5G, IoT, Big Data: Prepare Your Contact Center Now
Here are four steps that progressive companies can take today to get started with these critical technologies.
The rise of connectivity and social media has reshaped today's customer service and put real power into the hands of the consumer. At the same time, new and emerging technologies like 4G, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT)/machine-to-machine (M2M) and big data are giving businesses the tools they need to reimagine the types of service and support capabilities that can meet, and even anticipate, those new consumer demands, as I discussed in my previous post, "5G, IoT, Big Data: Everything to Do with Customer Service."
- 4G LTE is already creating a common IP thread across carrier and enterprise networks, and the follow-on transition to 5G will devote slices of network spectrum to vertical segments, paving the way for mass-scale IoT/M2M capabilities. Coupled with the cloud, these technologies give us a bridge to link different topologies and application environments.
- The rise of IoT/M2M and wearables provides the ability to take intelligence from the edge of a company's footprints -- its products, equipment, and services in the field -- and rapidly integrate that data back into the business, using big data analytics to make decisions, deploy resources, and get smarter about what customers need most.
- Big data and social media listening tools will soon enable companies to proactively monitor trends when things go well -- or not so well. This will provide a way for them to address the needs of customers and other constituents, including sales and channels.
In the midst of this excitement is the expanding role of a truly next-generation contact center. This is a contact center that goes beyond the 15% to 20% attachment and penetration of traditional contact centers and instead decouples advanced intelligent application features for embedding across the entirety of an organization to help improve customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
What Does This Technology Integration Look Like?
I reside in Texas, so I'll use a familiar reference -- that of an oil rig maintenance firm. This firm dispatches technicians to sites across West Texas for periodic checks on client equipment, including oil rigs that can pump out 10,000 barrels a day or more and where any machinery slowdown creates a substantial financial hit. By using IoT/M2M capabilities to connect each oil rig, the company can monitor output remotely. If a problem arises, the device can send a data trigger that auto-dispatches the nearest qualified and available tech, boosting response time.
Once on site, the tech can leverage traditional contact center features that form a "find an expert" capability, like that of vertical SaaS application leader FieldAware. So, using a video application on a smart device, the technician can show a colleague back at the office the exact problem or operation and together they can solve it in real time, eliminating the need for additional on-site visits from multiple personnel. Further, data collection across the macro deployment of rigs can establish trend insights, allowing the firm to proactively take measures in partnership with the client to keep the oil flowing.
In short, client satisfaction rises as does client profitability by tying together IoT/M2M and customer service.
Companies across almost any segment, including healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, and retail, can build similar scenarios. The question for most is: Where do we start?
Four Steps Progressive Companies Can Take Today
Where to begin can be overwhelming, but following these four steps will allow companies to leverage the intersection of IoT/M2M capabilities and improve the experience of their connected customers.
- Architect a seamless communications framework: In an era of ubiquitous connectivity, the ability to tie together disparate hardware and software platforms across heterogeneous modes of communication is critical. Find a partner that can help you leverage what you have and build toward the future with flexible cloud and mobile-based solutions.
- Build a blueprint of what you should automate versus what requires live agent support: High-escalation cases will continue to require high-touch customer service engagement, but companies should continue to identify what steps they can first handle through self-service or automated options. With IoT/M2M, the device itself interacts to realize first-level support, thus enabling customer service agents to provide higher value support, integration and analytics services. These connected devices can also signal a billing staff member when a customer has reached a specific data threshold, or alert a sales professional when it is time to upgrade to a solution with more features.
- Leverage new tools to improve customer engagement: Fast-moving companies are starting to look at how to better leverage their entire organizations to provide customer care. The intersection of IoT/M2M allows companies to embed legacy customer service features like skills-based routing into SaaS application workflows. When embedded with real-time voice, video and collaboration capabilities, these SaaS-based applications make it easy to leverage location-based intelligence, customer database information, and advanced workflow capabilities to provide exceptional customer engagement.
- Exploit the seams to find new solutions: More data means more insights. By examining old problems in new ways, you may find previously unimagined solutions. The advent of IoT/M2M creates a stream of real-time data allowing for a whole new set of predictive triggers, which proactively improve the customer experience. By weaving together big data analytics with real-time communications and collaboration capabilities, the smartest and most agile companies can create immediate competitive differentiation.
To borrow a baseball analogy, we are still in the first inning of understanding and building customer experiences that are optimized for IoT/M2M deployments. The most important step is the first one -- to build a plan. While you'll no doubt adjust the plan over time, the key is to remain focused on your company's ability to improve competitiveness by identifying a strategy that reduces customer effort while increasing customer engagement. Let's get started.