The Gist

  • Technology deployment. Utilize advanced AI tools like chatbots and auto-response applications to efficiently handle machine customer interactions.
  • Data consolidation. Implement a data catalog to centralize and streamline access to crucial customer information across various platforms.
  • Talent acquisition. Hire multitasking agents capable of managing diverse communication channels and adapting to the evolving contact center landscape.

Contact center volume jumped markedly when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closures of physical locations around the world, meaning contact centers were the sole source of customer-company interactions. Though the pandemic has waned, another spike in contact center interactions could be coming, this time from machines.

By 2026, 20% of inbound customer service contact volume will come from machine customers, according to Gartner, Inc. 

Machine customers are nonhuman economic actors that obtain goods or services in exchange for payment, Gartner explained. This can range from something as simple as a user asking Siri to place or schedule orders, to a smart sensor in a factory ordering a component when it is near failure. In customer service and support, machine customers will resemble virtual assistants or smart devices that perform customer service activities on behalf of their human counterparts, such as reporting issues or gathering product information.

“Machine customers will reset customer expectations about what constitutes a low-effort experience, creating a greater competitive gap,” said Uma Challa, senior director analyst in the Gartner customer service and support practice. “Organizations that embrace them will be able to differentiate their value and close the gap by meeting this new standard for effortless service.”

By 2024, Gartner anticipates 100 million requests for customer service will be raised by smart products.

Organizations that can successfully meet this spike in demand from “machine customers” will differentiate themselves from their competitors, according to Uma Challa, senior director in Gartner’s customer service and support practice. “Organizations without a machine customer strategy in place won’t have a good way of distinguishing between machine customers and human customers. They may see their nonchatbot channel performance get worse without understanding why.”

With this expected spike in traffic, there are a few different strategies that contact centers can use to meet the rise in demand:

Machine to Machine: Deploy the Right Technology

The best way to handle more requests coming from machines is with machines, Gartner suggested. Conversational AI, combined with chatbots, will handle much of the bot-to-bot communications. Another technology leading contact centers will add will be quick auto-response applications to handle email requests.

Organizations can avoid data overwhelm while following customer engagement protocol smoothly with the right technology and strategies, agreed Roman Milyushkevich, chief technology officer. “Tools like customer telephony integration can help contact center personnel to have an overview of all the multiple customer communications from a single interface, thus allowing easier integration and dispersal of services efficiently. Features like ACD, remote desktop technology, voice recording, call logging, universal queuing, predictive dialing, voice biometrics and CRM software allow contact center executives to take the right action while accessing data inputs in real-time.”

Related Articles: The Newest Messaging Automation Trigger: Internet-Connected Devices

Learning Opportunities

The IT Challenge of Connecting Disparate Customer Data

According to Srini Kadiyala, OvalEdge chief technology officer, “Now that we've essentially automated the ability for smart devices to 'register complaints' or 'urgent service requests,' on top of people making those calls, chats and texts directly, nothing is more frustrating for a customer service agent than not having access to account information or a record of previous customer service calls or tickets.”

The challenge for enterprises is that they collect and store vast amounts of customer information in enterprise resource planning (ERP), material requirements planning (MRP), customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, web analytics, call center platforms and other IT systems, Kadiyala explained. These are all built upon a patchwork of platforms and technologies that don't easily share information. Putting this information at the fingertips of customer service — the 360-degree view of the customer — is mission-critical for customer service but incredibly challenging from an enterprise IT perspective.

Related Article: Why Ignoring IoT-Enabled Customer Experiences Could Cost You

Machine Customer Interventions: Hire the Right People

According to Milyushkevich, though IoT-generated requests for the most part will be handled by machines, there are times human intervention may still be needed. But handling some IoT traffic will be only part of agents’ responsibilities, so companies should be sure to hire candidates who can multitask with different channels like email, messaging apps, social media and voice calls. 

“Focus on simplifying workflows so customers are routed to the right resources, saving time and errors,” Milyushkevich recommended. “Set up clear objectives for metrics that are based on conversion rates and revenues with a focus on faster resolutions.”

Final Thoughts on Smart Device Interactions

As smart devices continue to proliferate and become ever smarter — able to do more things without human interaction, they will add to contact center volume. So managers will want to consider the strategies above to handle the influx.

To tackle the challenges brought on by this shift, contact centers should adopt a three-pronged approach: deploying appropriate technology, implementing a data catalog and hiring versatile personnel. By embracing these strategies, contact centers can efficiently manage the growing volume of interactions generated by smart devices, ensuring seamless customer experiences and staying ahead of the curve.