Customer Collaboration and the Internet of Everything
by Ross Daniels
"Tomorrow starts here." That's the catchy closing line for a series of Cisco commercials about the Internet of Everything. As a Cisco employee, I can't help but nudge my family members when I see one of those commercials, but recently I was a bit surprised when one of my children nudged me and asked, in effect, if my job is the Internet of Everything. I have to admit, that got me thinking.
Cisco defines the Internet of Everything (IoE) as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. The true benefit of IoE is derived from the compound impact of connecting all these elements, and from the value this increased connectedness creates as everything comes online. As suggested in the commercials, "everything" might encompass futuristic concepts like trees talking to networks, which talk to scientists about climate change. But it also includes the Internet of today. Cisco’s IoE Value Index study estimates that IoE is already generating at least $613 billion in global corporate profits during this calendar year. The majority of this value is created by extending the connections of the IoE to people, and that's the area where I focus: Customer Collaboration.
Those who read these columns regularly know that Customer Collaboration is a combination of traditional contact center technology and processes with important innovations in social media, Web 2.0 agent workspaces, network-based recording and analytics, and video to empower businesses to forge deeper, proactive relationships with their customers.
What's the relationship between Customer Collaboration and the IoE? Simply put, Customer Collaboration connects the Internet of Everything to consumers. Many of the touchpoints to the IoE run through businesses and organizations, and Customer Collaboration is what brings businesses and organizations closer to their customers--to us. Keeping that in mind, here are some specific ways businesses and organizations can employ Customer Collaboration to thrive in the age of the Internet of Everything:
• Provide multi-channel customer service-- The IoE encompasses the Internet of Things--everything that's connected to the network. If a consumer needs to interact with a business about any of those things, they should be able to do so via the most effective customer service channel. For example, if someone's having trouble programming their web-connected home security system, a co-browsing session with a product expert might offer the best way to troubleshoot the issue.
• Connect consumers to business processes-- Consumers often need access to information and processes held within the companies with which they do business. A state-of-the-art Web 2.0 agent desktop -- Cisco Finesse is a good example----addresses this challenge by creating a personalized, customizable "cockpit" that gives customer care providers quick access to multiple information sources to resolve caller issues.
• Use the full power of self-service-- Interactive voice response (IVR) still offers one of the most efficient, cost-effective ways for businesses to connect with consumers--both to provide information and to empower consumers to accomplish repeatable, well-defined tasks.
• Connect with consumers via social media-- The IoE includes hundreds of millions of people connected with other people, and often they're talking about businesses and their products or services. Are businesses listening? Modern social media customer care offerings like Cisco SocialMiner enable businesses to proactively respond to customers and prospects communicating through public social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or other open forums.
• Leverage remote experts-- So far, only the barest fraction of eligible things have been connected to the Internet. As more and more things are added, the knowledge and skills to manage them will become more and more specialized--and fragmented. That's why it's imperative for businesses to be able to connect consumers with appropriate experts, no matter where they're located and via content-rich channels such as video.
• Use the power of analytics-- Just as more experts will be needed to help us all survive in the age of the IoE, so, too, will businesses need to offer more smart, automated ways for consumers to interact with the ever-increasing number of connected things and people. Modern analytics applications--combined with IVR systems and network-based recording platforms like Cisco MediaSense--make this a reality today.
One of my favorite examples of the combined power of Customer Collaboration with the IoE is a regional utilities company that has installed smart power meters. If a power outage occurs, an updated database triggers the creation of IVR announcements that are automatically played to callers--based on their home location--to inform them that the company is aware of the problem and to provide an estimated repair time. This example illustrates how Customer Collaboration really is one of the most critical--and enabling--aspects of the IoE; it's what enables you and me to interact with the IoE and make the most of it. What does my job at Cisco have to do with the Internet of Everything? Everything!