5G, IoT, Big Data: Everything to Do with Customer Service
Progressive companies are already revving up their traditional contact center capabilities with these new must-haves.
Imagine if your customers and partners had seamless and effective access to your company's most knowledgeable people on your products and services. In essence, you would have the ability to make every employee a customer service expert, able to address everything from the simplest questions (standard billing) to more targeted needs (assistance in a different language).
What if you could quickly analyze massive amounts of data from Internet of Things (IoT)/machine-to-machine (M2M) devices, including wearables, to anticipate what your customers need and prefer before they even know it themselves?
And what if you could tie together your data-gathering devices in the field with your service experts and others in your company, not just for superfast support but also for gathering macro trends and operational insights?
At a recent customer and partner conference, my fellow attendees and I spent a great deal of time discussing deployments like these, as well as the different media that people use to interact with companies. The focus of these conversations was how emerging 5G, IoT/M2M, and big data technologies will rapidly intersect with traditional contact center capabilities, enabling businesses to offer service and support experiences that are not only vastly different from the neatly typed letters that our parents and grandparents sent to a company's customer service department years ago, but also far more powerful.
Differentiating and powerful customer service will be critical in this era in which a consumer measures speed of resolution in minutes and votes on those experiences in real-time. In fact, #awful versus #awesome serves as this generation's smoke signals, alerting and influencing others to run either from or toward specific products and services. Customer service is becoming as competitively important as having a flawless supply chain or exceptional balance sheet.
Here are four realities compelling businesses to rethink their customer service models.
- Smartphones for Everyone - Across the globe, access to the advanced capabilities of a smartphone has been democratized. Pew Research reports that 68% percent of American adults now own smartphones, nearly double the 35% penetration in 2011. That means nearly every American now carries around a supercomputer in his or her pocket -- a supercomputer that is literally millions of times more powerful than all of NASA's computing capabilities during the Apollo space mission era. The smartphone and its cousin the tablet are the Swiss Army knives of connectivity, all-purpose devices that let us interact in a variety of modes (aka, "omnichannel") -- phone, Web chat, video chat, email, text, social media, online forums and more. As a result, we tend not to stick with just one mode of communication at a time: We switch modes in flight, and expect companies to keep up so that we don't have to repeat our backstory to different personnel along the way. This is especially true of text-savvy millennials who seek a seamless experience from self-service tools into live or agent-assisted service capabilities. Moreover, we expect these interactions to be wholly secure.
- 5G -- Need for Speed - Over the next three to five years the transition from 4G to 5G will make the public wireless network experience a stunning 300 times faster. With 5G we will see dedicated slices of spectrum, ready for tuning and optimization for specific applications and devices. The combination of these two phenomena, when intersected with IoT/M2M devices, will enable secure real-time data transfer. That means no delay, unlike with 4G, which has higher latency because it must often buffer data and send it over the Internet at a later time. The faster a company can put data into action, the more value it can deliver.
- More Than a FitBit... Way More - Smart watches, smart cars, TVs, washing machines, thermostats, refrigerators, and other smart devices continue to have an enormous impact on consumer-oriented experiences. Companies like Under Armour, with its Connected Fitness system, and Disney, with its popular Magic Band, are building entire customer experiences around smart connected devices and, in the process, reshaping customer expectations. The impact in the B2B segment will be just as striking, and will go far beyond the automatic or single-tap wireless updating of software features and bug fixes. For most of us, the best customer experience would be one that provides problem resolution without us even having to know about it. Or alternatively, one where the device notifies customer service based on a data trigger, empowering us to help solve the matter on our terms. As we ratchet up the connectivity, contact center agents and technicians will increasingly interact not only with people, but also with a multitude of devices, requiring these experts to tune their skills to handle different questions and complex scenarios.
- Big Data Will Get Bigger... a Lot Bigger - Taking the 2020 IoT/M2M prognostication of ABI Research at 40 billion, connected devices will soon outnumber people 5:1 or more. And they will generate a lot more data. Mountains of it. The value of this data lies in putting the right information into the right hands as fast as possible. Today's customer service or contact center agent typically has access only to a small slice of data -- voice/digital/customer service agent performance information and customer data found within the CRM system -- and even then, the data is often housed and viewed in separate systems. The differentiating value of big data will be the analysis of those data points, together with other data spread across the organization (financial, operations, and so on). Using the data rapidly and effectively will enable companies to provide faster time to resolution, more successful upsell/cross-sell opportunities, and ultimately a superior customer experience.
Clearly, smartphones, 5G, devices and wearables, and big data will bring massive changes to the customer service landscape. Does your business have a blueprint for the new customer experience? If not, now is the time to get started.
In a second post in this series, coming soon, I'll take a look at the importance of preparing now for 5G, IoT/M2M, and big data in your contact center.