August 16, 2017

The Rise Of AI Receptionists and Automated Phone Systems – Part 1

By Josh Hamilton

The Rise Of AI Receptionists

For years most firms would have had to employ numerous phone operators and receptionists to deal with any and all calls that came through. Large companies would have employed entire departments simply just to deal with incoming phone calls; it’s a world that seems light years apart from the phone systems that the vast majority of phone companies use now. As automated phone systems and receptionists became cheaper and more sophisticated businesses turned to this new technology to cut staffing costs and allow them to deal with a much higher volume of calls.

As a result, phone operators and receptionists are one of the fastest disappearing job markets in the US at the moment. Between 2014 and 2024 there will be an estimated 33%  drop in employment figures in this line of work, shrinking an already diminished profession.

As well as more traditional phone operators, many businesses are beginning to turn away from traditional phone services altogether. VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services, such as those offered by RingCentral, are allowing companies to scale their communication requirements with very little cost or disruption and are quickly becoming the norm for both start-ups and larger businesses.

Built into these systems you’ll often find “auto-attendant” software, that gives an automated menu to customers once they call and helps direct them towards the right person or information. The advantages of this sort of system are clear, you will never miss a call or sales opportunity because of a lack of staff or a busy line and will receive the same level of service regardless of the time of day. So it is obvious as to why companies would choose this sort of flexibility over traditional staffing and hardware phone solutions.

However, this transformation has been driven not just by financial and logistical reasons, but by customer demand as well. HoldCom commented in an assessment of “live” receptionists vs auto attendant services that,

“Not too long ago most businesses answered calls live during “normal” business hours. So much has changed in how we work and live and communicate, I’m not sure what is considered normal.  Today customers expect 24/7, 365 support from any channel possible. In order to keep pace with customer demand auto-attendants are used everywhere – even local pizza shops.”

It is far from unusual to see industries or jobs disappear as technology advances, especially in the rapidly evolving disruption economy that we now inhabit, but there are questions to be asked about how necessary it is for businesses to rely upon these automated services.

Live agents can provide the personal feel that automated systems cannot and whilst it may seem more efficient for all parties involved to have customers deal with an automated system, this can make some customers feel under-valued (especially when the systems are poor designed and set-up). More than anything, the way that a company chooses to deal with incoming calls/queries can say a lot about the brand and company culture. Answering as many calls as possible with a live agent can allow companies to inject personality and a friendliness to each and every call, and it is this personal touch that can set companies ahead. With that said, it is almost entirely impractical for firms to answer all their calls live, especially as they grow and expand, so auto-attendant services are invaluable to help bridge that gap.

In part two we will be looking at the AI technology that allows firms to provide a more interactive and conversational phone system, without the need for human operators.

Sponsored series courtesy of Ring Central

By Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton ​is an aspiring journalist and writer who has written for a number of publications​ involving Cloud computing, Fintech and Legaltech​. ​Josh has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Law​ from ​Queen's University in Belfast​​. Studies included, Politics of Sustainable Development, European Law, Modern Political Theory and Law of Ethics​.
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