The Changing Face of Contact Centers Series — Part 3: Tag, You’re it—RFID and You


Ask ten different people what “RFID” is and you’ll likely get ten different responses, ranging from “RF what?” to “Oh yeah, that spy stuff.” In truth, while RFID, or “radio frequency identification,” is growing in mainstream use and popularity, most people still aren’t familiar with the in and outs of the technology or why it’s pretty darn cool. So I feel it’s my duty to dedicate the third installment of this “Contact Center” series to a brief overview of RFID.

RFID, in its earliest form, was used in World War II to tell if a plane was a ‘friend or foe’ (in fact – it was called at the time ‘Identify Friend or Foe’ or “IFF”).  Since that time, it has been used to track everything from nuclear materials to cows. But it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that the technology made it to the big leagues. Now, RFID is used primarily for inventory tracking —think of it as a “barcode on steroids.” Much more robust than the average barcode, RFID tags can trace an item through its entire life cycle, allowing for tighter inventory control. More importantly, RFID technology communicates automatically with inventory systems, providing a means to share information instantly.

You may be thinking that RFID technology is too intrusive or expensive to integrate into everyday use; however, if you’ve ever used an automated toll collection device like an EZ Pass or a discount shopper’s card, you’ve already experienced the benefits of RFID. When you use Mobil Speedpass or other automatic payment options that involve waving your credit card or fob over a reader, you’re using RFID technology.

The benefits of RFID adoption in day-to-day life are numerous. Imagine you’re a rewards member at a hotel using RFID technology. As a valued guest, you’d download the member rewards app with the RFID chip onto your smartphone. Upon landing at the airport, the app would send an automatic message checking you into your room and give you your room number, making your check-in completely effortless and hassle-free. In fact—since the technology that allows badges to open doors is also based on RFID—you could even use the RFID in your phone to open your hotel room door. (Bonus: no worries about hotel keys being deactivated because they’ve been too close to credit cards or phones!)

How about RFID technology in your home appliances, such as an oven that reads cooking instructions and can program itself accordingly? Or a washing machine that reads the tags in your clothes and operates according to the instructions on the labels? This may sound like an episode of the Jetsons, but as it becomes cheaper to use, more and more companies will begin integrating RFID simply for the convenience and personalized service it provides, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.

So what does RFID have to do with customer contact centers? In many scenarios, when your app or fob sends a message, the information is received by an employee in a contact center. For example, automotive technology that provides recurring diagnostic checks on your vehicle may send a message to a contact center, signaling that your engine needs repairs or you’re overdue for an oil change. The center then notifies your dealer, who contacts you to set up an appointment. The responsibility for scheduling vehicle maintenance then shifts from the owner to the dealer, freeing the owner from constant checking and scheduling.

From libraries to retailers to pet products, RFID opportunities exist in virtually every industry. Tourists can use it when traveling, communicating with a travel agency contact center to find local attractions, dining, shopping or directions, based on location. There are an increasing number of major theme parks that are using RFID wrist bands to bring habits of the visitors into their contact center for trending analysis. Take park concierge services for example. A customer passing by a Near Field Communication (NFC) device several times in a short period of time can receive a call from a concierge asking if they need help finding a certain attraction. This not only provides an increase in customer satisfaction, but assists the park in trending the most popular attractions and helps understand where to better invest.

RFID technology is here for the long haul and continues to grow in both capability and application. We’re excited to be on the forefront of this new trend with Windstream’s contact center service. Find out more about how a Windstream contact center can benefit your organization.