Channel Dynamics in the Age of AI: Impact and Potential

Hilary Oliver, Chief Customer Officer at Tollring offers the following comments on the impact of AI and it’s potential in the channel.

AI’s Impact on the Channel Landscape

Most of us are already using AI-technology on a regular basis but many of us are unaware that it is already embedded in existing tools.

ChatGPT has become extremely popular and is known for being an ‘AI tool’ however other applications are less obviously powered by AI technology, such as within chat bots, where they seamlessly answer questions or direct enquiries to a human being. In social media and email marketing tools it is increasingly present – it’s even within Snapchat, which shows it has become mainstream.

Any user of Microsoft Teams also uses AI every day, probably without knowing it. The AI technology in Teams is designed to enhance the user experience, for example it improves audio quality by suppressing background noise and it enhances video quality by adjusting brightness and frame cropping. Microsoft’s Copilot is also gaining traction.

AI technology is propelling business applications to the next level and most businesses in the UK use AI already – but in many cases this is not intentional!

Channel Strategies for Overcoming AI Adoption Challenges

The term AI itself can be a barrier to adoption, due to the fear of AI, the need for adherence to security policies and a lack of understanding of its benefits.

AI needs to be positioned as an enabler and a tool, rather than a solution on its own. It must be distilled into business use cases so that it is clear to the average business how it can help them to improve processes and achieve their end goals.

The channel needs to train their people and build knowledge on the power of AI. It is important to understand any concerns that customers may have that stem from the ‘fear of AI’ and educate on how these concerns can be allayed, focusing on the wide range of clever applications and the practical advantages that can be applied to their specific needs.

Exploring AI Offerings: A Channel Perspective

AI already powers many current business applications and many users are unaware how much they already leverage AI in everyday business life. This helps when positioning AI-driven applications and products, because applications like Microsoft Teams transcriptions can be used as good examples, helping the industry to commoditise AI and reduce the barriers to adoption.

AI is becoming prevalent in analytics. Knowing what customers need, how they behave and how they buy is critical to any customer experience (CX) strategy. Predicting customer behaviour is made possible with AI, taking value added channel offerings to the next level.

Tollring has introduced AI into their latest recording solution, making it possible to gauge sentiment and analyse the conversations that matter in an automated way. The AI element adds a new dimension where qualitative insights can become quantitative, enabling a business to be more effective at seeing clearly what their customer service looks like at scale – and, critically, where to make improvements.

The channel needs to look for applications powered by AI that can help them differentiate, where the business application is not only useful, practical and drives business outcomes but also compliments their overall proposition.

Navigating Disruption: Key AI Vendors Shaping the Channel

We see Microsoft as a leader in this space. They are disrupting the market whilst leveraging the power of AI capabilities to automate and improve everyday business tasks and processes. Users are already benefiting from AI on a daily basis through Microsoft transcription services, for example.

Tollring has also integrated AI technology into our latest cloud call recording solution. This is a platform-agnostic call recording service that facilitates compliance and delivers automated analysis of customer experience, at scale. This is particularly valuable for partners that are making inroads in the Microsoft Teams space, as they can sell the same product across the different systems they sell with no need to skill up or reinvest. Tollring also makes it as easy as possible for partners to sell, provision, support and bill these solutions, with access to comprehensive APIs and the ability to buy direct or via Microsoft’s marketplaces.

AI Market Evolution Over the Next 18 Months

As knowledge around the benefits of AI powered solutions grows, the lifecycle of AI will quickly move from the early adopters to early/late majority over the next 18 months. The practical business applications of AI technology will become more understood with clear evidence of the benefits. And similar to the adoption of cloud computing, security, deployment and compliance options will become better articulated and accepted.

For channel providers, being able to offer AI-based services is already a differentiator. It demonstrates progression in line with market trends and gives confidence in ‘future-proofing’ solutions.

Over the next 18 months, services that incorporate AI-based technologies will become increasingly mainstream, delivered as smaller bite-sized and tangible services that are more accurate, faster and reliable. These solutions will enable businesses to further improve customer interactions using the intelligence in their existing data.