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Industry Has Opportunity to Create Connections as AI Emerges

Posted on Jan 6 2020 - 5:15am by Lance Edwards

Multifamily operators need to bridge the gap between technology trust and usability.


By Chase Harrington  ( Article

In its various forms, artificial intelligence already pervades our lives on a daily basis. However, many people are still gaining a firm grasp of the growing technology and the increasing role it is playing in the apartment industry, according to a recent study.

Based on the results of an Entrata survey, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. renters over the age of 18 to study consumers’ knowledge and attitude toward AI, it’s clear that a lack of understanding and familiarity with the tech, and related trust issues, remain the biggest hurdles moving forward. But that also means the industry can still make plenty of headway with technology ultimately designed to enhance the human connection.

Thanks to sci-fi films from past decades, the concept of AI likely still triggers thoughts of robot butlers outgrowing their intended purposes and fears of computer programs hijacking the launch protocols at missile silos. That outdated mistrust still lingers for many.

Survey results showed that 48% of respondents don’t feel fully comfortable interacting with AI, although 40% reported using some form of AI—whether via Gmail, Alexa, Facebook, Netflix, or another source—on a daily basis.

In that divide lies an opportunity to connect.

Renters already regularly interact with AI, and they trust the platforms they are comfortable with and work with consistently. Multifamily operators committed to implementing AI that truly caters to renters’ needs, connects apartment communities, and provides positive, productive engagement with technology should begin to bridge the gap between trust and usability.

Trust in AI may not be as fleeting as it seems.

Even in this age of distrust, people still have less trepidation for AI than many other elements of society. For instance, the study revealed 79% of respondents trust AI more than President Trump. A whopping 90% are less likely to rely on the Russians than artificial technology.

More than 70% of respondents also indicated that they trust AI more than they do the government or Wall Street, while more than 40% trust AI more than they do their neighbors, co-workers, or the police. Surprisingly, more than 20% reported that they would place their trust in AI before their spouse or even their own grandmother.

Although renters seem to trust the technology, they might not fully understand it. While many consumers have a general knowledge of AI, they’re often not fully aware of the number of ways it is already woven into their everyday lives or confused about how it works. In fact, 20% of respondents who claimed to be an expert on AI actually got the definition wrong.

AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. From virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri to social media and entertainment platforms, AI is actively attempting to make our lives easier.

However, 38% of respondents claimed to have either just heard of AI or know nothing about it. Perhaps the most perplexing AI tech, according to the survey, is chatbots—programs designed to simulate online conversation with human users.

Survey data showed that 30% of respondents don’t believe they would even recognize that they’re interacting with a chatbot, while 33% incorrectly identified virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri as chatbots.

Of those who have knowingly interacted with chatbots, the most popular aspect of the experience is the fact that it’s available 24/7, with 39% of respondents listing it as their favorite feature. Accessibility and efficiency were also popular, but only 9% liked the fact that they don’t have to talk to a real person.

Conversely, more than 20% of respondents said their primary complaint about AI is its overall lack of human touch. Many people would prefer chatbots to have more human-like personalities, though 36% of respondents said it’s not important as long as they get the information or assistance they’re seeking.

Establishing that sense of reliability could be key for multifamily AI applications. Renters want the answers to their questions to be on hand at all times, not just during office hours. They don’t want to have to leave work early to make a payment or submit requests. They just want to be able to trust the technology at their fingertips. Multifamily operators who focus on creating more positive experiences and opportunities to interact with AI will take dramatic steps in the right direction.

While the survey showed that most people aren’t ready to fully substitute technology for face-to-face discourse with another person, expect the industry’s reliance on chatbots to climb, especially as the technology evolves to more closely resemble human-to-human interaction.

Chatbots and AI can be invaluable tools for the leasing office, particularly after traditional leasing hours, as they create a convenient avenue for residents to acquire information, solve problems, or complete tasks.

Residents’ willingness to use the tech, however, depends largely on the task. For example, while 62% of people would trust a chatbot to schedule an appointment, only 36% of respondents said they would use a chatbot to report a violation.

In other words, if the interaction is transactional, the trust level goes up. The challenge lies in building confidence in AI for more intimate exchanges. While consistent, reliable transactions via AI remain crucial, the opportunity exists to create more positive personal experiences and strengthen trust in AI across the board.

The demand for AI in the apartment living experience is growing, though we’re still only seeing a fraction of its potential applications. The survey showed that smart home tech is highly valued, and 27% of respondents said they would actually be more attracted to a community based on its use of AI and smart home technology.

As AI becomes more commonplace in the apartment industry, renters will establish a better understanding and a more trusting perspective if operators focus on providing more opportunities for consistent and personal interactions with various forms of AI.