Telarus VP of UC, Shane Speakman, speaks with Dialpad expert, Dan O’Connell about AI applications in CC contact center and unified communications platforms.
Shane Speakman (00:03):
Hey everybody. Shane Speakman, vice President of UCaaS here at Telarus. And once again, we’re coming to you with an industry expert, and this time we have Mr. Dan O’Connell. Dan is the Chief Strategy Officer for Dialpad and an all-around AI expert, and I’m really excited to chat with you today.
Dan O’Connell (00:19):
Great to be here, Shane. Thanks for having me.
Shane Speakman (00:21):
Thanks. So when we, when we were chatting before recording you and I were talking about some of the AI pieces within communication platforms, and I’m really excited for partners to hear about the one really important or really well utilized piece of AI within our space. And so, so for those of you who are watching, stick around to the end and we’ll talk about that. But in general, Dan, when, when people talk about ai, especially as it applies to some of what we do, I think there’s a lot of ambiguity and partners who maybe have been in the world since the, the CLEC days and, and doing PRS and such. It’s just such a departure from the traditional voice. Can you talk about that evolution and maybe what you and your team have developed, especially from Talk IQ and the rest?
Dan O’Connell (01:07):
Yeah. Perfect. So I think, you know, to to, I think to many people, AI is this you know, unique term, they’re not quite sure what it means to me. There’s a couple things that show up in the UCaaS space. One is automatic speech recognition, which is how do we provide transcriptions of conversations, whether those are over the phone or, or in a meeting. And that provides a ton of value. You can suddenly have an, a searchable database of those conversations. You can drive insights from them. But the other piece is look, if you can start to map conversations and understand them and capture to them, you can also start to drive automations from ’em. And so I think there’s these immense opportunities and communication and collaboration software to drive productivity around doing things for you appending notes to a CRM, provided suggested answers to questions, doing automatic grading of, of things that get into quality assurance. So there’s these immense opportunities around AI and communications and collaborations I’m really excited about.
Shane Speakman (02:02):
Yeah, sure. And then when we talk about the customer experience, right, as consumers, you and I expect a great experience, especially when we’re, we’re transacting multiple times. And so as I look at AI from that, that side of the house, tell me what, what Dialpad and the industry is focused on when it comes to making that experience better and impacting sales.
Dan O’Connell (02:25):
Yeah, I think there’s, you know, things we’re focused on here at Dialpad, and I think this is true probably for the industry wide, especially in, as you said in CX, is really around automation and insights. Something that I think is really unique or what we’ll see play out over this next year is I think you’ll see a lot more startups and, and larger businesses investing kind of predictive analytics or predictive insights. And one of the things we recently developed was what we called AI CSAT, which is we infer customer satisfaction from a call. So, you know, if you’re in a customer satisfaction or you’re running a contact center, you don’t need to go and send post-call surveys. We can go and infer CSAT from that conversation in that moment in time. And so I think there’s these, again, these immense opportunities to, to, to take AI related technologies, so N L P or N L U, which would be natural language processing or understanding, and start to do some data mining and do some in inferring some insights from these conversations. And again, I think they can completely replicate old software. It can suddenly give you access to that much more data. And again, these are metrics that every contact center is managing to when you’re talking about things like CSAT.
Shane Speakman (03:32):
Sure. And, and I I I want to ask when, when I, when I look at your history at, at Google and of course Talk IQ, it’s so, it’s so interesting to me to see this evolution and how quickly it occurred. And so when we, when we look at, when we look at where the industry is today, if you could give me a prediction on where you see our industry as it relates to new technology. And, and I would caveat that with understanding that, wow, we’re in a really interesting time with the UCaaS world from the financial markets and such. And, and maybe your prediction on does that thwart some of that innovation or do you see that being imperative to UCaaS platform growth?
Dan O’Connell (04:13):
Yeah, to me, as I said, I think we’re, you know, even just five, if we think about the past five years and just the rise of speech recognition and suddenly we can get an accurate transcript of, of, of pretty much any conversation that we have. You know, if you think five years ago that was not something that was, that anyone was kind of thinking about, or we even had technology that could do it with, with reasonable accuracy. So when I think ahead, I’m like, look, any communication or collaboration software is gonna capture a conversation for you accurately transcribe it and empower automations and insights, even things like calendaring. So when I look at, you know, there’s a business called Calendly that’s out there that helps you find meeting times and simplify it. Well, you and I might run out of time in this conversation, and I would imagine our, our communication and collaboration software would say, look, Dan and Shane are are free next Wednesday at 2:00 PM if they run out of time, we have a little popup that comes up on this video meeting and says, Hey, do you guys want to book time next Wednesday?
