15 Dec 2021
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