Artificial intelligence and the art of being a VoIP reseller

The hosted VoIP systems businesses are adopting today could provide the foundation for more intelligent, AI-driven systems of the future – and bring more potential to VoIP resellers

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The famous author and technologist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that by 2023 (that’s just five years from now) computing power will reach the level of 10˄16 calculations per second – roughly the equivalent of one human brain. That’s an ominous thought and the subject of artificial intelligence, robotics and voice synthesis – and what these technologies might mean for the human race – is a fascinating one.

But what has that got to do with resellers and small businesses who are trying to survive and prosper in today’s market? For now, not a great deal. Although there is certainly nothing ‘artificial’ about the intelligence needed to design and develop hosted VoIP solutions that deliver the kind of performance and in the communications industry, intelligent robotic agents that can simulate human conversations are not too far away. There have been several impressive demonstrations of this technology already, as these samples of the Duplex add-on for Google Assistant illustrate:

Duplex booking a hair appointment

Duplex calling to reserve a restaurant table

Mind-blowing as they are, these technologies will not be accessible and affordable for most organisations for some time to come. Businesses owners and managers are smart enough to understand that what they really need to concern themselves with are technologies they can deploy today to deliver practical, usable solutions and benefit them in tangible ways. It does not have to be clever, it just has to work.

VoIP works

This is why it’s a great time to be a VoIP reseller. Sales of hosted voice services for business are booming and the reason is very simple. VoIP now delivers the kind of quality and the range of features that businesses can use to improve customer service, increase efficiency and reduce costs.  It’s easy to sell and to see the benefits.

While visionaries constantly talk about the wonders of emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI, VoIP is real and can be delivered today. It just works – and that’s all that most business people care about.

This is not to say that new and emerging technologies have no relevance to customers and to resellers. At some point in the future (and it may well be within the next five years as predicted), AI will undoubtedly be integral to many IT solutions and web services. You don’t need to be that visionary to see how it could be used.

As the Google examples demonstrate, intelligent, synthesised voice systems are getting much more sophisticated and a conversation with a virtual agent can be almost unrecognisable from a human-to-human interaction. But those two examples are quite use-specific. What you hear is a computer talking to a person about a subject that will normally have a fairly limited scope. In these cases, it’s booking appointments with establishments that don’t have on-line booking systems (which is already unusual). Take the dialogue outside the defined parameters and the AI system will still struggle – for now.

Leaps and bounds

Listening to these examples, it’s clear that voice synthesis is going to come on in leaps and bounds over the next five years. That will bring potential with AI-driven solutions that can sit on top of VoIP solutions. For example, outbound virtual agents could be used to make simple telesales or follow-up calls with customers.

A car dealership might use such a system to call existing customers telling them about the release of a new model that will be on show at a weekend open day; it could then be used again the following week to see if there is any further interest. The Google Duplex system can already hand-over the call to a human if the conversation goes beyond its capabilities – and the same thing could be done with any voice system, so if necessary, a sales person could take over.

An AI-driven system like this would be able to make calls on multiple lines at the same time; it would call at an hour of the day and go through the list meticulously, without taking a break or getting distracted. As it is IP-based, it will be able to integrate with the dealership’s CRM system to access the customer’s details personal information.

This will be just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many potential applications of AI-driven voice in all kinds of industries. They will be high-value solutions and bring massive benefits to end-user organisations. The resellers who introduce VoIP to businesses today will also be in the best-placed to enlighten customers to the positive potential of artificial intelligence in the future. And that future may not be too far away.

 

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