With the rapid proliferation of IoT devices amongst consumers and businesses alike, call centers as we know them are now on the verge of a number of dramatic changes. Analysts’ projections on the deployment of these sensor-driven, wireless-enabled devices run the gamut from 20.4 billion (Garner) to 47 billion (ABI Research) by 2020. Either way, that’s a massive barrage of IoT “thingies.”
On the consumer side, IoT devices that are leading the charge include vehicles, smart TVs and digital TVs, according to Gartner. Meantime, business use has been dominated by electric meters and commercial security cameras, but IoT devices in the categories of LED lighting, HVAC and physical security are on the increase, too.
Now in the wings are more vertical and industry-specific IoT business devices, such as manufacturing field devices, real-time location devices for healthcare and process sensors for electrical generating plants.
How are these connected devices starting to revolutionize the call center? Here are five ways.
1. IoT Devices Already Enable Much Better Data Acquisition
Because connected devices are embedded with sensors and wireless technology, they can also transmit reams of data over the Internet.
For example, Rolls-Royce has been selling IoT-activated cars for several years that use a system called Rolls-Royce Teleservices to actively provide maintenance data to auto dealerships about engine performance.
Ultimately, experts anticipate data reported by connected devices will provide live agents with more information to resolve issues via phone calls made to a call contact center.
2. Proactive Solutions are Already Emerging
Traditionally, customers have waited until something has gone wrong with a product before reaching out directly to a company. With the advent of iOT, though, customer service can become increasingly proactive.
Otis Elevator, for example, has long been looking to use the IoT for giving building owners more information about elevator operations and to ease the jobs of maintenance workers.
With Otis’ previously rolled out Remote Elevator Monitoring system, the company’s maintenance engineers could dial in to an elevator to obtain data. REM, however, wasn’t a real-time system.
Otis recently replaced REM with a system called ONE, which uses elevator-installed sensors, in concert with an edge gateway connected to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, to gather real-time information that’s presented on a dashboard and which is accessible to owners and engineers. Engineers are now enabled to spot, diagnose and fix a maintenance issue before it causes problems for elevator users.
3. Why More Self-Diagnosis is on the Way
Some other IoT devices are able to report maintenance problems on their own. For instance, Bosch’s recent clothes washing machines and dryers are outfitted with a system known as Home Connectivity, enabling them to use Amazon’s Alexa for Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Home Connect app will help choose the right cycle to use on the machine; it will also let you receive text message alerts about the time remaining and the completion of a laundry load.
Beyond all that, Home Connect is somewhat self-diagnosing. If it detects a maintenance problem, it will let you know and ask whether you want to schedule a service call.
And with the integration of artificial intelligence, moving forward, more of these connected devices are expected to be able to diagnose and fix routine problems by themselves.
4. IoT “Thingies” Add More Channels to Multichannel Communications
According to industry estimates, brands are now handling communications with customers through an average of nine to 11 channels. Meanwhile, many IoT products come with built-in control panels, allowing customers to communicate with the company directly from the device.
For example, if an alarm gets tripped on a home security system, the company might issue an alert to the owner through a smartphone app, while also calling the device itself find out whether a person is at home who can answer the owner’s security questions by voice.
Dealing with multiple channels of communications already poses challenges for many businesses. If customers are also able to communicate repair and maintenance issues directly from devices like home appliances, companies will need to learn how to integrate these additional channels while still letting customers to communicate with call centers through preferred channels like phone and text.
5. The Jobs of Customer Service Agents are Set to Get More Specialized
With IoT spurring increased self-diagnosis of technical problems, the call volumes at call centers should diminish. At the same time, though, inbound calls routed to live agents will require service reps to understand more types of information and to become more highly specialized into solving complex problems.
As a result, reps will require additional technical training, and average call handling times seem destined to rise.
Solving Complex Problems Now and into the Future
With tens of billions of IoT devices out there in the installed base, customer call centers are bound to undergo sweeping transformations. Eventually, many of these devices will be able to diagnose and fix routine problems, reducing the numbers of calls received.
At the same time, however, these IoT “thingies” will transmit considerable amounts of data, and call center reps will need to be able to understand this information in order to solve complex technical problems. Organizations will also need to arrive at methods of integrating additional channels into their multichannel call center communications.