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What to Expect From AI in Business Communications in 2024

Monty Python fans know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but we all expect the AI invasion to continue into 2024. Unified communications and contact center vendors have been enhancing their products with all types of AI functionality, and while many consumers have played around with AI and experienced the “wow” factor of ChatGPT, AI can provide even more significant value and benefits for businesses, especially when it comes to business communications.


Experimentation and False Starts

I anticipate that 2024 to be a year of experimentation – with a lot of trial and error, some positive returns as well as some disappointing results, followed by revisions to business plans. In some cases, businesses will automatically benefit from AI that’s embedded into the applications they already use, such as noise cancellation for meetings, or contact center quality management – without having to purchase or deploy anything new.

Once they get past the AI already woven into existing platforms and tools, most organizations will be scratching their heads trying to figure out where best to apply AI, where to find the right use cases, and where to make their investments. Once AI has been deployed, organizations will then have to spend time identifying what works and what doesn’t work, and how to optimize their use cases and deployments.

Organizations that spend time developing AI strategies based on their business objectives, deploy AI for the appropriate use cases, and optimize their deployments will attain the many benefits that AI promises – including, but not limited to, enhanced worker productivity, cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.

As with any new technology innovation, expect to see a lot of false starts as some businesses deploy AI first, strategize second. In many cases users will get frustrated because the new AI tools don't work as expected. For example, I’ve been using some of the generative AI meeting summaries apps, but they really fell short, and I spent a good amount of time going through the summaries and fixing the many errors. What will happen when people who missed a meeting use the meeting catch-me-up and highlights capabilities but the AI misrepresented an important discussion point, or left out an action item? Will AI become the new “dog that ate the homework”?

Despite AI’s promise, there’ll be a lot of mistakes made along the way as we navigate the early days of some of the new AI capabilities, particularly for generative AI.


Vendors Will Need to Demonstrate Value

On the vendor side, the key themes for 2024 will be responsible AI, with a focus on security, privacy, and ethics. AI vendors will need to consider the impact of AI on society in general, while also eliminating bias in their applications, safeguarding privacy, reducing regulatory risks, and focusing on ethical guidelines in how they develop and deploy AI-powered features and platforms. The vendors that rise to the top will be those that can assure proper governance and appropriate guardrails, ensuring privacy and security.

Legal and liability issues will come to the forefront in the coming year, especially as it relates to the use of end-user data for training the AI models, proper use of user and customer data, and unexpected or harmful outcomes based on AI recommendations. Will end users need to provide consent every time they open an app? When is a company liable for something the AI suggested? Who is responsible for data leaks and ensuring user privacy? Legal scholars will be in high demand navigating unchartered territory.

Vendors will also need to demonstrate the true business value and user productivity benefits of their AI tools. We’re all having fun playing around with AI, using ChatGPT to write poems and wedding toasts – but AI needs to prove that it provides a real return on investment and will ultimately help workers save time while becoming more efficient and productive.

Scalability and pricing are other areas the vendors will need to tackle. Pricing models are still being determined and tweaked. Some vendors are charging for their AI capabilities - notably Microsoft is charging $30 per user per month for its Copilot - while Zoom and others are providing their AI tools free of charge to customers. Some AI capabilities are being embedded or baked into applications at no charge. Running AI, especially generative AI, is not inexpensive, and vendors will need to balance their costs with what customers are willing to pay for these capabilities. Expect to see different pricing models and changes to these models throughout the year.

There will also be a battle for AI talent, within both the vendor and end-user communities. AI start-ups will be acquired not just for their technology, but for their AI talent and expertise. Workers who can demonstrate a good understanding of AI will be in high demand within enterprises that want to fast-track their AI deployments and need the right internal proficiency.


Going Beyond Table Stakes

Vendors will also need to focus on AI differentiation, going beyond the low-hanging fruit of AI offerings, as some AI capabilities will become table stakes in 2024. For example, most meeting vendors now offer post-meeting summarization and highlights, as well as live meeting transcripts.

For customer experience (CX) vendors, capabilities such as Agent Assist and interaction summarization are becoming table stakes, as the majority of the CX vendors have already introduced or announced these capabilities. Organizations will need to look beyond these applications to AI capabilities that are predictive, add advanced insights, provide “copilot” or assistance capabilities, etc.

For example, here are some interesting offerings on the CX side:

  • NICE Enlighten XO is used to identify and comprehend customer intents, agent tasks, and workflows to help pinpoint and prioritize top automation opportunities, taking the guesswork out of where to best apply AI. In addition, Enlighten Copilot, Enlighten Autopilot, and Enlighten Actions help to better engage, predict, and take actions to improve consumer experiences. Enlighten Actions uses generative AI to make unstructured data more accessible to help CX leaders better understand their operations and them to take action.
  • Five9, which has been a leader in conversational AI, is working on an AI Knowledge Distiller solution, a contextual data aggregator service that “allows you to curate knowledge from wherever it lives and put it everywhere.”
  • Verint’s Data Insights bot delivers actionable insights with intuitive queries powered by generative AI to provide personalized headlines to give managers information on what they care about.
  • Talkdesk offers specific AI capabilities for a number of vertical markets and use cases, as well as an AI Trainer that makes AI easy to train.
  • Dialpad offers its own large language model, DialpadGPT, which can be used for coaching agents with tools like live sentiment analysis and post-call QA scoring.


Turning Up the Volume on AI

If you thought 2023 was the year of AI, you ain’t seen nothing yet! In 2024 the volume will go to 11 (“This is Spinal Tap” fans will understand). By this time next year, we may all be talking about “AI fatigue.”

Businesses will need to approach AI with a realistic vision and strategy, understanding both the benefits and pitfalls. Whether for communications and collaboration, or for contact center/CX use cases, businesses will have a large range of options, with all types of vendors vying for their attention. With a well-thought-out strategy, the proper use cases, and realistic expectations, businesses can look to 2024 as the year AI went from a vision to a reality.

For now, we can all enjoy using ChatGPT in our day-to-day lives, and yes, even for creating stupid poems such as this one:

In realms of code, where language weaves,

A tool emerges, one that conceives.

ChatGPT, a guide through digital space,

In the hands of consumers, a powerful embrace.

From questions deep to tales untold,

In the chatbox, connections unfold.

Seeking knowledge, advice, or jest,

ChatGPT responds at users' behest.

In forums, chats, a world online,

Consumers find a friend in each line.

A digital confidant, ever near,

ChatGPT listens, without a single tear.

This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.