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Are Call Centers Ready for the Internet of Things?

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Feb 17, 2015 8:31 AM PT

For companies such as Cisco, the Internet of Things represents a wealth of untapped riches. The company, which recently reported a 7 percent year-over-year jump in revenue for the quarter ending in January, attributed some of its growth to the Internet of Things -- or as the CEO John Chambers referred to it, the Internet of Everything. He recently said that the Internet of Everything will propel Cisco into becoming a leading IT solutions provider.

Are Call Centers Ready for the Internet of Things?

Indeed, there is no shortage of data highlighting the potential this technology has for the economy. IDC recently noted that nearly 15 billion IoT-connected devices will be sold this year.

So demand is there, as is supply. There is one piece that may or may not be missing, depending on whom you ask: the back end capacity to handle the information these devices will generate. Specifically, can today's contact centers handle the influx of information that these devices will emit?

SMS in Use

In many ways the IoT is here, co-existing happily with consumers, albeit in simple form.

One real-world example is the use of emergency keys on phones, according to Bernard Gutnick, senior director of Avaya Engagement Evangelist Team. "Once the key is pressed, if a code is not entered within two minutes, it will automatically connect to dispatch and begin capturing video in real time," he told CRM Buyer.

"As these applications and use cases proliferate, the IoT will let the customer decide what form of communication will be best for them based on current circumstance," he continued. "SMS is a likely candidate, since most contact centers, if not all, have SMS capabilities. SMS as a personal communication form is immensely popular.

"The call centers would then use the same business rules that apply to phone calls to prioritize and intelligently route IoT requests to the appropriate representative," he said.

Too Early in the Cycle

Granted, "it is very early in the cycle to be able to say definitely that call centers are ready to handle the IoT," said James Quin, CDM Media senior director of content and c-suite communities. "Businesses are kicking the tires, but despite the pushing of a number of notable vendors, few are diving in with broadscale implementations at this point," he told CRM Buyer.

That said, he noted that the point of IoT-type technologies is to stream data directly to intelligent systems that can aggregate, collate, and act upon the information independent of human interaction -- or at the very least, with minimal human interaction.

"As a result, the impact on call centers and call center agents should be a net positive; while more data will be coming to the company, the systems that it comes to will handle at least first level processing of the data, lessening the workload on the people in the equation," Quin said.

Advanced Functionality

The IoT, though, is not destined to be merely a conduit for notices that appliances need service calls.

"When it is developed to its full potential, great things could happen," said Josh Plaskoff, director of learning and technology service development at HighPoint Global.

"Imagine if cars had sensors with the ability to detect potholes on city streets and to record routes to work," he told CRM Buyer. "Agencies armed with this data would be more empowered to take proactive and individualized approaches to serving citizens, texting a warning about a pothole on their normal work route, and sending a crew out to fill it without the need for a call from a concerned citizen.

"If the agency were contacted, representatives could provide assistance, using multi-sourced data and predictive models, to help with better decision making or to avoid inconveniences -- for example, warning that in a few months construction will start on that normal work route," Plaskoff remarked.

Not a Simple Change

This will not be a simple change however, Plaskoff acknowledged.

"It will require a much more powerful digital infrastructure capable of complex data analysis and predictive modeling," he said. "It will also require a more strategic approach to integrate governance, security, technology investments, data targets, communications, processes and organizational change. Interdepartmental teamwork, collaboration, and communication will be 'a must,' and even cross-agency connections may need to be strengthened to gain the most benefit."

In short, he said, "the potential for helping with productivity, cost-reduction and responsiveness is tremendous. At the same time, the change necessary to achieve it should not be ignored."


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


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