Dan O’Connell (05:08):
So I think there’s like, again, all of these opportunities around communication and collaboration software and layering it with speech recognition and nlp, kind of the foundational technologies around AI to do things for us. And it’s not just about powering things in the contact center and for sales teams. I think there’s immense opportunities there to drive a lot of value, but there’s also this back office stuff where we waste a lot of time and you can apply AI to it to actually do things for you and just have a more seamless fund experience.
Shane Speakman (05:36):
And then looking at the financial markets, do you, do you see that the acquisition of AI companies by some of these larger platforms slows down? Do you see this innovation being necessary for adoption moving forward?
Dan O’Connell (05:50):
Yeah, I think it’s you know, I think to speak holistically, I think if there’s any businesses out there that’s not thinking about ai I think they’re gonna be behind the curve to better just to use it to better manage their business. And then specifically around communication, collaboration, contact center businesses you know, we have always made the bet of, we, we think AI is a key differentiator and, and we want to be an innovator. So we do that ourselves. We don’t use third party APIs, but I would say, look, if I was running another business in this space that was not investing in ai I would be partly terrified. I think you, that is the way to drive innovation and differentiation in the market and provide value that people are expecting. And so again, I think you’ll see a lot of these businesses go and pick up some startups in the space for sure.
Dan O’Connell (06:36):
I think obviously the macroeconomic environment has made it tough for some startups that are out there. And again, I think some of these, these, these features when we talk about AI are not necessar, are point solutions today. And I think if you’re building a business that’s a point solution, you kind of run out of tam of total adjustable market. And so naturally you go and get absorbed or acquired into a bigger business with a bigger tan. So I do think we’ll see some acquisitions continue to kind of accelerate over the next 18 months.
Shane Speakman (07:05):
That’s exciting. Right? When I, when I think back to the early days of PBX sales and especially as we transitioned into VoIP and hosted pbx, it was really a, it was really just a replacement, right? A key, a key system replacement or emulation. And so when I look at how we are really affecting change within a workspace how that customer again interacts with employees, it with the, with the tools that you and your peers are developing, it really changes the game. And I think the moniker of UCaaS gets lumped into voice. And, and when we stop thinking about some of the others, just like contact center at one point, people, people, and myself included, thought call center, especially coming from the long distance world. And so as I look at what you are developing with collaboration tools, talk to me again about how the entire technology stack is impacted, and then just in general what that looks like in a, in a holistic sale.
Dan O’Connell (07:59):
Yeah, and I don’t think, you know, people have been talking about the death of the phone call and the death of voice for, for I think every five years somebody comes out and says that to me, I think look, voice is more prolific than ever. And again, I think what people are, look, what I think people are looking for today, and I say this, you know, with a little bit of a bias from our standpoint is look, I think people want to buy one piece of software, or not every, not every buyer. I think a lot of buyers out there today would like to buy one piece of software to manage their communications internally and externally, and they want to have one database that can bring all of the analytics together, and they want that piece of software to do things for them. And that’s where I think AI comes in around solving automations suggested answers to questions, helping them helping them coach their team and drive performance, but also provide them with insights as to what is happening within those conversations. And as I said, it might be mapping sentiment or inferring customer satisfaction or understanding how often a competitor is mentioned. So to me, when I think of like, what does this perfect stack of technology look like in these opportunities, it’s about this unification of this, of these needs around being able to talk, meet and message. And then again, it’s about understanding insights and empowering automations from it,
Shane Speakman (09:15):
Right? It, and I, and I will say it’s much more complex than the days of old where we said, oh, you’re paying 5 cents a minute. Well, it’s 4 cents a minute on my platform. And so if you could, how would you advise a partner to shift to the conversation away from, oh, you’ve got even maybe a, a really good platform right now. Let me show you how to change that workflow. What, what does that conversation look like? And if you give, give some advice, help our partners.
