Michael Ringman is the CIO at TELUS International, a global provider of customer service, IT, and business process outsourcing services. With proficiency in over 35 languages, TELUS International team members serve the customer care and IT support needs of some of the world’s top brands via more than 175 million customer interactions handled annually. TELUS International has more than 25,000 team members around the world, with delivery centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America and Asia. Posting 80% employee engagement scores and attrition rates that are at least 50% below industry average, TELUS International is out to change the face of the outsourcing industry through its spirited teamwork, agile thinking and caring culture that puts customers first. Here Mike sheds some light on one of hottest topics in communications today – the Internet of Things.
How did your previous experience lead you to becoming the CIO of TELUS International?
One of my first jobs was as a bike shop mechanic which taught me that I liked to help people solve problems that they couldn’t, or didn’t have time to solve on their own. My appreciation for customer service excellence combined with my fascination and interest in technology eventually led me to business process outsourcing. My earlier roles in the industry allowed me to flex my networking muscles and gain experience building consolidated infrastructures as well as public and private cloud solutions. This work led me to TELUS International, where I’m continually amazed by the drive and dedication of our team members to solve end-customer problems.
Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, the biggest one is arguably the Internet of Things – what are currently the hottest topics being discussed in relation to the IoT?
There are huge implications related to IoT on both a micro and macro scale. Solely from a customer service perspective, the trending topic is really around how to provide great customer support in these mixed environments. For example, who is responsible for providing the support when you’re trying to set up your Logitech remote, to work with your Wi-Fi, in order to control your GE appliances? This level of integration is crucial to achieving the IoT look and feel, but where does the onus fall when it comes to service? A number of analysts anticipate that IoT will lead to a customer service revolution because of the added complexities and need for expertise on a more global basis.
In your opinion, how is IoT going to impact customer service and the contact center?
There’s an assumption that with more digital savvy consumers and increased connectivity, there will be a decreased need for contact center agents. However, the complexity of IoT interactions will require more support from highly skilled customer service agents, not less. Delivering a frictionless customer experience will be no easy task given that customers will be engaging with the support team because the ease of functionality promised by IoT is failing to live up to that expectation.
Contact center agents will require the ability to troubleshoot through a wide and varied ecosystem of devices, in the medium preferred by the customer. For example, an agent providing support for that customer looking to connect their universal remote to their thermostat or sound system will need to be well-versed in all of these devices, not just one particular brand or gadget. And the means and degree of delivery will be dependent on each customer. As a more tech-savvy individual, I would much prefer to be directed to a self-service solution, while someone else might be looking for more in-depth counsel over the phone.
Consistently meeting customers on their terms is what an omnichannel customer service strategy is all about. It’s what we strive to deliver for our own outsourced contact center clients and it will be a requirement with IoT.
What would you say will be the potential impact and opportunities that are likely to emerge from the IoT?
There is a significant opportunity for companies that embrace this technology change to differentiate themselves through innovation, knowledge and service excellence. IDC estimates that more than two-thirds of consumers are under-utilizing their connected devices and are not taking full advantage of IoT.
Brands who are able to help bridge these gaps by offering a more holistic and proactive approach to customer service will have a clear advantage over their competitors. Finding a contact center partner with skilled agents that can deliver seamless support across a multitude of platforms may very well be the key to delivering successful end-to-end service in a mixed IoT environment.
What are the challenges that must be tackled before the IoT systems are widely embraced?
Significant investments need to be made both in terms of technology and talent. In order to provide adequate support, agents will be required to access the consumer’s environment. This may mean co-browsing or taking control via remote access in order to fully assess and troubleshoot the situation. Emphasizing the safety and security of IoT-enabled products and systems will be an important factor in service excellence.
Additionally, today’s contact center agent is often provided with a knowledge base that is very specific to a brand or product. These resources need to be expanded in order to accommodate for the differing devices in an IoT environment. This is not to mention that the number of products and their abilities are constantly evolving with rapid and continuous deployment into the customer landscape. Utilizing data mining for proactive support will be integral and training agents to resolve issues related to connected devices will require ongoing time and resources. Those organizations with a strong track record in terms of low attrition and high agent engagement will likely prove most successful.
Looking into the near future, what do you anticipate for the development of the IoT?
The idea of a universal agent, one that is well-equipped to provide support for a host of connected devices, and willing to solve for connectivity problems, will be the level of service customers will come to expect. The very last thing a customer wants to hear from an agent after 20 minutes of troubleshooting is ‘looks like it may be a problem with your internet connection, we can’t help you with that’, before directing them to a different avenue for support. This actually puts telcos in a unique position in relation to IoT as the very concept implies a connection to the internet. The first place customers will inherently think to contact for support is their service provider; a privileged scenario for those forward-thinking telcos looking to offer a differentiated level of support.
What is TELUS International doing to embrace IoT?
IoT is still emerging but we know the issues that will arise won’t be solved using a traditional multichannel model, whereby the various customer service channels operate independently from one another. TELUS Cloud Contact Center, or TC3, is our omnichannel solution that empowers our clients to manage their customer interactions via unified multimedia technology for an exceptional end-to-end customer experience. This technology platform offers capabilities like desktop take-over, co-browsing, data mining, chat, email and video support; ideal features when supporting IoT enabled devices.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
IoT provides customer support organizations the opportunity to truly exceed customer expectations but it needs to be a two pronged approach. Companies and their outsourcing partners have to be aligned and willing to look outside the traditional model by adopting new metrics and methods in order to meet the future demands of customer support and service.