Ride the wave of AI opportunities

AI & ML Vendors
Jonathan Mckenzie, senior contact center product manager, 8x8, explains why channel partners have a golden chance to ride the wave of opportunities for AI solutions, but strategic considerations are crucial.

The conversations and discussions over artificial intelligence (AI) – generative and other kinds – are not going away. At gatherings like last week’s Call and Contact Centre Expo, AI has come from virtually nowhere to being one of the main buzzwords alongside event permaphrases like CX and EX.

We are in the midst of an ongoing AI transformation, which is unlikely to stop, in fact, it will accelerate. Businesses are at the forefront of adopting and implementing cutting-edge technologies to streamline processes and elevate their workforce's expertise, focusing on key areas of priority.

Embracing AI, generative AI and other kinds has become paramount. But what does this mean for the channel?

Channel partners hold a pivotal role in this journey. Their expertise is instrumental in guiding businesses through the intricate challenges of our evolving conversational AI digital and voice world.

Channel partners serve as invaluable allies, ensuring that customer experiences (CX) and contact centre (CC) technology innovation aligns seamlessly with customer needs while prioritising the optimisation of resources and fostering a culture of continuous employee/agent growth.

Partners’ vision and leadership contribute significantly to shaping the future of technology adoption and innovation, placing both businesses and their workforce on the forefront of success in an ever-changing landscape.

Forward looking companies have been exploring AI, especially with chatbots, and looking to see the possible use cases over the years as well as gauging customer interest in this technology, but it was ChatGPT rocketing into the public consciousness at the end of 2022 that has driven the current surge of interest, which shows no signs of abating. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle, now we need to harness its power for CX.

Challenges and opportunities

What this means for the channel is that there are huge opportunities - but also challenges. On the one hand, conversational AI continues to evolve, becoming more adept at handling human interactions and enhancing the role of customer-facing professionals, but who is overseeing it?

By 2031, Gartner predicts that AI chatbots and virtual assistants will oversee 30 per cent of interactions that traditionally required a human touch. The question for channel partners is: How do they fit into this evolving landscape? There's ample opportunity for savvy channel organisations to leverage AI's impact on the contact centre, but a forward-thinking approach is paramount.

The generative AI market is expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, from £8.9 billion in 2023 to £41 billion by 2028. Vendors are introducing new AI capabilities into their contact centre solutions at a rapid pace, helping end-user organisations to improve customer and employee experiences across the board.

The strength/proof of chatbots lies in the quality of the data supporting them, and herein lies the channel's opportunity. As organisations seek intelligent, AI-powered solutions, the focus must be on prioritising the training and development behind the scenes.

That’s why smart channel partners are asking the question of who is responsible for feeding and training the chatbots. Is that an existing role with their own organisation that needs to be upskilled, for example? Or are we looking at the creation of new roles and positions?

There is also the question of analytics. Who is going to check that chatbots and AI are working as well as human interactions? Channel partners can take this in their stride and look to offer advanced training and management capabilities that will augment the role of customer service employees.

So, clearly, there’s lots of potential - but that’s also where the problem lies. Many organisations are jumping on the AI bandwagon without doing a proper assessment of their digital needs or how it integrates with the rest of their technology.

That’s where channel partners come in and, instead of just pushing the quickest solution out there, actually spend time to integrate and understand each company’s needs. Longer term, that could be far more lucrative.

Managed services

Does this mean the channel needs to move more towards a managed service space? A number of components are needed to ensure AI chatbots are able to deliver an excellent customer experience.

To ensure success, there is not only a need to understand AI from a technical standpoint, but also what constitutes an optimal customer journey.

As a result, a range of different capabilities are required in the development of AI, skills that can tap into both the technical and human interaction perspectives.

Amongst channel partners, there is a wide ecosystem of capabilities to help improve the potential of intelligent AI for customer service within end-user organisations.

Moving towards an ecosystem model takes the pressure off an organisation when it comes to resourcing.

If done correctly, this could be an additional revenue source, providing the channel with the ability to wrap their capabilities into a full managed service contract focused on helping organisations set up, manage and analyse the success of their chatbot functionality.

Looking to the future

Five years ago, most people would have thought of AI as something mostly seen in science fiction movies. Now, everyone knows about it. Things changed and what worked five years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. That also applies to the channel. As AI advances rapidly, the channel must evolve too, steering away from what worked in the past and embracing the future.

There is an opportunity within the channel to provide a fully managed service contract, focussed around setting up, managing, providing skills and support to ensure the success of the chatbot functionality in the era of AI.

Looking ahead, the channel has the opportunity to offer fully managed service contracts, focusing on the setup, management, and support to ensure chatbot functionality as a contact centre option thrives in the era of AI.

The future is there to be seized.

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