Most businesses now use VoIP as the main vehicle for voice and video-based business communication. It has undoubted and proven benefits in cost and business profile. Moving to in-house or hosted VoIP has become a no-brainer.
The push now is to find new and innovative ways to leverage VoIP into providing more cost benefits, i.e. savings, and using it to deliver new cost-effective services.
Business communications, even with the benefits of Internet connectivity can still be a costly business. It is vital though to the success of a business. Customers and suppliers need to get in touch, the business needs to maintain an Internet presence to market its goods and services and perhaps support an e-commerce facility. Geographically dispersed businesses need business communications to link home office, manufacturing sites and depots at home and abroad. That is where VoIP provides the greatest cost savings.
These savings are offset by the need to have warm bodies in a call centre or office to manage customer queries. Most questions are of a similar type and can be answered by using an FAQ or sales and user manuals. However, there are customers who prefer the reassurance of a voice on the other end of the phone presenting them with a solution.
That is where AI comes in. The concept is based around the Pareto distribution, in that eighty per cent of all queries are simple requests for information and are easily satisfied, with the remaining twenty-per cent needing deeper human analysis.
AI is being used in a big way to hit the eighty per cent, replacing human operators with automated processes, thereby reducing employment costs or providing much-improved service levels at no additional cost. Siri from Google is a good example. Being automated, and by recoding digital information, AI is also a source of marketing and support information.
Microsoft uses such an automated approach to help resolve some billing issues. Customers are led though a structured questionnaire designed to lead them to the answer itself or the source or sources of answers to their query. This technique is now being supplemented by an AI system that uses a less structured and more human-like interface to customers. Not voice-enabled yet, but apparently it soon will be.
Some voice-enabled AI systems for call-centres are being piloted with varying degrees of success. An AI engine analyses a customer request and their responses. It tests the input against alternative possible responses and based on a built-up history of past responses either proposes a solution, gives directions to other sources of information or offers to pass the customer to a warm-blooded service assistant.
The ultimate aim is for AI-based systems to provide services indistinguishable from those provided by human operators, with the potential for growth at a modest cost, a cost far less than that of expanding services with human operators.
Every business needs a unique selling proposition, a hook that differentiates them from their competitors and persuades potential consumers that they should buy from them. One such hook is after-sales service. Unless there is a major price advantage to buying from a company with a poor after-sales service reputation, consumers will buy from a company with a better reputation.
This is particularly true in the new digital age. Potential purchasers now search for products using their smart devices and ask their online buddies for recommendations. They search online consumer sites like HelloPeter for positive or negative recommendations. Personal recommendations are usually based on customer perceptions, mostly on the service levels they received during the sales process itself or in after-sales service.
Again, this is where AI and VoIP can help. An organisation can develop cost-effective AI based customer satisfaction processes that interact with customers using VoIP. The ultimate aim is to provide personalised voice messages to customers that don`t sound like a robot is delivering them, and one that responds seemingly intelligently to customer responses. Allied to VoIP, these voice messages can be programmed into interactive processes that require little or no manual intervention.
Obviously, they will need human supervision, but on the whole, can work automatically.
The linkage between the digital processes of AI and VoIP is a natural combination of services that will provide growing and developing cost-effective customer-facing applications.