Consumers love to communicate with each other over text channels and, according to recent studies, they are eager to use this mode of communication to interact with businesses. There are three main forms of text-based communication battling for the future: Messaging, chat, and texting.
Category Archives: AI
Every tech trend has a natural lifespan. It starts on the fringes, builds momentum with early adopters, then moves into the mainstream. Subsequently, you get some start-up successes, then a rush of VC-funded efforts, then an overshoot in expectations, and finally a settling-in to some kind of status quo. Think “P2P”, “big data”, “IoT”, or “blockchain”.
But “AI” is a different animal. It doesn’t follow these rules because its definition is fuzzy. “AI” isn’t a particular technology (like blockchain) or even a particular concept like IoT. This creates a unique challenge for journalists, investors and entrepreneurs.
Big news in the call center world broke last week: NewVoiceMedia (NVM) was acquired by Vonage for $350M. What does it mean? Well, the obvious take-away is that cloud-based call centers continue to be a hot space and a great way to build value for investors.
Some commentators talk about a “wave of consolidation” as if it’s a time-limited event, but as I look back at the last decade, it seems more like a constant rhythm in the industry. As long as I’ve been following the space, this acquisition pattern has been ticking along reliably. The exits get the headlines but innovative new entrants are continuing to launch.
There are other takeaways, too: Vonage’s big plan, the Salesforce angle, the Twilio angle…
When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), there are many fear-mongering headlines in circulation. Recently, Elon Musk defined it as an “Immortal Dictator”, two words that reaffirm my mother’s belief that AI could mean the end of the human race. I can safely assume that you know someone who, like my mother, fears that AI is intimidatingly capable of taking over humans and their resources.
We’ve seen this reflected in post-apocalyptic movies like the Terminator series, The Matrix and Blade Runner. These blockbusters vividly play off of fears and force audiences to see AI as having sinister motives (like overtaking humanity). Yet, we have now seen this negative AI narrative emerge in sensationalized news pieces, videos, and industry articles. This has resulted in an endless wave of pessimistic chatter, and it is distracting us from exploring the many unique and positive outcomes of AI.
I just returned from the excellent Conversational Commerce Conference. It’s not a big event (just one track over two days), but it is very focused. I heard two excellent success stories on recent bot deployments. I think I need to revise downward my bot-skepticism a bit.
The highlight for me was a fireside chat with Dan Miller, Mitch Lieberman and Chris Messina over what exactly is meant by saying something is “conversational”. It’s a term with multiple meanings, all of which are central to the future of commerce, customer service and, more broadly, how people and companies are going to interact in the future.
We got a lot of feedback on last week’s blog, both in private and in public (see this thread on LinkedIn, for example). Contemplating the eventual fate of humans in the customer service process leads to some spicy conversations. This is a) partly because terminology around AI is problematic; b) partly because objective data is sparse; c) partly because the loudest voices have, well, let’s say motivated reasoning; and d) partly because there are multiple overlapping questions.
On that last point, the debate led me to some new ways to think about the problem that will help to separate the overlapping questions (somewhat, at least).