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How Will Internet of Things Impact Omni Channel Customer Service Offerings?

Jamshaid Anwar | Feb 11, 2017 2,443 views 11 Comments

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Image courtesy of CoolHarbour.

Every organisation is almost in a frenzy on how to provide customers martini accessibility (anytime, anyplace, anywhere and now anyhow) but are oblivious to the benefits Internet of Things can give to their organisation and their customers. They are only looking at how to provide Omni Channel Customer Services the traditional way. The basic premise being served here is that if the customer can access you easily at any time then they will be a happy customer. The problem with this premise is that in most of these contact scenarios the customer is already unhappy or has an issue which will quickly escalate and now you are in a position where you must resolve their situation and then turn them into happy customer – that’s a lot of preventable effort!

What if we turn this approach on its head? What would the role of the Customer Service Centre be if a greater proportion of our mission was to ensure that they were never unhappy in the first place? Instead more of our customer engagements are about prevention and experience improvement. From a customer’s perspective, every contact with your organisation would more likely be a positive one. Smart objects communicating through an Internet of Things enables this.

With Gartner predicting that by 2018 we could see as many as 500 smart objects collaborating in the home through an Internet of Things, organisations need to be looking at how this phenomenon will impact their customer engagement strategies.

Let’s look at some of the opportunities on offer.

The Support Centre

The traditional Support Centre is currently very much an inbound reactive function that is fully focussed on problem and incident resolution. If organisations made their service/product offerings smarter so that real time notifications were sent back to the Customer Service Centre prior to an issue materialising. Organisations would be able book a service or have parts issued, this would then result in an outbound preventative focus with the customer having a positive perception of the service/product offering. For example B2B organisations offering fleet management services could make substantial cost savings from preventaive action by having data from their fleet reported back in near real time to their service centre.

Some companies are already taking the initiative such as:

  • Rentokil Initial making their products smarter so that Hygiene and Pest B2B service offerings can be smartly scheduled with intelligent utilisation of their supply chain.
  • Companies with real estate portfolios are using smart devices linked to video and audio enable the service provider to take preventative and near immediate action. These companies are saving a fortune by providing a high percentage of resolutions online and often fixing these before the customer has become aware of the issue. In turn this is driving more of their customers to join the online IoT eco system thus delivering even greater benefits.
  • Organisations with significant supply chain challenges, both B2C and B2B, are looking at introducing intelligent Pelipod delivery containers/cabinets that send information back to base through the internet to track deliveries, collections and access. This is enabling businesses to save significant costs on having to keep multiple inventory items that never get used.

The telecom and mobile sector should be leaping ahead in this area, but alas they are lagging, with the exception of one which has embraced Internet of Things for some of its supply chain automation. They could make their mobile and router devices smarter so that alerts and notifications are sent to the customer and service centre to initiate a smart work flow. For example, Routers could be made smarter so that proactive diagnostics are undertaken without the customer or the support department triggering the process.

Telcos are all creating mobile applications to make account management and the raising support calls to be easier. What if these mobile applications could covertly undertake diagnostics of the top 10 types of support call? The challenges are many, such as changing the Contact Centre and Supply Chain work flows, but the opportunities are a game changer. The first Telcos to take the initiative would have a huge advantage in reduced customer churn rates allowing them to then just focus on giving customers excellent value through their services, offers and prices.

Marketing

Marketing departments are spending huge amounts getting new customers and convincing their current customers to stay. One just needs to look at areas where Virgin Media and BT are trying to convince customers to switch – where many were once ex customers, there are mailshot letters arriving at customers nearly every quarter with some type of offer. Internet of Things enables businesses to capture customer and usage data for the full lifecycle of the customer. This allows the marketing department to have a view of the full customer and product or service cycle and thereby empowering them to look at how to improve their offerings. This technology will take one-to-one marketing to a new level.

Referrals are the utopia for marketing departments. What if smart Internet of Things devices could intelligently capture the customer’s mood during the lifecycle of the product’s performance through smart information capture? The provider would be able to link this data to execution of referral work flows to understand how to maximise referrals. This would enable Internet of Things triggered referral marketing strategies, thereby changing the operational emphasis of outbound contact centres.

Sales

Sales departments are missing out on huge opportunities by missing product lifecycle events that could trigger a sales contact opportunity, which would only be possible through an Internet of Things connected smart device. If a product is out of warranty and is no longer transmitting usage information, there is an opportunity for businesses to schedule a call and make an offer before the customer switches to another provider. At the moment, the business will have no idea the customer is or about to speak to another provider and when marketing makes contact during a future campaign the customer will have already switched. All opportunities for up selling and cross selling will also have vanished.

How extensive will the Internet of Things organisational transformation be?

