When it comes to AI, going a day without hearing or talking about it can be a challenge. This was the opening gambit of Aircall’s webinar, “How customer-facing teams can turn AI ambition into AI action”.
Featuring Tyler Rhodes, Senior Director of Sales SMB at HubSpot; Madelyn DePrey, VP of Customer Success at Aircall; and Jon Allder, Sales Development Representative at Salesloft, the webinar tackled the topic of AI and how sales and support teams can look beyond the noise to drive true business impact.
It’s a topic that warrants our attention, with AI growing 50% quicker than the overall software market, and 77% of businesses exploring or using it. All the while, it is a technology that continues to develop every day—to the extent that it is even taking over commentary duties for international tennis tournaments. By entering our everyday lives in such ways, most people’s attitudes toward AI have gone from complete denial to acceptance to curiosity.
The same could be said for our panel of experts, with Allder sharing how AI has helped him with his golf game—telling him which club to use and offering advice on his swing. The Peloton app has similarly helped DePrey compete with her own personal best. Finally, when it comes to bedtime stories, HubSpot’s own ChatSpot feature has helped Rhodes out with an unlimited supply—“I’m using AI to create stories for my two girls and making it sound like Dr. Seuss. It’s exciting!"
Today, the challenge for businesses is leveraging that excitement to figure out what AI can do for their sales and support teams. But one thing the panel agreed on is that it is set to drive productivity and restore the “wow factor” to human experiences.
The Power and Potential of AI for Businesses
It might be a bit of a leap from green eggs and ham to business impact, but Rhodes’ story about reading to his daughters is a perfect example of how AI works best as an enablement tool and not a replacement tool.
According to Aircall’s AI Index, when it comes to the workplace, an average of 20.8 hours a week is currently spent on busywork, training, and admin, while 63% of employees say having time to create and nurture meaningful customer relationships is a challenge.
This means customer-facing operations make for fertile ground for AI implementation by promising to save time and automate tasks—returning hours to high-impact tasks in the process. But what does this look like in practice? Our three experts chimed in.
Added insights for added meaning
Aircall’s own AI-supported call and voicemail transcription features have made a difference for DePrey, especially in how they integrate with her team’s wider SaaS ecosystem.
“When I think about where employees have been frustrated or why time has been wasted, it’s because information is cobbled together. It takes too much time to find customer details and background. By leveraging AI, we're able to build a method where a support agent can pick up a call and see the entire history of the customer—and maybe even generate a recommendation based on that history,” DePrey says.
Better understanding buyer habits
Allder agreed with DePrey that using tools in conjunction with one another is key, especially when it gives new levels of customer oversight.
“This can give you a really rounded vision of what our customer intent might be. Making sure that we don't miss anything is so important. There’s also the launch of Rhythm—it’s a reinvention of Salesloft that helps you prioritize workflows and is completely AI-driven. It makes sure that everything sellers need is right in front of them,” Allder says.
Getting over the “blank page problem”
For Rhodes, the value of AI, specifically HubSpot’s new Content Assistant, came down to how much time it saved him in his daily role.
“I’m one of those people who can write one single email for two days. I write it, delete it, write it, delete it—I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that. Utilizing tools like Content Assistant helps me out because I know the value and what I want to convey. Now, if I write those down, I can utilize AI to fill in the blanks and turn a 15-minute job into a two-minute job,” Rhodes says.
Overcoming AI Anxiety
While our panel of experts agrees that AI represents a great deal of opportunity for sales and support teams, they were all aware of the concerns employees today have.
According to Aircall’s AI Index:
46% of SMB employees are concerned AI will replace them
46% believe AI will lead to lower pay
44% are concerned AI will make their job harder
A part of why this disjoint exists is the level of AI misinformation that’s out there. As Allder says, “When people say AI, they think of killer robots, right?” This emphasizes the need for business leaders to educate their employees about AI’s value as an enablement tool—and not as something that is coming for people’s jobs.
To this point, DePrey believes historical examples of similar innovations have lessons to teach us.
“When we look at innovation throughout history—whether factories or the information age—there’s always been fear. And, yes, there were certain skill sets that were no longer needed, but there was an incredible influx of new jobs and new ways of working. I’m very confident we’ll see the same thing now,” she says.
Rhodes agreed that this was a period of opportunity, particularly for small to medium businesses (SMBs)—a group he talks to every day.
“AI is going to open up a ton of opportunities for everyone. Most of which we don't even know about yet. But those are going to start popping up, and really, I think this is an opportunity to learn something new and get ahead of it to benefit your business,” he says.
In determining what business leaders should do to stop AI anxiety in its tracks, our experts recommended these three steps:
Frame AI implementation as an opportunity—focus on empowerment, autonomy, and learning
Embrace new ways of working—prepare for change, but do so with curiosity
Find ways for people at every level to make a bigger impact—think about doing more with what you have
3 Things to Remember When Turning AI Ambition Into Action
Now that we understand the value of AI and have a strategy for tackling any concerns around its implementation, how can business leaders take their first steps? While sales and support leaders shouldn’t wait for AI to be perfect, they also shouldn’t jump in headfirst.
For more advice, we turned to our AI brain trust to find out what they see as the best advice on getting started.
1. Your AI journey can start today
According to Rhodes, “AI is a solution for a real problem that's happening right now—which is that everyone's overworked. Everyone's trying to get as much revenue as possible with a limited headcount.”
This is why he believes those looking to implement AI shouldn't hang around.
He explains, “I really suggest that companies don’t wait for something to happen—they can start checking it out on their own right now and see if they can add efficiencies into their business.”
2. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel
AI might offer significant benefits and opportunities, but that doesn’t mean leaders should look to tear up their business strategy and start over. While curiosity should be encouraged, any implementation of AI into business strategy should be measured and well thought out.
As Allder says, “Testing, rather than launching, a whole new initiative is really going to be key, especially to companies that I speak to who tend to be slightly smaller SMBs. I think testing rather than ripping and replacing with a whole new sort of outbound strategy is really going to be key to driving adoption within your team but getting the most out of it too.”
3. Your investment in AI doesn’t have to happen all at once
For DePrey, the key to getting the best out of AI came down to individuals thinking about their roles and how AI can deliver value for them. Like Allder, she says this doesn’t have to be a complete 180-degree turn in how you operate and can be done in small ways to start with.
“Bite off little pieces that you can chew on,” she says. “This is an opportunity for our small business clients but they don't need to wait for a perfect world or invest in a very expensive toolset to be able to start to leverage AI. I’d say be curious and bite off little pieces and start to see how you can do more with the team you currently have.”
The Future of AI
One theme that came to dominate our conversation around how to convert AI ambition into AI action was excitement. All our experts agreed that AI is a huge era of opportunity for businesses of all sizes—particularly SMBs.
Like any new technology, there will be questions, concerns, choices, and the need for education. But it’s clear that AI is a no-brainer for sales and support teams looking to do more with their time and connect better with their customers. Which is why, for those who don’t already have their AI journey underway, the future should start today.
You can catch up on “How customer-facing teams can turn AI ambition into AI action” here and sign up for our next webinar—”From talk to text: How to use Aircall's AI to boost performance”—happening on Thursday, July 13.
If you’re interested in finding out how Aircall can partner with you on your AI journey, book a demo and speak to one of our experts today.
Published on January 2, 2024.