As the 2020 pandemic stretched into October, industry analysts at IBISWorld made a radical adjustment to their flagship VoIP trends report. Where once they believed the voice-over-internet-protocol industry would continue the slight 1.9% contraction of the previous five years, widespread office closures led to an unexpected telecommunications boom that would cause them to reevaluate their earlier prediction. IBISWorld’s new projection was that VoIP industry revenue would grow by 8.3% through the year’s end.
Data for 2020 isn’t available yet, so we can’t verify that calculation’s accuracy. But there’s a lesson here: The VoIP industry landscape is heavily influenced by social and technological forces; as a result, the landscape shifts quickly. To take full advantage of this technology—whether you’re a provider or a user of the service—it pays to follow the latest VoIP industry trends. Here are five of the most exciting developments in the VoIP space to watch for in 2021.
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will improve VoIP call centers.
Natural language understanding (NLU), a subset of AI that allows computers to process unedited human speech, is going mainstream. Along with other AI advances, NLU allows intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) to handle more and more customer service tasks within VoIP-based interactive voice response (IVR) systems. These voice-automated systems can take orders, process returns, and more—without relying on a human employee.
Humans haven’t been completely removed from the equation, but voice artificial intelligence streamlines these interactions, too. Because AI-enhanced IVR systems translate human speech into text, they can automatically compile relevant details about calls. That gives call center staff all the information they need to resolve requests quickly—without callers having to repeat themselves. In short, the combination of AI, IVR, and VoIP will help reduce costs and improve the customer experience simultaneously. Providers of contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) solutions—or any cloud-based IVR-IVA system—can pass those savings on to their clients, reducing costs across the board.
2. Responsive machine speech will boost consumer confidence in voice chatbots.
Conversational AI relies on text-to-speech (TTS) to supply its half of the conversation. When that TTS is stiff and robotic, callers are more likely to hang up in frustration. As AI-trained voice models lead to a proliferation of TTS speaking styles—including expressions of mood—voice assistants within VoIP systems will be able to tailor their speech to respond appropriately to widely varying requests.
For instance, if a caller asks to open a new account, the chatbot could reply with an enthusiastic “Certainly, let’s get that started.” If the next caller registers a complaint, that same TTS voice may reply with an apologetic dip in tone. Customers will be spared the impression of robotic indifference, and you’ll get fewer dropped calls.
3. 5G networks will move communication systems into the cloud.
Faster, more stable mobile broadband has arrived with the ongoing 5G rollout. (Analysts expect more than 1.3 billion 5G subscriptions globally by 2023.) That makes cloud-based communication systems more attractive, leading to heavier reliance on the latest VoIP technology for phone services of all descriptions. Expect to see a lot more organizations take advantage of the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) model, in which companies outsource their entire communications infrastructure to cloud-based phone systems managed by third-party providers.
4. VoIP will merge with other voice-first technology.
When we discuss VoIP, we’re usually talking about traditional uses: enterprise phone systems, inbound call centers, even outbound alerts and marketing calls. But as voice user interfaces continue to proliferate, normalizing the experience of interacting with machines through speech, we can expect to see VoIP functionality crop up in unexpected places: smart speakers and Internet of Things devices, for instance, or even voice picking systems in the logistics industry.
5. Voice branding will become essential for VoIP systems.
The expected growth of the VoIP industry is part of a broader trend: the burgeoning Internet of Voice. Connected, voice-first technology has entered the public’s kitchens and living rooms in the form of smart speakers and IoT devices. It’s entered our pockets through mobile phones. This is a whole new universe of potential brand/customer engagement—but to differentiate yourself, you need a consistent, recognizable TTS brand voice that speaks across every audio touchpoint, including VoIP systems.
Are there any VoIP trends we missed? Tweet us @Readspeaker to share your thoughts!