Once businesses grasp the opportunities available from Internet of Things connected smart devices they will need to re-evaluate their Contact Centre services and strategies. There will be no area untouched by this change as they will need to review and transform their Target Operating Models, HR and workforce planning, KPI and Management reporting, Work flow automation, supply chain tactical (0-3 months) and strategic (3-24 month) planning.

The next generation of contact centres will be the result of the Internet of Things revolution and organisations not planning with IoT in mind will not be able to deliver the same customer experience as the competition. The IoT supported contact centre will be a department that is joined up with the rest of the organisation where IoT enabled smart devices are driving the workflows in Marketing, Sales and Support to deliver a truly joined up service offering. The next generation of contact centre will be a place where the customer is looked after for the full customer and product lifecycle.

I would be interested to hear what challenges your organisations are facing in integrating IoT into your service or product offerings and supporting Target Operating models. This will enable me to update this article further.

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

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11 Responses to How Will Internet of Things Impact Omni Channel Customer Service Offerings?

  1. Michael Lowenstein February 12, 2017 at 10:33 am (1317 comments) #

    Everything I read about the rapid evolution here makes me agree with Gartner. Especially for b2c consumers, this will be next CX frontier to help organizations deliver more proactive, value-driven service.

  2. Jamshaid Anwar February 13, 2017 at 1:49 am (5 comments) #

    Thanks Michael,

    I agree this is the next CX frontier, however the biggest challenge organisations will have is that they need to re-think of Customer Service as a proactive service rather than the currently traditional reactive service. When companies think of CX in those terms the amount of change is very scary for many and will take a lot of courage to pursue. The real catalyst will be when the competition get a head start and start attracting customers due to adopting this new way of thinking.

  3. Andrew Rudin February 13, 2017 at 7:54 am (240 comments) #

    Hi Jamshaid – when I marketed packaged solutions on the IBM AS/400 mid-range platform in the 1980’s, an innovation IBM pioneered was similar to what you described: the AS/400 could alert hardware maintenance about the impending failure of a critical component. Up to that point, distributed information systems were highly vulnerable to catastrophic hardware failures. I have no doubt that developing this capability in the AS/400 required a heavy investment from IBM. Today, IoT makes this important capability available to many companies.

    I agree that businesses have much to gain from changing the support paradigm from ‘incident handling’ to ‘incident prevention.’ Amazon’s entire CX architecture was founded on this ideal. Recognizing that customers routinely needed to make multiple inquiries about ship status, the company decided to integrate order acknowledgement, in-transit status, and delivery notification into an easy-to-follow flow of information. The result: fewer contacts with customer support to find out where the heck something is. The challenge with this paradigm is that many companies evaluate their internal performance on number of calls handled, time-to-resolution, and post-incident customer satisfaction. They don’t measure how many calls were prevented in the first place through better processes and workflows. Still, it’s trackable by looking at the support center incident trendlines.

    I’m unclear from your article how IoT will facilitate customer referrals. There is a common conception that happy, satisfied customers have a tendency to refer others, but that is not always a good assumption. Could you elaborate on how IoT can facilitate positive word-of-mouth referrals?

  4. Jamshaid Anwar February 13, 2017 at 10:07 am (5 comments) #

    Thanks Andrew,

    I think you’re implying that not all happy customers make a referral.

    This assumption is correct as customers inevitably need motivation, a trigger event and dare I say it a slight nudge. To achieve these the Company would need to intelligently capture IoT enabled information to fully understand the “mood of the customer” so as to be empowered to manage the customers marketing lifecycle engagement. The acquired customer information and “mood” would then need to be designed as part of a Marketing work flow. In conclusion, a company cannot just rely solely on the “mood of the customer” for the referral to happen it needs to manage the customer’s marketing lifecycle and interaction with the customer to nudge them to make that referral. The big plus in all this is that most of this work flow can be automated. My next article is going to be on the very subject of Customer Referrals where I will be covering this in more detail. If you would like to discuss this further before I publish the next article, feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

  5. Andrew Rudin February 13, 2017 at 10:35 am (240 comments) #

    Hi Jamshaid: I look forward to reading your next article on this topic. Motivating or ‘nudging’ customers to make referrals brings up ethical concerns that I have covered in some of my articles, and I regularly address the issue with clients. Problems occur when incentives and remuneration are undisclosed or opaque. Many marketers are surprised when I initiate conversation about this matter, but the FTC has prosecuted cases where arrangements were not disclosed (see the Lumosity case on the FTC website):

    “The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to disclose that some consumer testimonials featured on the website had been solicited through contests that promised significant prizes, including a free iPad, a lifetime Lumosity subscription, and a round-trip to San Francisco.” https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/01/lumosity-pay-2-million-settle-ftc-deceptive-advertising-charges

    While I believe that there is nothing wrong with referrals, I believe that when implementing incentives or similar encouragement, marketers must be aware of regulatory constraints, and make sure with referrals and testimonials, that authenticity is preserved, and above all, they are not misleading to prospective customers.

