AI that can ‘listen like a human’ is set to revolutionise business

Dr Nando de Freitas, a lead researcher at Google’s DeepMind, recently grabbed tech headlines with his claim that humanity is closer than ever to creating artificial general intelligence. Although hotly contested by many in the sector, this type of technology would have a profound impact on the business community, its operations and how it approaches customer interactions. Instead of training algorithms on existing data sets, super AI might be able to listen, read emotion and extract information in a way that mimics human understanding.

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According to Adam Sypniewski, CTO at automated speech recognition specialist Deepgram, nobody has yet tried to deploy a solution at scale which models customers’ cognitive state; most cognitive modelling is small-scale and often academic. But being able to intuit what a human is thinking, for example, ‘she has just asked me three times to repeat myself which might mean she is confused, I should stop this call and escalate to a real human who can help’ would mean that organisations could build compelling voice experiences that could help customers and identify opportunities to improve.

To find out more about how advanced UK and US tech leaders believe conversational AI is, and how they plan to use it in the future, Red Box spoke to 800 of them across multiple industries. We found that nearly a third (30%) of the UK respondents believe AI is as good or better than humans at listening to conversations and reading emotions. They also say that the most likely inflection point for the widespread business adoption of AI that can ‘listen like a human’ in the UK is within the next five years.

Investors and leaders recognise the potential of conversational AI

Globally, AI has seen a huge amount of interest over the past five years with investment more than doubling in the past year to $93.5bn. At its core, it is sector-agnostic, already helping to make huge advances in areas such as health, pharma, financial services, and increasingly traditional and slower-to-innovate industries like law.

When fed the relevant data sets, the technology can provide actionable insights in areas ranging from compliance to customer service and experience. In our experience, ten minutes of voice data can yield more information about a customer than a year’s worth of CRM data – revealing important information about a customer’s personality, their experiences, their moods when interacting with a company, and anything else that makes them human.

Take the employee journey as another case. Held within voice data is tone that elucidates the true intentions behind words: with working arrangements that are increasingly remote, and well-functioning businesses operating from different sides of the planet, the ability of companies to record and analyse conversations is key to keeping ahead of and in line with how their workforce is feeling, their productivity levels as they relate to burnout, and how to help prevent the loss of talent. Additionally, understanding insights around call drivers from speech analytics can drive process improvements, content production and training initiatives that improve both the employee and customer experience.

AI in business: An industry snapshot

According to our research, many UK tech leaders believe AI to be superior at performing repetitive tasks (42%) and problem solving (33%) as well as more typically human tasks such as transcribing complex conversations (35%) and understanding individual employees or customers (37%). Whilst AI is typically seen to be best applied to data analysis and problem solving, nine out of ten (88%) tech

leaders say AI has, or will soon have, the ability to interpret human conversations as effectively as people can.

But how are businesses currently using conversational AI? Over a third (35%) say the use of AI to analyse conversational data is already helping them to improve customer experience and identify areas for internal improvement. When it comes to where conversational AI is being physically deployed, nearly half of those surveyed said they are already using voice capture technology in contact centres (47%) and between global offices (42%), with this adoption only set to increase. Two fifths (40%) also believe that AI will help improve retention, support flexible working, and provide great efficiency.

Making the workplace more flexible

For over two years now, remote and hybrid working practices have become the norm and businesses have sought to build policies which are practical, effective, and non-exclusionary. Many tech leaders believe AI is already playing a role in this, particularly in industries bound up in red tape where it can assist with complex compliance challenges. This is because conversational AI can flag communications which might breach terms and allow leaders to tackle root issues before they become dangerous to the organisation.

A further 35% of those surveyed believe AI is superior at understanding regional dialects and accents as well as interpreting multiple languages – crucial as workers and customers become increasingly remote from one another. The incoming voice data revolution is becoming clear for all to see. There is a belief amongst the chief decision makers working in UK businesses that those elements of human interactions that were thought to be beyond the reach of technology have been thrust into the grasp of AI – the productivity and efficiency gains this could bring are immense.

For those tech leaders who haven’t yet introduced voice capture software into their business, the average planned adoption time across back-office conversations, internal and external call centres and between different offices was just four and a half years. It is now time for companies to invest in conversational AI, unlock these benefits and utilise the vast swathes of data held within everyday conversations.

Challenges to be considered

So, what’s stopping them? One of the roadblocks that many organisations are facing is that they are losing out on unlocking the potential of their valuable data through AI analysis. This is because the third-party providers that they use to capture their communication data often put walls up around the information they collect to push up their own share prices. The result is that businesses’ market choice is fundamentally stifled, with the absence of control over various choke points such as databases.

Companies looking for a voice data capture partner should look for those which offer an open platform that allows data to be fed into applications of their choice – such as CRM compliance, business intelligence and AI and analytics tools. They should also ensure that the partnership will not impede on their ability to retain access to their data, always.

Aurelie Cnop, Academic Director of the Master in Digital Transformation and Leadership at ESCP Business School says that, looking at developments in neural technology and data analytics as well as increased computing power, it is clear now that AI will progressively augment and streamline many human activities in the next five years. Visionary leaders know that every interaction within their

organisation equates to data that can help it to become better – they just need the right tools to interpret it.

Richard Stevenson is CEO of Red Box, the global voice data capture platform

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