Reach Out and Touch for Better Collaboration Customer Experiences

From repeated assurances that "your call is very important to us" to an anonymized stream of corporate communications … Isn't there anything that can put some humanity back into collaboration and communications? The quantified self – breaking down human behavior into data sets – could help companies inject some personality into their customer service.

Collaborators In the Firing Line

We’ve all been there, trapped in a conference call listening to the speaker drone on, staring blankly at slides on WebEx or another ScreenCaster. Really, is that the best way for people to collaborate? And as consumers, how many times do we need to hear that we're a "valued customer?"  

In this supposedly enlightened age of collaboration and customer experience, where is that bright spot among the corporate offerings that acknowledge the human spirit? Who can use technology to engage it, to measure it and inform a team that its leader is droning on? Who can tell a company that its valued customers are frustrated by their systems?

Because business is increasingly conducted digitally, companies run the risk of losing the personalization that helped drive so many companies in years past. The Quantified Self – self-knowledge through self-tracking – gives businesses the opportunity to inject some individuality back into the interactive experience.

The technology is already here – we're all armed with smartphones, state-of-the-art conference systems and camera-equipped laptops. It simply requires that we take advantage of "sensory aware" communications to make it a reality.

If it is possible for Siri, Google Voice, Microsoft's Cortana and other systems to interpret our audio instructions, why can't they monitor vocal stress or boredom levels to indicate degrees of engagement, frustration or interest as cameras track our level of attentiveness?

Keeping it Interesting

We're not suggesting a polygraph test or a notification when employees get distracted. Rather, why aren't we using data generated by group sessions to let presenters know what they could be doing better? How useful could such a system be?

Most experienced presenters have a break-out moment prepared to recapture their audience's attention. So why doesn't collaboration software offer automated real-time interactions – voting, opinion capturing – based on what's being webcast? Why not add something that increases interactivity beyond a stream of dense PowerPoint slides?

There are plenty of reports, white papers and other predictive texts pushing for ever greater business access to our time, data, thoughts and personal information, so is it too much for workers and customers to ask for something in return? This isn't just to increase the fun factor – improved engagement would facilitate decision-making, improve information processing and provide a host of other benefits to businesses.

Keeping Consumers Happy

This kind of approach could have implications across interactive channels. Consider this: you can give a five-star rating to an app that you've installed on your smartphone. So why can't users rate companies after every phone call with a bank, service provider or other business?

Not only would such a system provide immediate feedback and cut awkward "is it okay for us to call you to talk about the call you just had" moments, but it would provide marketing opportunities and draw attention to aspects of business that could use improvement. If stress levels on an app-initiated phone call go through the roof, that could be an indicator that things aren’t operating as well as they could.

Steps are already being taken in-store. Synqera offers facial-emotion recognition systems to help bring the benefits of the digital marketplace to traditional brick and mortars. It also helps track customer loyalty and provides easy check-out to smooth the customer experience along. As long as there's a benefit to be had from such initiatives customers will be willing to try them out.

Give it Up

With Apple, Starbucks and others just launching their iBeacons and geo-fencing technologies, which trigger deals and alerts when consumers are in or near a store, there are growing opportunities. Imagine a world where a customer's schedule shows they've been to a doctor or lawyer before heading to a store. Surely a drink voucher would be more soothing than a two-for-one espresso?

Similarly, as the customer walks in and checks the information or voucher that arrived on their phone, a quick scan of their facial features can tell if they're upset, happy, or neutral. How about adding a discount for upset costumers, or a nice upselling opportunity for happy ones? Such technology is already being used in the eMotion-platform bracelet, which was designed for games, but could easily be adapted for other smart devices.

Title image by Dusit (Shutterstock).