  6. Firoze Nazar February 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm (1 comment) #

    Hi Jamshaid

    One of the big challenges from a support perspective is the blurring of the lines between the different pieces of tech that come together to make the Internet of Things.

    If I don’t have my re-stock of orange juice in the fridge, for example, is it because the fridge didn’t order it, or was there a problem with the phone line or internet, or was it the supermarket that messed up my order or was the delivery company that did not show up.

    How do I get through to the right support channel and how easy would it be for them to blame the next link in the chain?

    We already have these issues at present. But with the IoT the chain is longer and the distinction between each link is fuzzier.

    I agree with what you say about customer satisfaction: ensure that they were never unhappy in the first place. If companies don’t change to adapt their support provision, they risk driving customers to that unhappy place faster than ever before.

  7. Shoaib Oosman February 17, 2017 at 3:30 am (1 comment) #

    Excellent write up Jamshaid. I think there are a number of key takeaways from your article and the comments that followed – all excellent food for thought.

    The main element for me coming at it from a systems perspective is the number of “moving parts” to an IoT implementation. There are numerous opportunities within that chain for vendors to point the finger and blame someone else for the desired outcome not being delivered. Speaking as someone who was actually selling and implementing what we now call the “Internet of Things” in the late 90’s for vehicle tracking, asset tracking and stock/inventory control I can wholeheartedly agree with Firoze’s comments above. Moores Law has, as ever, held true and the compute (and connectivity) power of the “Things” has increased considerably and as a by-product blurred the lines of delineation between the various parts that go to form the overall IoT solution.

  8. Munawwar Ahmad February 20, 2017 at 2:02 am (1 comment) #

    Interesting article that provides some food for thought on the future direction of customer service in an IoT world.

    There are, however, a great deal of privacy and security concerns that must be overcome before consumers, organisations and Governments will be willing to allow covert diagnosis and proactive response on their personal devices or company infrastructure.

    There also needs to be some protection from abuse of IoT acquired data for marketing and up-selling purposes. “Sweetners” may persuade some individuals to surrender personal information but the majority will be put off if organisations cannot be trusted.

  9. Jamshaid Anwar February 20, 2017 at 2:33 am (5 comments) #

    Firoze,

    Thanks for your comment and yes you are absolutely correct that as more technology is connected the more there is blurring of the lines. However, I do not see this as a problem but an opportunity for providers. All new challenges inspire new ways of looking at problems and deriving new solutions. You have articulated the challenge well, which IoT and service providers will need to deal with by looking at the Entity Life Cycle of the product, in your case the orange juice. This will need to be overlayed with a definition of the problems that happen for each node in that lifecycle, whether that be technical, process or people. Finally, intelligent messaging events will need to be created to indicate the realisation of any problems which would then be detected and reported on the Information Layer i.e. reporting to a business process layer to deal with the problem.

  10. Jamshaid Anwar February 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm (5 comments) #

    Shoaib,

    Thanks for your comment and your point of view is valid as is Firoze’s re the lengthening of the service chain. Yes blurring of the lines will happen when it comes to allocating accountability to a link in the IoT enabled supply chain. But suppliers (in the example Firoze gave – the supplier of Orange Juice) will soon find that unless they solve the accountability question for each link in the chain the Customer Experience will be impacted and thus their brand. Suppliers will therefore quickly provide Information Systems to allocate accountability, very much like parcel transit providers give senders reports on progress of a parcel throughout the parcel’s journey.

  11. Jamshaid Anwar February 24, 2017 at 10:23 am (5 comments) #

    Munawwar,

    Thanks for your comment very good and valid points about the privacy and security concerns of the data. Where the service is a B3B (including Government departments) I agree and can see some organisations being difficult about sharing of data and tracking due to the nature of their services and the stakeholders they serve. However, history shows us that when consumers are getting a service and feel the value is worth having they are willing to compromise on organisations capturing their data. Case in point is Google Maps which captures and uses data to cross sell advertising everyone is waned of the capture of data, its use and the fact that its used by other google services but they accept it to obtain the value the application offers. In short if the value is great enough consumers are willing to give away their data as long as the security of that data is guaranteed.

    Its difficult to argue with your security point. I can see security being a real challenge because applications are increasingly going into the cloud and to make IoT work across borders different jurisdictions will need to be satisfied on security and privacy of the data to meet the local regulations whereas providers will be interested on maximising functionality and value.

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