That Voice on the Phone

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ai chatbotWhen someone told me a tech company was using AI to have legitimate voice conversations with sales prospects over the phone, I was skeptical. Then I listened to some examples. The voice and interactions sounded so real that I became even more skeptical that I was even listening to AI. The technology behind it was EVE, a company founded in 2016 that actually uses pre-recorded human responses to engage with someone over the phone. If it sounded so human, that’s because the responses were in fact human voices. EVE’s system is not artificial intelligence in the current sense like ChatGPT. Instead, EVE is using a dialogue tree, a system of recorded responses that are played based upon the interpreted communication of the person. It understands what the person is saying and chooses the right response quickly. And speed is key, because according to Alex Skrypka, CEO of EVE.calls, people will feel that something is off if it takes longer than 1 second to receive a response to something that’s said. The trick is never having the customer figure out that they’re talking to a bot.

In the earlier days, this technology had limitations. EVE could only handle simple voice commands. That progressed, however, to where it could be the opening sales caller, getting prospects to the point where they were pre-qualified and passed onto a human. But by last year it was beginning to assist in closing deals. Skrypka believes that by next year it will advance to a level where it is closing independent deals all on its own and by 2027 will be considered not only an expert closer but also be able to up-sell the customer while doing it.

Sales professional on phoneThe possibilities call to mind a recent popular post on LinkedIn about one thing remaining constant in fintech despite all the advancements in automation is the demand by customers to want to talk to someone. But tech is now addressing that in ways previously thought unimaginable. Customers are already talking to AI agents through neural network technology like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, though mainly in text/chatbot form. As of September, however, ChatGPT was brought to life with a voice. The current options of Juniper, Breeze, Cove, Sky and Ember are a variety of synthetic male and female voices that ChatGPT can speak as but they don’t sound that synthetic when you listen to them. I could be fooled by Juniper.

According to Skrypka, the challenge with putting something like ChatGPT on the phone right now is that crucial response delay time. It’s going to give away that it’s an AI. For testing’s sake, I tried this out and found that while Juniper held up pretty well in a light conversation, she broke the immersion a few times when she had to think about something I said for 7 or 8 seconds.

Perhaps a voice bot, whether it be based on a dialogue tree or a neural network doesn’t have to be perfect 100% of the time anyway, just good enough to scale a business efficiently and cost effectively. EVE, for example, touts that it can handle up to 1 million calls per hour. Imagine how many sales representatives it would take to have 1 million phone conversations an hour.

To think that these capabilities are only going to get better! If customers continue to feel that talking to someone on the phone is necessary before making a big decision, the world of fintech will continue to serve them. But whether that sales person or customer service rep is really a person or a bot is something the customer may never know for sure.

Last modified: November 10, 2023
Sean Murray

Category: sales

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