Dialing the Future

How AI Is Revolutionizing Your Phone System

Bruce D Kuehn

Recently, I came across a Facebook ad for a company that leveraged AI tools in telemarketing applications. While outbound telephone marketing isn’t a niche my company actively pursues, the implications of this technology fascinated me. Could AI enhance our customers’ inbound calling experience? Intrigued, I decided to explore further.

Not long after expressing interest, I received a phone call from the company. To my surprise, the conversation flowed seamlessly with what appeared to be a live human. The only giveaway was a slight delay in responses. Most people wouldn’t even notice. Impressed, I realized that this AI had effectively passed the Turing Test—a theoretical benchmark in computing where a person interacting with a machine remains unaware they’re communicating with an artificial entity.

What intrigued me further was the AI’s ability to adapt. It recognized that I wasn’t seeking personal use of the technology but was open to partnering with the vendor to benefit our customers. It even addressed my inquiries about using its technology for inbound call handling, potentially replacing the traditional automated attendant.

Unfortunately, that partnership didn’t materialize, but it provided a fascinating glimpse into the progress of technology. My journey in the telecommunications industry began alongside my father in 1991, during the early days of a groundbreaking innovation: voice mail. Back then, the Internet existed but wasn’t yet widely accessible to the general public. Meanwhile, Bill Gates had just unveiled his latest operating system, Windows version 3.1.

As we introduced voice mail services, we encountered resistance from business owners who staunchly believed in maintaining a “people-centric” approach. For them, having a machine answer their phones was out of the question. Nevertheless, many companies recognized the practical value of voice mail. It allowed for verbal information to be recorded and played back—an essential feature when other options for conveying detailed messages to absent colleagues were limited.

In the late ’90s, we explored a system that promised speaker-independent speech recognition. Unfortunately, the software’s design fell short, frequently misunderstanding speakers. Moreover, it was optimized for a telephone system that didn’t integrate well with third-party equipment. Consequently, this system had a short lifespan, and we didn’t manage to sell any units.

Shortly after my encounter with the telemarketing AI, I participated in a conference call discussing an AI service offered by my primary Voice over IP phone line provider, Net2Phone. If even half of the capabilities attributed to their AI were real, it would indeed be impressive. The pricing was exceptionally reasonable, prompting me to reach out to my channel manager and arrange for the addition of one seat to our company’s system.

Net2Phone’s AI system demonstrates impressive capabilities. While the web interface could use some improvement, let me break down how it functions:

  1. Call Recording and Analysis:
    • When a call concludes, the system records it and sends the recording to the AI for analysis.
    • The AI provides both a summary of the call and a full transcript.
    • Although occasional humorous mistakes occur, users can easily cross-reference the transcript with the actual recording to clarify any doubts.
  2. Sentiment Analysis and Key Points:
    • Net2Phone’s AI identifies conversation points as positive, negative, or neutral.
    • It extracts key words from the call and generates an email summary.
    • Agents can copy and paste this summary into their email client, making minor edits to address any inaccuracies.

The potential applications of AI in the telecommunications industry are vast:

  • Speaker-Independent Automated Attendant:
    • Simply ask for the person you’re seeking, and the system transfers your call.
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR):
    • Imagine calling a machine to inquire about your bank balance or the status of an order without ever having to enter anything on the keypad. Delta Airlines already utilizes this technology to assist ticket agents.
  • First-Tier Call Center Agents:
    • AI can handle initial customer inquiries efficiently.
  • Quality Assurance for Live Agents:
    • AI monitors live calls, providing insights and ensuring consistent service quality.
  • Coaching for Live Agents:
    • Real-time tips help agents handle calls effectively and identify upsell opportunities.
  • Inbound and Outbound Marketing:
    • While your company may not deploy many such systems, AI can enhance marketing efforts.

In the grand scheme of things, a well-designed AI should be optimized to enhance the customer experience and alleviate the burden on busy office personnel. No one should fear job displacement due to AI in telecommunications. Instead, a good AI tool can make everyone’s job a little easier.

Drawing a parallel to the early days of voicemail, companies that overly rely on AI technology may pay a hefty price. However, those that judiciously embrace this valuable technology will position themselves to reap substantial benefits.

Contact us if you are interested in a demonstration of Net2Phone’s powerful AI tools. New possibilities are coming soon!

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