AI, bots and contextual comms: the sum will be much greater than its parts

Posted 11 May 2021

It was the ITSPA Summer Forum at the end of June and our CEO Rob Pickering joined Trefor Davies, Netaxis, Jeff Pulver, MoNage and Paul Walsh, CEO, MetaCert, on a panel to discuss how ITSPs can evolve their businesses. 

As innovations are moving so fast, ITSPs need to look well ahead to begin carving out differentiated services. It was little surprise then, that the discussion focused on how AI, chatbots and machine learning will significantly transform the way we communicate in the coming years. Jeff Pulver for one believes we’re at the beginning of a major communications revolution, “from the perspectives of people to people, people to machine, machine to people, and machine to machine communications.” 

The interesting part here is that we’re more often talking with machines. We’re certainly becoming used to this in the consumer realm with Siri or Alexa, where people can interact verbally with machines. In a business context, contact centres are starting to use chatbots to deal with the most common queries and complaints and make suggestions according to what’s in their database, freeing up agents to tackle more complex enquiries. Some councils too are already using a form of AI as a virtual agent that can deal with front line requests from residents and businesses. As time goes by, robots like this will learn from their interactions to continually improve the service they provide. 

But take this one step further, and the impact could be game changing. What if we combined AI and robots with contextual communications? We’d open the doors to even greater innovation in communications, especially where there are high volumes of customer interactions. 

Contextual communications applications mesh together all the information needed to effectively deal with a customer enquiry via any channel they choose (be it via a web video, a chat box, or through a mobile app). This makes customers feel more valued, and have better and more meaningful experiences when they interact with brands. Contextual communications are smart, timely, and personalised and we’re just starting to see the possibilities. 

Beyond this comes cognitive interactions where robots understand accents, sentiment and context, giving the ability to handle communications in a more natural, human way. Far from the frustrating automated services we’re used to today, these technologies are beginning to understand different accents and tones and ask questions, and resolve queries quickly and accurately. 

The real-time enterprise of the future will be able to communicate with its employees and customers in context — at the right time, with the right people, in the right application. This is the future of enterprise communications. It will ultimately ‘hide’ communication as it becomes integral and inherent within applications; we won’t even think about communication as a distinct, stand-alone, friction-bearing operation. Rather, it’ll simply be something that happens as we move in and out of the collaboration or communication. And for ITSPs, like those at the ITSPA event, this means differentiated propositions that can deliver huge productivity and efficiency gains and a far better and more natural communications experience for their customers. 

To learn more about how contextual communications can transform customer engagement, check out Rob’s talk at UC Expo: How to Transform Customer Engagement with Contextual Comms