Dan O’Connell (09:43):
Yeah, I think like one of the pieces of advice, and, and I never, you know, I’ve come into the, the UCaaS and the UCaaS business, you know, over the past kind of six years. So I very much came from a place of like not knowing that. So I, I naturally, you know, problematically think about it very differently anytime I talk to anybody, whether that is an investor, whether it’s a new employee that showed up, whether it’s somebody in the industry I always talk about, look, how do you have these con these conversations happen every day and this information is lost. And I just start there with, and that doesn’t matter whether that’s an internal meeting, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s this conversation that we’re having for, for kind of a podcast. It doesn’t matter if it’s an engagement with sales or in a contact center, but it is always, look, these conversations happen and we lose them.
Dan O’Connell (10:30):
And if we can capture those conversations, we can suddenly drive better performance, we can make better business decisions, we can save people time. And so I always talk about that is how I frame the conversation, and that is what I would advise people is ask them, Hey, how are you capturing and learning from the conversations that are happening in your frontline team? So in your contact center and with your sales organizations, if, because those are the places that are gonna drive revenue or reduce churn. And those are the key things that every business and the planet cares about. So I always kind of start there and then you can get into the, Hey, let’s go solve some other needs that fall into like the, the, the internal office communications of the back office communications that need to happen.
Shane Speakman (11:10):
That’s a fantastic answer. That’s gold. Yeah, I appreciate that. And then I think that’s a good segue into what, what is the most utilized piece of AI in collaboration and and what do you see as the real game changer and, and has the best adoption?
Dan O’Connell (11:24):
Yeah, I think two, two things that I see like very prolific over, you know, the past, I would say probably like the past year. And then I think what we’ll see play out here in the next kind of 18 months one is what we call digital self-service. So that means that people can get just instant answers to the questions. It’s kind of chat bot 2.0 that’s a lot smarter and can handle more complex use cases. That’s something that I see a ton of investment and a ton of adoption in. And then the second piece gets into, as I said, the, the automations and insights, which is suggested answers to questions every day. People struggle with finding and getting back to people with information. So we can arm agents with information that they need in that moment of time, so they don’t have to say, I don’t know, or, let me follow up, that’s a better experience. And then the last piece gets into again, these insights, which is I think every business cares about customer satisfaction and understanding sentiment. There’s some fantastic technologies to help address that and empower that insight.
Shane Speakman (12:23):
Fantastic. I, I love that I, if you would just really quickly talk about how AI or your transcription service has become so accurate. It’s, it’s been really interesting to see how this tool continues to be refined.
Dan O’Connell (12:38):
Yeah. So what’s interesting is so we, you know, for a little bit of context, so we, we built one of the first real-time speech recognition engines seven years ago at a business called Talk IQ. That, that two of my technical founders started. And really it’s been really interesting. Like any investor has been like, you guys were crazy to go and try and build this yourselves. Like why would you go and do it? And what was interesting is nobody was, so, nobody was focused on a real-time use case for transcription seven years ago. Everyone, there were ways that you could go capture a conversation, get a transcription post call, and what we realized was if we had a partnership with a UCaaS or a c a provider, suddenly it would arm us with, with some immense access to, to data, assuming users opt in to suddenly build these really accurate models.
Dan O’Connell (13:22):
So when we were starting Talk IQ, we had partnerships with talkdesk and a, and a business called Dialpad. And that, that, that partnership with Dialpad turned into an acquisition. But it all stems from, because we power the communications, we have access to this immense data set to go and train models. And that allows us to have industry leading accuracy. And why that matters to me is, look, if you can’t accurately transcribe a conversation, nothing else matters. Any automation you try to insight from it isn’t going to work. And any, any insight that you try to find is probably not gonna be that accurate. So we feel that we’re just in this really unique position of, you know, we partnered with the right business that turned into kind of a bigger opportunity, and then ultimately having access to a data set to go and train on.
Shane Speakman (14:07):
Very cool. And it shows, right, we’ve had immense success together, Dialpad and Telarus, and I think you’re right, we’ll continue to see innovation and I think as long as partners continue to have that consultative approach, these types of conversations will increase and, and will get away from a like for like type of a sale. Well,
Dan O’Connell (14:28):
Shane Speakman (14:29):
I, I’ll tell you what, I would love to have a part two to this. I, I think this is going to be very valuable to our partner community. I’ve really enjoyed it and unfortunately we’re outta time. But I really appreciate you coming on. You’ve just heard from Dan O’Connell and obviously he’s an AI expert. I would implore you to reach out to the Telarus team and talk about the innovation that we are seeing, and again, some of the opportunities that exist within ai, whether it’s Dialpad or some of the peers in Dan’s industry. I think what you’ll find is this is a game changer and absolutely imperative to your success long term. Thanks, everybody.