2014-5-November-wearable-tech

The Internet of Things (IoT) has really begun to take shape over the past few years. Individual segments are being carved out and defined such as the connected home and office, IoT retail solutions, connected cars, smart cites, smart grids, and of course, wearable technology, to name a few.

Now wearable tech, which has made quite an impact on the consumer markets, is showing promise for enterprise use. 

Stuff of Dreams

Wearable tech seems to have captured many people's imaginations, as evidenced by things like last month's Wear It Festival in Berlin, the first festival for wearable electronics and art. Products like Fitbit and Jawbone have had a big impact on personal fitness and really lead the way for other wearables to find acceptance.

Google Glass was the first viable entry into the augmented reality segment of wearables and opened up that market channel for products like the Skully AR1, a motorcycle helmet that uses similar technology to Google Glass to add improved safety features to a traditional motorcycle helmet.

Smart watches were also a big chunk of the wearable tech segment, culminating in the (potentially) game changing Apple Watch, which promises to take the basic peripheral functions of the standard smart watches and bring them to the next level. The $500 watch, which won't hit the market until early next year, is packed with health monitoring sensors and advanced communications tools.

It's easy to see how wearable tech has impacted the consumer markets. But let's take a look at the far more difficult to gauge pulse of wearable tech in the enterprise side of things.

More Tech, Better CX? 

Customer experience is one area in particular where wearable tech has the ability to make a large impact. Providing top quality customer service is an area on which most companies spend considerable resources, and, like most any area, there is a way for the IoT to help them optimize their resources. 

To get further insights about that, I reached out to two men working in the wearable space currently: Patrik Kloz, CEO and co-founder of Sweden's Mustino, and Mike Karlskind, vice president of product marketing at Burlington, Mass-based ClickSoftware. Each has vastly different perspectives and experience in the wearable tech space, and the contrast makes for a very refreshing looking at how these devices could impact customer service. 

If you think about how tech can improve customer service, it makes a lot of sense to look from two perspectives: the point of view of the customer as well as the company. Though there are undoubtedly many nuanced facets to customer service between the two, let's take a broad look and get an idea of the landscape. 

How You Look at It

When I asked about the customers' perspective and how wearable tech can improve their experiences, Kloz responded from the view of making use of the customers' own wearable tech.

There is a fast food chain (although they call themselves slow food) called Vapiano. What this company does is give you a beacon after you order. Once the beacon blinks and vibrates, you know your pizza is ready so you can stand up and go get it. They've been using that over years now and I guess people like it. Would I would like would be to have my ring or necklace ring when my pizza is ready." 

When give the same question Karlskind looked at how a customer service rep could use wearable tech to provide information to a customer in a moment of need. 

“Wearables can help employees and businesses in general provide a quicker and more customized response to customers. This is because interactions with wearables is seamless, and empowers workers to quickly, without much hassle, gain crucial information in the moment they need it."

While both took views from different side of the customer experience, the result was the same: giving the customer the best possible experience and using wearable tech to do so.

But Can Business Benefit? 

Looking at wearables and customer experience from the business perspective, Kloz was somewhat noncommittal. For him, the concept needs to be more task dependent. “Really depends on the wearable and what it can do in combination with the employee and their tasks,” he said. 

Karlskind was more willing to highlight some of the payoffs that a business might see by deploying wearable tech to its employees. “Increase employee satisfaction, increase employee productivity, and the ability for employees do their job quicker and more seamlessly,” he said. 

Now that we have some perspective of how wearable tech is impacting customer experience from both sides of the coin, it’s fitting to wrap things up by looking at what the future might hold for wearable tech in customer service. 

Kloz envisions wearables having a dynamic and ever-changing role in the enterprise ecosystem. “The long-term outlook for wearable tech in the customer service industry can only be one: Test, measure, learn," he said. 

Karlskind sees wearables as devices that will bridge the gap for employees who work remotely, as well as an augmenting device for those who cannot have their hands occupied while servicing a customer.

“Wearables are being most quickly adopted in the enterprise in situations where there are 'deskless' workers and those that need a hand’s free, real-time experience to enable them to do their job, more efficiently and more accurately,” he said.

The Bottom Line 

While it is clear that the Internet of Things and wearable tech will have a long lasting impact on the way businesses service their customers, it is also clear that there is no clear cut path at this juncture.

With the wearable tech segment of IoT still expanding and being defined, it’s far too early to lock down what this will look like going forward. The one takeaway that is certain from these conversations now is that there are many ideas on how wearable tech can and will help business better serve their customers. And that’s a good thing … a very good thing. 

Title image by MeTaMiND EvoLuTioN MeT  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.