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

After months of radically altered lifestyles, consumers are carrying a healthy dose of skepticism into 2021.

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 feels like new ways of using technology are coming at you fast and furious, you aren’t alone.

We were curious: 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 1,000 consumers to find out.

Emerging tech is in new hands

Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of respondents to our survey said their technology use increased during the pandemic — and 44 percent said it’s 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 has been to pass the time. Of course, more practical uses also contributed to increased technology use — 34 percent said they’re using tech more because of remote work, and 29 percent said it 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, just one example of how irrational fears can impede adoption.

Thankfully, more time on the market and greater exposure to the technology belied these 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 percent of those surveyed said their first encounter happened after March, 2021. 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

accessing data on a smartphone

Here’s what we found.

Technology and trust:

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

The top three least-trusted technologies:

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

The top three most-trusted technologies:

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

It also seems that blockchain is a bit of a mystery to many: Close to half (43 percent) selected “not applicable” when we asked about their trust, 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 percent of respondents said in-person customer service is the most trustworthy method of getting their issues resolved. A video call is next, with 30 percent saying they completely trust video technology. Phone calls come in third at 24 percent 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 percent say somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy
    • Website contact form: 28 percent say somewhat untrustworthy or completely untrustworthy
    • Email: 22 percent 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

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

Friction in digital health services:

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

Inconveniences like these can drive patients away and cause them to question their trust in their providers. Currently, nearly a quarter (15 percent) said they distrust the healthcare information provided by the state they lived in during the pandemic, and 9 percent 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 faith in new technology through better content

While businesses and organizations are using technology in new and different ways, 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

Ed McQuiston

Ed McQuiston is Hyland’s executive vice president & chief commercial officer, a position he’s held since 2017. Having served as vice president of global sales since 2012, his current role... read more about: Ed McQuiston

5 Responses

  1. 04/02/2021

    […] The survey, conducted by Ohio-based information management firm Hyland Software, polled 1,000 consumers on their ‘trust’ levels of various information sources and technologies, including artificial intelligence and social media platforms. […]

  2. 04/03/2021

    […] OH-based content services provider Hyland surveyed 1,000 consumers through a third party to determine how technology has factored into their lives during the pandemic, and how their trust in it has changed as a […]

  3. 05/18/2021

    […] assistants (chatbots) that engage with clients on the platforms or on the phone – and 39 percent reported feelings with smart speaker assistants likewise. Even more, half of those surveyed show no trust regarding social media, with 1 in 5 reporting […]

  4. 05/18/2021

    […] software (chatbots) que interactúan con los clientes en las plataformas o en el teléfono, y El 39 por ciento informó de sus sentimientos con los asistentes de altavoces inteligentes. Aún más, la mitad de los encuestados no muestra confianza con respecto a las redes sociales, y 1 […]

  5. 06/24/2021

    […] latest research from Hyland shows that 26% have no trust or are neutral in their trust in healthcare professionals regarding COVID-19 information. And 1 in 4 consider social media their […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.