May 09, 2017

IoT: Key To Transformation Towards Superior Customer Experience

Internet of Things (IoT) is not a distant dream; rather, the interconnected world of devices—from smart home appliances to connected cars, smartphones, tablets and fitness tracking devices—is already here. The biggest beneficiaries of IoT are customers and enterprises.

Every enterprise wants to get closer to its customers, and IoT, which provides rich customer-centric data related to behavior and product usage through real-time sensors, brings enterprises closer to customers than ever before. Data-driven customer insights are one of the main enablers of excellent customer service and experience. IoT brings entirely new perspective to customer service and related experience. In an IoT world, customer service changes from reactive to proactive.

Proactive customer service

“Best customer service experience is one that never has to happen" says Alex Bard, ex service cloud chief at Salesforce. Consider a scenario in which a household TV suddenly develops some issue. First, customers might try troubleshooting the problem; when that fails, they resort to calling customer service. The result is a time-wasting, frustrating, and expensive repair experience.

In this scenario, customer behavior is reactive to problems when they occur. With IoT, customer service becomes proactive: it diagnoses and predicts problems in a proactive manner. By enabling smart devices and sensors, proactive customer service takes a completely new turn:

  • First, sensors identify the issue before it occurs and interact with an automated support layer without human intervention, solving the issue before it even arises
  • If not solved by itself, communicate problems directly to service provider before the problem actually occurs
  • Proactive customer service may need to occur, as customer service professionals can respond to the data collected by the IoT devices and reach out to the customer when the automated technology cannot solve the problem

Therefore, in an IoT world, contact centers shift to outbound calling, contacting customers proactively when a technical problem is anticipated, rather than waiting for inbound customer service calls. No time is wasted troubleshooting issues when they may have been prevented in the first place.

IoT-driven customer intelligence

Data generated by IoT provides valuable insights about customer behaviors. It tells what your customers want as well as how they are using products and services. Enterprises can use this data to provide value-added services, coupons, and other incentives to improve customer experience.

By understanding product-usage patterns, businesses can dynamically change product features to more closely align with customer behaviors. Businesses can know in real time what is working and what is not. This enables organizations to make data-driven decisions and immediately react to correct or adjust issues. This results in more proactive service, reducing costs and improving customer experience.

Data from IoT also helps in optimizing marketing process. With the data from connected devices, business can better understand and anticipate their customers' preferences. Thus, rather than creating a general, one size-fits-all marketing strategy, advertisers and marketers can reach individual segments of their customer base. So instead of flooding all customers with the same offer, marketing teams can create personalized offers that keep the customer engaged and satisfied with the product. Obviously, this is good for any relationship with a customer, but it also dramatically impacts the bottom line.

Proactive service and IoT-driven intelligence result in superior customer experience

The more we know about our customers, and the sooner we know it, the better decision we can make. A happy customer is the one who gets the right things at the right time. IoT helps enterprise achieve this using its capability to gather real-time intelligence—and react to it. Let's think about the connected car, i.e., an Internet-enabled car with sensors to monitor various parameters—from engine to lights and tire pressure—and then receive warnings and notifications in the event the car needs parts or maintenance. First, car sends automated notification with warning messages in case some part needs maintenance or replacement. This not only results in superior customer experience but minimizes the chance of a driver getting stranded in middle of nowhere. Second, in the event that a car does break down, the system automatically sends a message to the nearest repair center. Again, this results in superior customer experience through a proactive service.

IoT framework in customer's space

IoT framework for customer is driven by big data technologies. It provides a closed loop process from data capture to service delivery.

Figure 1: IoT framework for customer

As discussed previously, the case of connected cars follows a similar framework to deliver superior customer experience.

Figure 2: IoT - Example of customer journey in connected cars

At the end, we can say that, in the world of IoT, the customer is king, and enterprises are leaving no stone unturned to serve. We can summarize this whole narrative as follows:

  • Proactive customer service through predictive analytics
  • Self-service by devices, raising service requests as needed
  • Contact centers shift to outbound calling, rather than waiting for inbound service requests
  • Real-time customer intelligence to anticipate customer needs and behaviors
  • Big data–driven IoT framework to enable proactive customer service

Author: Saket Khare, Senior Manager, Customer Service Analytics Practice, Analytics & Research