This week, Zoom announced its new AI Companion, a suite of generative AI (GAI) tools available at no additional cost to paid Zoom subscribers. Zoom’s first GAI features, then called Zoom IQ, were introduced in June 2023 on a free trial basis to select customers. Those features, Team Chat Compose and Meeting Summary, aim to provide more efficient ways for people to participate in or catch up on meetings. Zoom says it will gradually release a “significant expansion” of upgraded GAI features in the coming months. The company adds that AI Companion will operate across the entire platform—starting with Meetings, Team Chat, Phone, Email and Whiteboard. The company has additional features on its roadmap but did not disclose specific timing and functionality for them.
Several companies have recently introduced GAI functionality and AI assistants for workplace productivity. Microsoft announced an AI assistant, Microsoft 365 Copilot, in April, and Google followed with an AI-powered “collaborative partner”(recently reintroduced as Duet AI) for Workspace in May. In the SaaS space, Box has announced Box AI for enterprise content and Zoho has launched ChatGPT functionality across its portfolio of business apps. The sheer volume of companies currently active in GAI underscores the collective belief in GAI’s potential. One recent study showed that using an AI assistant increases productivity by an average of 14% and as much as 35% for lower-skilled workers.
According to McKinsey, the potential value of AI-driven productivity equates to trillions of dollars added to the global economy. That said, GAI is also very expensive for multiple reasons, for starters because LLMs require a significant amount of energy and computing power to train. Microsoft and Google have announced pricing for their Microsoft 365 Copilot and Duet AI for Workspace products, each at $30 per user per month for current paid subscribers. Why then is Zoom giving away its GAI features at no additional cost?
Zoom’s chief product officer, Smita Hashim, says that offering the GAI features gratis to Zoom subscribers is a way to provide tangible value amidst the AI hype. “We were founded on doing what’s right for our customers,” she said, “and we firmly believe that offering Zoom AI Companion at no additional cost to our paid Zoom user accounts delivers tremendous value as we all navigate the challenges facing us today.”
What AI Companion can do for you
In addition to the Team Chat Compose and Meeting Summary functions launched in June, AI Companion now features several new capabilities. AI Companion can quickly catch users up on Zoom meetings. Someone arriving late—or perhaps distracted by a kid or someone at the door—can use a side panel to ask AI Companion questions about what has occurred during the session. After the meeting, users can watch a recorded Zoom meeting and quickly get the information they need through highlights, smart chapters and AI-generated meeting summaries, provided that the meeting host enables these features. By mid-2024, Zoom aims to deliver real-time feedback on presenter performance and offer automated coaching on conversation and presentation skills.
In Zoom Team Chat, AI Companion can assist with drafting replies based on the context in the chat, which should cut down on the time spent composing messages. Additional AI features coming soon include GAI summarization for Team Chat to catch up on lengthy chat threads. By early 2024, users will be able to auto-complete sentences and schedule meetings directly from chat conversations.
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Zoom also has plans to introduce other features related to meeting preparation, post-meeting debriefs and more. For example, users will be able to engage with the AI Companion to access and interact with various content from their previous meetings, chats and select third-party applications. The AI Companion can also assist with pre-meeting preparation by surfacing content about projects and providing status updates. If everything works as it should, this could save users time gathering updates and getting up to speed, which should make for more meaningful, strategic discussions.
Zoom has plans for other more advanced features in spring 2024. I look forward to seeing how the in-meeting features will emphasize the real-time “assistant” aspect of AI Companion, from filing a support ticket on an issue brought up during a call to drafting responses for follow-ups.
Privacy and control features
Zoom has opted to introduce the AI Companion disabled by default within the Zoom platform, meaning that users or administrators must actively opt in to use these features. Built-in user privacy controls allow account administrators to enable or turn off features as needed, and users and administrators always have visibility into when AI features are being used. In August, the company affirmed its commitment to safeguarding user data after concerns surfaced about its terms of service. Zoom has since stated that it does not use customer audio, video or other materials to train AI models.
