Three Big Ideas for 2024

Authored by Jon Arnold from J Arnold & Associates

Three Big Ideas for 2024 in the contact center space

Nothing stands still in the communications technology world, but with AI breaking out during 2023, the bar for both disruption and innovation will be raised to a new level in 2024. In terms of understanding how big ideas apply to your business, it’s important to connect some dots. AI is truly a big idea, but its breakout is the byproduct of another big idea, namely cloud. 

Both of these big ideas didn’t happen overnight; they have been evolving for years, but are now foundational for every business, both large and small. As such, cloud migration had better be on your 2024 roadmap, as you’ll need that to realize the benefits that AI is poised to bring. To illustrate, here are three big ideas for IT leaders to consider for 2024.

Chatbots get smart 

Nobody thinks that chatbots are a good proxy to talking to live agents, but no contact center has the luxury of having agents handle every inquiry directly. Self-service has long been the weak link in the customer service value chain; although in many cases, it’s just one of many weak links. Regardless, most forms of IVR are woefully inadequate, so even a primitive chatbot can be an improvement.

That’s not good enough, however, as today’s customer expectations are beyond what the legacy technologies behind IVR can support. Very basic forms of service can be handled this way, but the bigger problem set is rising call volumes, along with the growth of digital channels that make it easier than ever for customers to connect with companies and their brands.

A better model for self-service is needed, and being driven by digital technology along with AI, chatbots are the way forward. Unfortunately, first-generation chatbots were only nominally better than IVR, and the stigma of being robotic and impersonal has persisted. 

However, AI has advanced significantly - especially in the area of conversational AI – and today’s chatbots are more proficient and engaging. Contact center use cases are particularly attractive, and chatbots are now being deployed in dozens of ways to improve CX and automate operations. 

Prime examples include more intelligent algorithms to route calls away from agents to bots, agent assistants to provide real-time coaching, being able to handle both open and closed-ended inquiries, and more accurate ability to understand customer intent. 

These use cases have only entered the market this year, and as vendors start showing tangible ROI, more bots will follow, especially given how AI innovation cycles are quite short. As this trend unfolds, you can expect to see perceptions shift in 2024 in terms of the business value of bots, especially in the contact center.

Generative AI explodes

ChatGPT made Generative AI the hottest trend in 2023, not just for the novelty effect, but also for some of AI’s glaring shortcomings. Being so accessible and so easy to use, nearly everyone has experimented with GAI – especially the free versions – and few technologies have had such mass adoption in so short a time. While most of this activity was frivolous, practical business use cases have started to emerge, but still with great caution.

As with all things AI-based, GAI’s value proposition is a dual-edged sword. The prospect of GAI doing the writing or research for you is too good to resist, especially since most people find writing a chore and/or aren’t very good at it. Just as alluring is the simple reality that humans cannot draw from sources at the scale and speed of AI – not to mention at no cost - making this just another form of outsourcing.

Conversely, as we all know, this is not an apples-to-apples trade-off with humans doing their own writing and research, as the output from GAI is often problematic in ways that are too numerous to count. Just as quickly as GAI was embraced, soon came the pushback once reality set in. Given how quickly AI is evolving, most view this as part of the learning curve, and will continue pushing things forward. Too much has been invested in GAI to consider this a failed experiment, especially with so many “AI for good” applications that are in their infancy.

But wait, there’s more, and that’s the big idea for 2024. ChatGPT from OpenAI and its GAI ilk (Google Bard, Microsoft Bing, Anthropic Claude, Meta Llama2, etc.) took AI to a new level in 2023, but now along comes Google Gemini. While it’s too early to know if Gemini represents GAI 2.0 with more refinements, or a radically different model that will supplant GAI, this will keep GAI in the forefront for 2024.

"...it’s too early to know if Gemini represents GAI 2.0 with more refinements, or a radically different model that will supplant GAI..."

In short, Google Gemini represents a more integrated approach for GAI. While it does the same things as the other GAI players, the model is natively multimodal. OpenAI’s approach has been based on single modes – ChatGPT for text, DALL-E for video and Whisper for speech. In response to Gemini (bragging rights are very important to both Google and Microsoft), OpenAI is becoming more integrated, but after the fact, making them followers for this new model.

There’s much more to unpack here, but the main idea is that Gemini is bringing more of the general system to market, where all types of inquiries can be supported with one model. Along the lines of the singularity, Google plans to include other modes like touch, which could make Gemini eerily more human-like than most would be comfortable with. 

As these ideas become more mainstream, the next acronym to watch for will be AGI – artificial general intelligence – especially if Gemini emerges as the next big idea for GAI. Nothing is for certain, however, and GAI could also implode in 2024 if effective safeguards and policies aren’t developed, and/or if it doesn’t get good enough before the novelty wears off.

"...the next acronym to watch for will be AGI..."

Our voice becomes more valuable than ever

This is really a byproduct of the above ideas, and speaks (no pun intended) to how pervasive technology is becoming in our lives. Large language models (LLM – yet another must-know acronym now) are the underpinning for GAI and chatbots, and as their power becomes better understood, businesses will seek to capture as many conversations as possible.

Digital transformation remains a meta-level trend, and voice is one of the last frontiers for becoming fully digitized. Almost all forms of text and visual communication are now digital, but the nuances of human speech make our conversations more difficult to effectively digitize. AI has gone a long way to overcoming these challenges, and the big idea here is that 2024 will give new meaning to the “voice of the customer”.

With so much human communication being verbal, our conversations are now becoming an invaluable resource for expanding and fine-tuning LLMs. This only becomes apparent if you view voice as just another data stream – this is part of digital transformation – in which case new value arises beyond the content of our conversations. These data streams can dramatically scale the power of LLMs, and AI tools are good enough now to capture conversations both accurately and cost-effectively.

For business leaders, this further supports the rationale to invest in AI, as well-trained LLMs can help contact centers improve CX, and help workers improve productivity. We’ll have a better sense as to how real those outcomes will be in 2024, but there’s another important aspect to this big idea.

Humans are conversational by nature, and we’ve never had to think about all of these actions being captured and converted into feedstock for LLMs. Just as creative types bristle against seeing their original ideas and outputs being appropriated by GAI, workers of all stripes may become more wary about this applying to their everyday conversations. 

"...we’ve never had to think about all of these actions being captured and converted into feedstock for LLMs."

This could have implications for workplace behaviors around where and when people converse, along with privacy concerns, and feelings of exploitation or mistrust if the business is viewed as reaping financial benefit from conversational data. Behaviors always change when new forms of value are created, and this will be one to watch for in 2024.

Conclusion

Big ideas only matter when they become real and can make an impact, and that’s what you should expect in 2024 with AI. Cloud has been a big idea for some time, but by setting the stage for AI, its relevance to your business plans becomes even greater. As such, if just getting started with cloud migration, you’ll really be doing it with purpose now. The big ideas cited here – chatbots, Generative AI and voice becoming a valuable data stream – are all AI-driven, and are all poised to impact your business in 2024. 

For IT leaders, the takeaway here is that these big ideas are more than just new forms of technology to deploy in your organization. They are transformative, and will change the way your employees work and engage with your customers. This itself is a big idea, and IT’s role will need to transform and become more strategic. As such, there will be opportunities not just to enhance operational performance, but to make IT more of a change agent than just a purveyor of new technology.

Three Big Ideas for 2024
Jon Arnold

As Principal of J Arnold & Associates, Jon is an independent research analyst providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel with a focus on the business-level impact of disruptive communications technologies.

Three Big Ideas for 2024Three Big Ideas for 2024

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