Earlier this year, Gartner predicted that “By 2018, five percent of customer service cases will be initiated by Internet-connected devices, up from 0.02 percent in 2014." The home of 2020 could have more than 500 smart objects "collaborating in a personal Internet of Things (IoT)," paving the way for more automated service.
Automated support processes are already trying to streamline the customer service process through integrated applications and workflow enabled business processes.
But customer service has always been about more than automated service trees and finding the fastest, lowest cost way to answer a customer’s question. In the future, self-service will move the device itself. Devices will directly interact and support customers.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Good customer service in this age of the Internet of Things will take one step further and take place right on the device itself — screens to tap to search knowledge bases for answers, chat live with a rep, or schedule a service appointment.”
Smart Products Unleash New Service Opportunities
Smart products are evolving beyond basic upkeep and automatic upgrades to provide higher levels of intelligence, awareness and connectivity. From R&D and manufacturing, through distribution and after-sales support, smart product data is changing how products are built, sold and serviced.
To connect products through machine to machine (M2M) support previously required specialized hardware and software with complex telephony integration. And even when those products were connected, the first line customer support representative very rarely had access in real time.
Cloud infrastructures and mobile connectivity have made more sophisticated strategies available. Front line customer service departments can now be armed with real time product and field data to service customers.
For product manufacturers, the integration of smart products and smart service has the potential to not only increase customer service, but to increase the effectiveness of field service technicians and accelerate product innovation. By connecting devices and analyzing sensor data across the product population, manufacturers can spot trends, predict failures and influence product changes based on rapid field feedback. Ultimately, it can improve the product at a faster rate, which in turn affects the customer sentiment and loyalty. Customers love efficient, trouble free, reliable products.
In the future, many product manufacturers will become software and analytics companies to better improve their customer’s outcomes and to unleash new product service opportunities.
For example, at GE, a single jet engine collects more than one terabyte of data on a cross-Atlantic flight, and one gas turbine compressor blade monitoring potential of 500 gigabytes per day. This data collection gives GE an opportunity to offer predictive maintenance and optimization services for more than $1 trillion worth of Internet-connected industrial equipment, ranging from medical equipment to jet engines.
Analytics Creates Intelligent, Proactive Support Models
Real time customer data combined with predictive analytics will allow customer service to go beyond basic automation. In the future, problems will be solved proactively by understanding customer information on status, location, functionality and preferences.
The emergence of an intelligent support layer will enable actions to be taken based on real time data and predefined automated processes. This allows devices to directly interact with the support layer, removing the need for human interaction. The intelligent support layer will routinely take action on customer's behalf and send notification of the resolution.
A simple example is a smart printer that monitors toner. This printer can automatically place orders for more toner based on previous buying preferences. Instead of just alerting you that your toner is low, the intelligent support layer acts independently. In place of the alert, customers receive the notification that toner has been ordered and will arrive in two days. Service moves from reactive to to proactive, solving issues before customers are aware they exist.
IoT Redefines Customer Relationships
IoT, coupled with data analytics from connected devices and smart products, is transforming the way companies interact with customers. These connected products are helping to accelerate product innovation by allowing faster, closed loop feedback directly from customers. This creates a virtuous circle, where customers get better service and products, and companies gain insights to deliver the more personalized experiences that drive higher loyalty.