With all of the talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s easy to get lost in the possibilities of the future. But right now, as you’re reading this article, you should already be devising a plan to integrate connected devices into your business processes.

Similar to the adoption of social media, companies that don't do this risk missing out on meaningful interactions, costing them customer loyalty and revenue. What if top brands like Nike, Delta and Dell never joined Twitter? They wouldn't just be missing out on an Oreo Super Bowl moment, they’d be leaving behind important customer data, sales and upsell opportunities. Social media not only provides an opportunity to engage and entertain customers, but also a means to meet business needs and contribute to sales efforts. The same thing is happening with the integration of connected devices.

Will Social Benefits Translate to IoT?

AT&T’s community resulted in 21,000 customer issues resolved, driving a 16 percent improvement in call deflections year over year. Linksys, a division of Cisco, deflected 120,000 support cases (pdf) each month, and FICO’s community has served 850,000 customers, resulting in a 10 percent improvement in call deflections annually. Royal Bank of Canada realized an 18 percent improvement in customer satisfaction from implementing a social customer care system that was integrated with their traditional call center applications. And, in what may be one of the most well noted social media ROI case studies, in 2009 Dell reported that they had generated $3 million through Twitter alone.

These companies were some of the first to integrate social feeds into business processes like CRM systems early on. When customers heard from companies in a new and convenient way, they became brand loyal and bought more. Now we expect companies to share and respond to us on our social networks. Eventually customers will expect companies to provide the same level of service and attention to their machines and devices.

The call center has transformed over the years. No longer is it just a call center, but rather a contact center where agents monitor and handle phone, web, email, live chat, social media and now connected products. More businesses understand this change and realize that today’s contact center agent has multiple touch points with their customers -- even more than sales.  With the right technology, agents can see a 360-degree view of the customer to help provide the best solution to the customer’s problem. Bringing machines and devices into this conversation will add to this rich layer of data.

Translating Data into Action

Companies that lead the connected product revolution are taking raw machine and device data and turning it into actionable information inside their CRM systems. In turn, they present this in a usable format to service, sales, marketing and R&D to make more informed business decisions. Product data enables agents to proactively reach out when issues arise, and, when issues do occur, agents with visibility into the product can correctly address the issue in a timely manner. Companies are connecting to their devices so that they can “talk” and better inform the organizations that have manufactured them or are servicing them.

Organizations that connect to their machines and devices become more efficient. Companies typically manage their machines and assets according to the following three maintenance models:

  • Reactive: Also called “run to failure maintenance.” This occurs when an asset is run until it no longer works and is then replaced. This model is characterized by unplanned downtime and failure of your equipment which negatively impacts your top line revenue.
  • Scheduled: Characterized when maintenance is performed at manufacturer recommended intervals. This philosophy is actually the most expensive to follow because components could be overhauled or replaced that have no need for it. In addition, assets can and will still fail between maintenance cycles.
  • Preventative/Predictive: Characterized as monitoring assets continuously for any sign of degradation. Companies are able to harness and analyze the data being produced from their assets to configure thresholds and notify you prior to an asset encountering a failure point. This can be used to produce a complete picture of the asset, and maintenance can be most efficiently scheduled for known downtimes before a failure occurs.

According to the US Department of Energy, best in class companies that have moved to a preventative model enjoy:

  • 10 times the return on investment
  • 25-30 percent reduction in maintenance costs
  • 70-75 percent elimination of breakdowns
  • 35-45 percent reduction in downtime
  • 20-25 percent increase in production

In our business, we’ve seen connected products change business models. ATEK’s tank monitoring devices help their customers see how much liquid is, or isn’t, in a remotely deployed oil or gas container. Now, when a device has an issue, or just needs a new battery, ATEK’s products automatically create a case in Salesforce and the team can proactively take action. They never have to dispatch a field service technician when it’s unnecessary. When technicians do make trips, they know exactly what issue they’re set out to solve, meaning the right talent and tech is on board. Connected products give companies opportunities to revolutionize business models and take customer experience to a new level.

Business analyses and reports by firms such as Gartner emphasize that businesses will continue to see validation when they focus on enhancing the customer experience. And signs are pointing to the Internet of Things, or connected products, as the next step to taking customer experience to a whole new level.