How AI-Powered Voice Tools Can Support Small Businesses

Microsoft Copilot dominates chatbots but telcos may hold the key to delivering voice-enabled customer service tools

Dag Peak, Chief product officer, Alianza

June 12, 2024

3 Min Read
A bearded customer service agent with a headset working at a screen
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Microsoft has been laser-focused on AI, as evidenced by its $13.5 billion investment in OpenAI since 2019, and it’s paying off. Just a year after Microsoft decided to push AI into everything it does, the company reported a 17% jump in revenue for Q1 2024. 

Copilot is at the top of the ranks when it comes to AI chatbots. Teams is dominating the enterprise unified communications (UC) market and Microsoft continues to dump billions into AI training and expansion programs. Given this, it’s safe to say Microsoft is consuming most of the world when it comes to AI. But not all of it.

Microsoft targets its AI-enabled cloud services to large enterprises. Even with the expansion of Copilot to businesses of all sizes with Copilot Pro, priced at a modest $20 per month, the platform is still geared towards knowledge workers using Microsoft 365.

But what about the auto repair shop down the street that still relies on voice calls and a notepad to run its business? How about the hair salons, bookstores and gift shops? These small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) play a vital role in our communities, generating 43.5% of the annual gross domestic product and employing nearly 62 million workers. 

This sector of the market occupies a space largely ignored by Microsoft and the other UC vendors and it can benefit greatly from AI-enabled next-generation communications services to improve customer experiences and overall business efficiency.

Related:Telco Giants Embrace AI to Power New Revenue Streams – MWC 2024

If Microsoft is focused elsewhere, how can small business owners ensure they are not left behind and have equal access to AI to advance their businesses and maintain quality engagements with their customers? 

No, it’s not Silicon Valley’s latest AI startup; the answer is communications service providers. Telcos don’t typically view local broadband, wireless or fiber providers as cutting-edge but the partnerships they’re establishing with cloud-based core communications vendors enable them to equip SMBs with game-changing AI-driven technologies. They’re delivering it through the form of communication SMBs rely on every day – voice.

By bringing AI to voice calls, SMBs will be able to unlock previously hidden insights. They’ll be able to gain a deep understanding of what’s happening on calls including what customers are most frequently calling about and how they’re feeling throughout that call. 

Business owners will be able to see how their own employees are handling customer conversations to help guide their employee training programs. This won’t require a complex contact center operation, instead, it will simply be an element of the voice service being delivered to lines, IP phones or SIP trunks.

Related:Under the Hood: Understanding Data as the Foundation of AI Applications

Another helpful use case is using AI-driven voice analysis for inventory management. Imagine that an auto parts supplier receives a call from a customer requesting a list of supplies. During the call, AI-enabled voice-activated capabilities review the shop’s inventory in real time, identify the available parts and flag them to be set aside for pick-up later in the day with the order prepopulated into the point-of-sale system to facilitate payment processing at pick-up. This saves time for employees and business owners while helping SMBs deliver a uniquely differentiated customer experience.

AI-driven, cloud-based voice analytics and analysis delivered by service providers are poised to equip SMBs with new, game-changing insights that tech giants, like Microsoft, are not prioritizing. As service providers increasingly embrace innovation and partner with cloud communications providers to form strategic partnerships, AI-enabled technologies will continue to expand to new sectors of the market driving revenue growth.

About the Author(s)

Dag Peak

Chief product officer, Alianza, Alianza

Dag Peak is the chief product officer at Alianza, a cloud communications platform for telco service providers. Throughout his career, Dag has operated at the intersection of complex technology, product development and future industry trends. He oversees Utah-based Alianza’s engineering, product, operations and design teams with a steadfast commitment to enabling service providers with cutting-edge voice and unified communications (UCaaS) services. 

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