With more and more businesses realising the benefits of IP telephony, it is time to look at what the future holds for this technology. The benefits of VoIP are well known to most SMEs who have already swapped out their PBX and ISDN line combo for an integrated VoIP based solution.
But we are still at the early stages of VoIP technology, as more and more businesses realise the benefits of IP based systems, more money will become available to develop these systems going forward. One key area that telecoms and cloud companies are seeking to leverage is the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI has the capacity to have as big an impact on business communications as VoIP did when it was introduced. So how will AI transform your business communications in the future? Here are five technologies which should find their way into VoIP systems in the next 3 to 5 years.
1. Automated contact centre operations
The contact centre has had to adapt to the way customers want to communicate more than most departments over the past 10 years or so. Today’s call centre agent is just as likely to be found answering emails or responding to tweets as they are answering the telephone. In fact, most larger call centres have abandoned the IP phone altogether replacing it with a softphone and headset.
This digitally transformed environment has meant that the contact centre has become the ideal proving ground for AI and machine learning algorithms which can help call centre employees deliver stronger experiences for customers. This is especially important since customers are becoming more and more demanding in the service levels they expect to receive from the companies they deal with.
The AI integrated call centre will be able to automatically route calls based on urgency and query type. This means customers will be routed to the right person first time allowing them to resolve their query quickly. Smart call routing will also reduce the number of employees required to man the phones and provide more flexibility during busy periods.
While AI can already be found in enterprise call centres, the technology has yet to filter its way down to the small and medium-sized business space. But there is no doubt that we will see this technology deployed in cloud platforms which are accessible to small business within the next five years or so.
2. Improved interactive voice response (IVR) systems
There is nothing more annoying to a customer than having to deal with a touch-tone directed IVR system. Today’s web-savvy customers don’t want to waste time pushing buttons, they want to resolve their issues quickly and without fuss. That’s where an AI enthused Interactive Voice Response system can help.
Interactive Voice Response, which has been developed by Nuance, allows human-like interactions to take place within the IVR system. This effectively allows customers to successfully resolve issues themselves. These systems are becoming so natural that in most cases, customers won’t even know they have been talking to a machine.
Companies that deploy conversational IVR systems will benefit from lower costs since fewer call centre employees will be needed, while providing much higher customer satisfaction levels. At the moment, conversational IVR is expensive to deploy for most SME’s. But the technology will become more accessible and will find its way into most cloud-based contact centre platforms over the next few years.
3. Real-time speech recognition
AI and speech recognition go hand in hand, but up until now, the technology has left a little to be desired. The technology was error-prone and not fit for use in customer service environments, but development in speech recognition has been moving at a fast pace thanks to apps like Siri and Amazon Alexa. Microsoft has also been hard at work in this area and has developed a system which is claimed to be as accurate at transcribing as any human.
In theory, this means the technology can now be deployed for recording customer interactions. Using automatic transcribing, entire conversations can be made available to contact centre agents. This removes the need for agents to write notes and creates a unique record of the customer's communications which can be easily accessed by all contact agents.
While this is very exciting, the technology still has issues recognising different accents and performance drops considerably if there is a lot of noise in the background. But as development continues, you can be sure that automatic transcribing of voice calls will find its way into the contact centre applications of the future. It is also possible that conversational IVR systems will be able to access these conversations to provide even better service.
4. Improved collaboration capability
One of the biggest attractions of VoIP is improved collaboration between stakeholders. SMEs now have access to unified communications and web conferencing systems which were previously only available to the enterprise, but these tools are set to be transformed using AI.
AI can add value by providing real-time language translations using improved speech recognition technology. This effectively turns your unified communications platform into a smart assistant. For example, in a meeting, a sales manager could ask the virtual assistant to pull up last month’s sales forecasts, which could then be displayed in a graph on the screen.
Once again, this technology is already available on expensive enterprise level Unified Communications platforms. But as the technology becomes more accessible, it will filter down to SME cloud-based platforms. This technology will be especially productive if it can be combined with an intelligence suite such as Microsoft BI.
5. More intelligent chatbots
Chatbots have become a popular way for companies to automate their customer service interactions. But bots have their limitations, they are not very good at dealing with complex tasks and they can be easily confused by unusual terms and language and they don’t feel particularly human.
While AI chatbots have been around for a while, they are not really AI. They use something called decision tree logic, which attempts to provide a response based on identified keywords. True AI-powered chatbots can take these interactions to the next level.
Bots with natural language and linguistic learning capabilities are in development and will transform the chatbot into the virtual customer service champions they were always meant to be. They will be able to carry out more complex tasks, access customer records, set up meetings, manage schedules, connect directly with relevant call centre agents and much more.
To find out how the latest VoIP developments can improve the efficiency and profitability of your small or medium sized business, get in touch with our technical team today for a demonstration of our cloud-based voice and data platform. Alternatively, give us a call on 0333 006 9700 to see how we can transform your business communications.