By 2026 1 in 5 customer interactions that come through the contact centre will be from machines. The increase in non-human interactions is being driven by the proliferation of digitally-enabled devices and will trigger a seismic shift in how brands interact with customers. The data generated by smart technologies lays the foundation for an insights-driven approach, creating an all-round better experience for customers.
Although the ability for machines to communicate on behalf of consumers and citizens may seem futuristic, we are already seeing a number of promising use cases emerging. As a result, organisations must evaluate how machine communications can benefit their customer experience.
The ongoing increase in non-human interactions presents a huge opportunity for brands across the private and public sectors to improve experiences for customers and citizens alike; but what are these ‘machine customers’ and why are they important?
Machine customers, or digital customers, are connected devices that act on behalf of consumers and organisations to provide key insights without the need for human intervention. The Internet of Things (IoT) has created a connection between objects and people through digital media, turning even the most trivial of household appliances into ‘smart devices’. The same underlying technology has now entered the customer and citizen engagement spaces.
Smart meters powering proactive communications
Providers now have the ability to offer proactive and insight-led experiences, something the utilities sector is already embracing. 28 million households across the UK have a smart meter installed, allowing providers to deliver more accurate billing, both managing demand and identifying supply issues without having to inconvenience customers. The added connectivity also unlocks the ability to register and proactively respond to supply outages, allowing utilities providers to get on the front foot when issues occur.
Customers are kept personally informed without having to reach out to their provider and can be updated as soon as their issue is resolved. Although customers will undoubtedly feel the frustration of suffering an outage, the knowledge that their provider is working on a resolution provides huge practical and emotional benefits.
Proactive and data-driven insurance
It isn’t just the utilities sector that is realising the benefits of combining data sources with communication strategies. The global insurance market is highly saturated because it is incredibly lucrative, with a total value of £56.59 billion in the UK alone. As a result, finding a differentiator within the insurance industry is hard. Data is driving innovation, not only redefining relationships with customers but also allowing insurers to benefit from data-powered insights.
Insurance is sold on risk, but up to now, the classification of risk had been based very much on ‘finger in the wind’ guesstimates rather than hard insights. For example, car insurance premiums will be decided by set factors such as miles driven, age of the driver, the location in which the car is kept, and so forth. Advancements such as telematics, more commonly known as a black box, now allow insurers to collect data about a user’s actual driving and provide a more informed quote, based on real-world data. In return, insurers can provide more representative and fairer quotes, which reflect the driver’s behaviours and risk level.
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications within insurance go one step further. They place insurers closer to the customer through connected devices, allowing for the ability to react quickly and effectively when incidents occur. For example, motor insurance providers can receive communications from a machine customer to notify them that a vehicle has been involved in an accident. The machine customer can automatically trigger a call from an insurer’s contact center to the driver, allowing the insurer to take control of the scene and manage what happens next, avoiding the possibility of that insurer being blindsided by an unmanaged situation.
Virtual healthcare to benefit patients and healthcare providers
The healthcare sector is working relentlessly to get back on track following the COVID pandemic. As well as reducing waiting times, it is tasked with improving accessibility to care and enhancing patient experiences. IoT technology is allowing healthcare providers to do this through various ‘virtual’ experiences, with one prominent example being virtual wards.
Virtual wards allow patients to be discharged from hospital and monitored at home by clinicians leveraging internet-enabled IoT devices, which are connected to a specialized form of contact centre known as a ‘command centre’. Community virtual wards require a patient to take readings using home medical devices and self-report several times a day. Acute virtual wards go further, leveraging hospital-style continuous monitoring through IoT medical devices.
The virtual ward approach allows patients to be discharged more quickly whilst continuing to receive high-quality care in the comfort of their own homes. Data is shared with a team of clinicians in the command centre, tracking and supporting the progress of virtual patient cohorts through automated communications technology that singles out the cases requiring most attention, whilst updating hospital Electronic Patient Records (EPRs) and other clinical systems.
The proliferation of connected devices and the subsequent increase in machine customers will not only redefine what customers are and how they communicate but will also shape the future of the contact centre itself and the experiences brands can offer. Organisations will interact with and manage machine customers in a vastly different way from human customers. Still, the core aim remains the same – make interactions both straightforward and impactful.