IoT And Call Centers: The Current State Of Customer Interaction

pixabay/IoT

Now call centers are called contact centers and agents are tackling more data than ever before. We can partly blame this phenomenon on IoT, (Internet of Things).

What is Internet of Things?

The ubiquitous IoT means a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.
Its a term conceived way back in the eighties, but the concept found legs in the early noughties thanks to Kevin Ashton, co-founder of MIT’s Auto-ID Center when he began considering using RFID to connect devices.
Eventually, the future of device interconnection became more of a reality — with the introduction of city-wide WiFi networks. Now, we can’t imagine a world without it.

Call centers and IoT

Though the two wouldn’t usually seem interconnected, they have a relationship of playing catch-up. As customer needs and devices expand so should the technology offered by a customer care hub. Many organisations are taking heed.
“Research of more than 350 executives and managers conducted by ICMI and Oracle finds that 57 percent of respondents say their organisations intend to support IoT/connected technologies within the next six to 12 months, in a 21 percent jump from today. And while only 35 percent of organisations currently use AI, 85 percent of respondents would like to see their companies expand its use or adopt it,” according to 1to1 Media.
The role of a call center agent has changed too thanks to IoT; support teams are taking on a prolific roster of skills, now customer data is derived from multiple sources such as Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, iPads, etc. In response to this, teams are spearheading strategy for “marketing, branding and customer engagement.”

Legacy systems

Integrating IoT into a legacy call management system is a challenge facing businesses making the transition to a digital enterprise. Many believe that wiping the slate clean before implementing new technology is the right path.

However, that’s just not the case; now many new cloud comm platforms have instead built systems able to integrate into a company’s existing stack. “By adopting the approach of adding an IoT layer, enterprises can keep costs down and reap the benefits of IoT in a way that makes sound business sense,” say Evolve.

For their call centers, this is taking the form of combining both self-service and live agent contact. Notably, one technology that has been lost in the changeover is IVR; we explored this shift in a past blog.

The future

Investing in technology to make our lives easier is becoming a common occurrence for huge companies. In fact, Facebook recently acquired VR company Oculus Rift for an alleged $2 billion, will we soon be able to interact our Facebook friends on a virtual level?

Who knows? But regarding how customers interact with brands, we could see a major shift from human interaction to AI or chatbots. “Chatbots will offer the companies the opportunity to replace human agents with chatbots in low-productive customer service areas without hampering customer experience,” claims Ameyo Emerge.

Still, we’re not quite there yet, humans are still legacy systems themselves and at times require the comfort of human to human exchange to solve a problem. Streamlining the journey to that helpful person is the goal at this point in our digital development. But the time of robotic customer service and IoT totality is close, though according to Forrester it won’t be the robot apocalypse we fear.

“Yes, there will be jobs lost in the coming years thanks to robots, driverless cars, and cognitive computing: Forrester predicts a 16% job loss rate between 2015 and 2025. But what about jobs created in categories like software, engineering, design, and maintenance? Forrester forecasts automation will create 13.6 million jobs over the next decade, equivalent to 9% of the workforce.”

Via: Ameyo Emerge, Forrester, 1to1 Media, Evolve, IT Pro Portal. 

A Brief Look At Blockchain Tech And The Online Marketplace

blockchain and marketplaces

Oxford University, the esteemed British institution which has been in existence for over nine hundred years – now has a blockchain course. You know you’ve made it when Oxford takes notice. Bitcoin’s distributed ledger system has arguably become a standout result of the cryptocurrency craze (fans include notorious Bitcoin hater and J.P. Morgan CEO James Dimon) and is beginning to branch out, taking its talent for distributing data and funds, elsewhere.

Online marketplaces could be a good place to start, even with their reliable business models. Hubs like Amazon and eBay are full of data and online interactions that would work well with a blockchain system. Though both companies show a general distaste for the idea. Despite seeming impenetrability regarding efficiency – one pain point sticks out in even the largest of enterprises and that’s security concerns. 

Securing the market

Facebook faced pushback when its marketplace came under scrutiny in 2016 for lax security within seller and buyer relations. Mostly due to a lack of a built-in payment system and no record of interactions between parties, allowing those with unsavoury intentions to slip through the cracks. However, supporters of blockchain tech think the set-up could alleviate these woes in P2P networks like Facebook or Etsy.

With a blockchain powered marketplace, personal information isn’t required, claims Ruby Garage.

“Since a blockchain-based marketplace removes intermediaries, all transactions are traceable on a public ledger, demonstrating a high level of security and transparency.”

Banking with blockchain

Outside of the marketplace model, banks are also jumping aboard the blockchain train, seeing its potential for eliminating fraud issues. In 2015 Santander announced the launch of an app for transferring funds internationally, initially using staff as guinea pigs in the hope of releasing it into the world one day.

“This transition, if it finally happens, is going to take a long time, and the chief reason is simple: legacy bank infrastructure and the tens of billions of dollars that have already been spent on building that infrastructure,” wrote John Whelan, blockchain lab director at Banco Santander.

A decentralised marketplace presents the appearance of a good idea in theory but blockchain technology is still in the early stages of development, and like we mentioned, many significant influencers aren’t quite on board, despite enthusiasm from crypto-boosters like Ethereum cofounder Joseph Lubin.  “Apple seems to be largely uncaring and unaware. Google is making investments, but it’s not clear that they have a lot of activity going on. Amazon, we’ve not seen that much, so we’ll see.” Lubin told Fortune at an event in New York last year.

The Soma model

Still, smaller blockchain marketplaces are emerging. Soma, a Finnish-based digital platform using blockchain tech aims to create an online marketplace where users can buy and sell safely within a P2P network. Goods and services are represented by “cards” which allows for a totally transparent system.

“Users are encouraged to engage in actions that will benefit other members and the community as a whole by rewarding such actions with Soma Community (SCT), a cryptocurrency designed to incentivise the members of the decentralised community to perform value-adding services and act as a fast, secure and cost-effective way of compensation,” writes Soma on their website.

It seems that a move towards implementing blockchain into digital marketplaces is a definite possibility, regardless of big enterprises’ disinterest. Only time will tell how it grows but if the end goal is a safer and happier online community, then who can resist that?

Via: Fortune, Think Money, Coinbase, Ruby Garage, Forbes.