Five ways IoT is changing the workplace

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IoT is slowly permeating its way into everyday vocabulary, but in reality, it’s already here. You may have heard of these products labeled as smart, connected, web-enabled, and/or intelligent devices—but even if you haven’t, there’s a good chance you already own, use or reap their benefits in some form or another.

At its most basic definition, the Internet of Things, or IoT for short, is about embedding physical objects with technology that connects them to the internet and enables them to communicate with other devices. In today’s age, almost every product or gadget is open to connectivity.

Take smart homes for example. The number of connected home products introduced into the market is growing rapidly. A recent study conducted by research firm IDC and sponsored by TELUS International (“Preparing Your Support Team for the IoT-Connected Consumer”) estimates that 35 million American households currently have some kind of multimedia home-networking application. Major brands like Nest, Samsung, General Electric, Whirlpool and Philips now offer smart products like intelligent thermostats, security systems, smoke detectors, appliances, lightbulbs, and so on, that enable you to control your home, all from Android or iOS apps.

But IoT applications don’t end there. Just as IoT is changing the way we complete everyday household tasks, it’s also changing how we do things in the workplace, particularly in customer service.

As a contact center provider supporting connected consumers and their IoT-enabled products, TELUS International’s own hiring and talent development practices have evolved in many ways. And, although other businesses may not be providing technical support for IoT devices like we do, it’s likely that many of these changes will apply to other workplaces as well.

1. Hire the right skill sets from the start

While IoT-enabled products promise consumers efficiency and simplicity, these same connected devices also add complexity for those in support roles. When a customer reaches out for assistance, contact center agents will need to understand not only the supported solution, but the entire ecosystem of connected devices, services, and software that surround that solution, and how they interact. Organizations, therefore, need to re-evaluate and re-calibrate their hiring criteria in response.

Today’s agents must not only be people-focused and derive satisfaction from helping customers; they must also be tech-focused, inquisitive problem solvers with an innate curiosity and affinity for technology and gadgets. Hiring for these skill sets takes on a particular urgency in industries such as health care where the complexity factor is higher, and where timely, proactive support of connected devices can significantly impact patient well-being.

2. Implementation of new data strategies and policies

The abundance of information produced from connected devices is seemingly infinite, and when it comes to customer service, the implications of this data are two-fold. On one side, contact center agents will now have even greater access to customer information. The complexity of IoT-enabled devices often requires co-browsing or remote access in order to accurately troubleshoot the issue.

While privacy and security are always top of mind in the contact center, forward-thinking customer service organizations are emphasizing their security and privacy standards. This includes hiring staff only after extensive background checks and, once on the call center floor, agent activity remains carefully monitored. Key security messaging must also be incorporated into ongoing training and coaching programs to ensure agents are armed with the appropriate information to put customers at ease.

On the other end of the spectrum, a growing number of employees are using IoT-enabled devices as part of their day-to-day job. Everything from key strokes to the areas of the office building most frequently used can be monitored and recorded. Workplaces can either use this data to become more analytical or become buried in how to make sense of it all. In order to avoid the later, leaders will need to define clear strategies around data usage including determining what’s most valuable to the business.

3. Evolution of training tools

Given the complex nature of supporting connected devices, contact center training tools will have to evolve. Following a basic service script will no longer work as the possible outcomes when troubleshooting for IoT related products are wide and varied. More role playing, simulations and hands on access to connected devices will be needed in order to provide proper support.

Fortunately, the advancement of technology in general has also meant a transformation in workplace learning. Millennials thrive on interactive and digital training and the Internet of Things encourages this pursuit. Wearables, smartphone apps and virtual reality headsets are making learning more active and engaging. These tools have the ability to take training to the next level, creating a hands on learning experience in a safe and encouraging environment without the potential challenges associated with on-the-job training.

4. Embracing automation

As mentioned, the amount of data produced by IoT-enabled devices is astronomical, and in much of the same way that IoT can inform business strategy, it can also improve productivity in the workplace. Leveraging connected devices to identify areas of inefficiencies, coupled with the introduction of machine learning to automate simple processes can result in significant time savings for employees.

For the contact center specifically, automating tasks such as initial email responses to customers allows agents to focus on more complex interactions that are often associated with servicing IoT-connected devices. In this case, the goal is to use well-designed auto responses based on intelligent inputs from customer data. These initial responses can be short, conversational and designed to solve simple issues before customers reach a member of the support team. Just keep in mind, when building automation into any business, it’s important to automate processes and not relationships.

5. Using IoT for employee engagement

While the most obvious use of IoT in the workplace is to drive efficiency, it can also be used for team-based interaction. At TELUS International, we used fitness trackers to start a friendly competition amongst team members. Agents who successfully reached a fitness goal in a given time period were entered into a draw for prizes. As a result, employee engagement increased substantially and team members were inspired to become more physically active; a win-win for all involved!

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