Think how great it would be to have everyday objects that could ’talk’ to each other, carry out routine tasks and run your house - following your instructions, but with the minimum of intervention? Never again would you run out of milk, come home to a freezing cold house or have to crawl into a small cupboard with a torch to read your gas or electricity readings.
The Internet of Things has the ability to alert users of impending service issues before they happen – but businesses will have to have the right tools in place to make sure they can interpret and react to this data for the benefit of the consumer.
Internet of Things
We live in a connected world and the Internet of Things (IoT) - the network of physical objects embedded with software and network connectivity which allows the collection and exchange of data - is a natural evolution of all the things that we arealready using, but rolled into one.
By 2020, it’s claimed that up to 100 billion devices will be connected to private networks or to the Internet and the huge amount of data that this creates is constantly being crunched by computer algorithmsleading to the analysis of just about everything in the world around us.
So how does this work at home? Well, assuming that you’ve already got fast wireless broadband, all you need is a wi-fi signal that covers the entire house (or at least every room that has a smart product) and you’ll also need a smartphone or tablet that can act as a’hub’ where you can manage all this activity. It’s also essential that all your smart products talk the same language, so as to speak. There isn’t a universal language or industry standard at the moment - some products use Bluetooth and some use Z-Waveor Zigbeetechnology – but the important thing is that they can work together.
It’s now possible to use your smartphone, tablet or laptop to control a number of devices around the house, but what does this really mean? These devices are becoming more like services. They aren’t just essential products that we need to function day to day, but rather, services that add ease and convenience to our lives.
Almost every company in the business of manufacturing “things” (from home appliances to toys to electronics and more) are investigating ways to connect these physical products and make them “smart.” But that’s just one half of the equation. These companies also need systems and solutions that give them insight about how customers interact with these products, and what issues they run into.
Companies in the business of manufacturing and selling products will have to shift their customer service models for a new world – an IoT world.
Customer Service in an IoT World
Already ordinary household items like washing machines and lights can be programmed to perform simple tasks via your device. You can already install smart thermostats that switch on your boiler when you’re on your way home on an unexpectedly cold night or monitor the weather and then turn up the thermostat accordingly for you. And you can already set up movement-sensitive cameras that send an image of your living room to your device when you’re not at home, to reassure you that there are no intruders present.
But the great opportunity with this technology lies in proactive listening and problem solving. Imagine a scenario where your car alerts you of a problem before it happens, or your washer/dryer manufacturer books a service appointment for you as soon as the machine self-diagnoses a potential issue (saving you from picking up the phone after damage has been done).
Today, customer service issues are largely reactive. We call, chat or send an email after a problem occurs. But as devices become “smart” enough to anticipate and self-diagnose issues, it’ll be imperative for businesses to have mechanisms in place to proactively alert customers of impending problems and provide end-to-end resolution, via mobile technology, digital channels, social media and more.
Businesses that will thrive in this new paradigm will be ones that don’t just offer support when there’s an issue – but actively use consumer data to anticipate how users will engage not only with their product, but with others as well.
The Road Ahead
As wearables and connected devices become more mainstream, brands that cling to antiquated service models will risk becoming obsolete.
The Internet of Things will bring with it an enormous amount of data that can be of great value to the overall customer experience, provided companies anticipate the change ahead and build service models for a new age.