Zoom rebrands Sales IQ to Zoom Revenue Accelerator and introduces new AI features
Zoom has also rebranded its AI-enhanced Zoom Sales IQ tool to Revenue Accelerator. Revenue Accelerator will soon feature a Virtual Coach to train and onboard sales team members. Using various sales methodologies and predefined company cues, this function will evaluate salespeople’s product pitches and look for ways to improve them, give kudos or establish consistency throughout a team. Revenue Accelerator offers AI-driven features to streamline sales processes, including meeting summaries, sentiment analysis and more. The company plans to expand these capabilities to help sales teams improve customer experiences and drive revenue growth. Upcoming new features include Deal Risk Signals to track the progress of sales pipelines and Discover Monthly to track competitor mentions and uncover trend insights.
Zoom says that Revenue Accelerator grew by 4x in terms of revenue from Q1 to Q2 of this year. Such rapid growth shows a high demand for the product as well as the power of thoughtfully developed GAI capabilities to increase revenue performance. Revenue Accelerator is built on the same platform as Zoom Meetings and Zoom Phone, so most users are likely already familiar with the interface. It also has out-of-the-box integrations with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Hubspot and Monday.com CRMs.
Zoom’s AI ecosystem
Zoom takes a federated approach to AI, using its proprietary large language models (LLMs) alongside models from leading companies such as Meta, OpenAI and Anthropic to power its AI features. Zoom will also incorporate select models created by the company’s customers. This allows Zoom to tailor its AI solutions to meet users’ unique needs and preferences.
Zoom’s latest earnings allow room to be generous with AI tools for customers
The announcement of Zoom’s enhanced AI offered at no additional charge comes shortly after the company released its latest earnings report. In the second quarter of the current fiscal year (which ends in January 2024), Zoom reported revenue of $1.14 billion, reflecting a 3.6% increase compared to the previous year, exceeding expectations. The company also saw a 6.9% increase in its enterprise customer base, reaching 218,100 organizations, and its enterprise revenue increased by 10.2% year over year, growing to $659.5 million. These results indicate steady progress in Zoom’s enterprise-focused business model and reflect the positive impact of its expanding product and service offerings.
Zoom’s IQ and EQ remain high
During the early phase of the pandemic, Zoom became a household staple, so much so that it found its brand name turned into a verb. Since then, however, it has undergone a drastic change in market dynamics as people returned to in-person social events, schools or the office (some of them, anyway). Competitors like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex also bolstered their video offerings enough that Zoom was no longer the default solution. Even with these changes, the company has demonstrated its resilience by consistently offering compelling new products and maintaining steady quarterly revenue. Zoom’s commitment to innovation—exemplified by introducing the new AI-driven features discussed here—means that it can provide valuable services to its customers beyond video meetings.
Zoom’s leaders are well aware that the company operated in a winner-takes-most scenario for a brief period early in the pandemic—before heated competition arose from the likes of Microsoft and Cisco. But it is not resting on its laurels. The company that grew its revenue by 355% in one quarter during the early days of Covid no longer has the benefit of a captive audience.
In March, I wrote about Zoom’s post-pandemic growth. My analysis included this: “Zoom must adjust to economic and workforce realities during its internal reset, homing in on pricing strategies and new products while staving off competitors. While Zoom is a leader thanks to its technology and capabilities, it is also priced accordingly, making it more expensive than some competitors.”
With its latest announcements of AI Companion and Revenue Accelerator, Zoom has again shown its ability to adjust to economic and workforce realities—as well as more than a little institutional resilience. Zoom dropped the “IQ” from its naming strategy, but has shown a lot of both IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) in its latest offerings.
Zoom has done a great job of making its platform sticky. Nearly everyone you know already knows how to use Zoom. By building on that stickiness, Zoom is now able to introduce products like Revenue Accelerator that one might not immediately associate with a company best known for video conferencing. Zoom’s success with that product demonstrates its ability to innovate to meet changing demands.
In short, Zoom has weathered the post-pandemic storm and shows promise of maintaining a solid leadership position in the new era of generative AI.