Whether we like it or not, automation is regarded as an inevitable way to reduce costs and is advancing in all sectors.

Even governments are jumping on board. For example, an element in the roll-out of “universal credit” is an attempt to shift the whole process online, including applications, tax and benefit calculations, identity verification, job searches and award payments. This will enable the data to be processed digitally. Artificial intelligence will be used to scan for security intrusions or patterns indicative of fraud.

Voice recognition and artificial intelligence can extend the opportunities to automate by making it possible for machines to conduct operations that are more complicated and less routine.

How might new technologies impact VoIP?

For VoIP providers such as IDT, there are three ways in which AI might eventually affect business.

Firstly, it may one day play a key role in finding the cheapest and most efficient network routes to connect a VoIP call. Blockchain technology provides the means to automatically complete contractual arrangements and transfer payments with other telecom networks and infrastructure providers on-the-fly.

Secondly, like businesses in other sectors, intelligent robotic agents can be used to supplement customer service interactions. Many websites already pop-up an invitation to “talk” to a customer service agent by exchanging messages. Some of these services are staffed by real people, but others are not. Those that depend upon a computerised expert system are often programmed using AI. They learn how to answer questions appropriately until their expertise makes them indistinguishable from real personnel. With the advent of voice recognition software and improved voice simulation algorithms, some people believe that AI will soon be as convincing over a telephone line.

That said, a VoIP wholesale carrier often competes with rival companies by providing superlative customer service, so they are unlikely to be the first to eliminate their human agents.

The third way in which a VoIP wholesale carrier can take advantage of AI is by offering it as a service to their customers.

VoIP already provides opportunities to automate calls from Outlook and CRM systems. It is straightforward to add “virtual agents” to make automatic telesales, acknowledgement or follow-up calls. Voice recognition allows virtual agents to recognise when to escalate a call to a member of staff.

A single AI-driven system can save an enormous number of staff hours for companies already heavily reliant on telesales or outsourced customer service operations. And they don’t start making mistakes when they get tired.

Limits of machine “intelligence”

One thing that people do (to some extent) but machines can not, is understand their own limitations. In 1987, programmed trading patterns caused the Black Monday stock market crash. Regardless as to how well process automation works in routine circumstances, its very success can lead to the exclusion of human beings with the power to improve it.

AI systems that talk to customers will become more common in coming years, but those that don’t frustrate the human beings they talk to are still hard to imagine.