I live in Chicago, where winter can bring significant amounts of snow. If I don’t want to shovel, I need to buy a snowblower—one that’s reliable, easy to use and doesn’t break the bank. Realistically, though, I’ll probably forget everything I need to know about the snowblower during the summer months and won’t think about it again until the first big snowstorm. However, once I have three feet of snow in my driveway, I’ll realize that I forgot to do the proper maintenance and can’t remember what steps to follow before starting it up.
Now imagine how this experience could be improved if my snowblower were a connected device. Could it send me a text message to remind me when it needs to be serviced? Could it link to a weather app and alert me of potential snowfall so that I can find my manual or look up how-to videos online?
The world is becoming, or already has become, a connected place. In fact, there are very few places I go where I can’t check my email or log into a social media app. With the proliferation of GPS tracking, sensors and RFID tags—“smart” product labels that have been replacing bar codes—it’s hard to imagine a time when we’re not transmitting or receiving information on our personal devices. To put the magnitude of the rise of digital devices into context, a Gartner report forecasts that there will be 8.4 billion “connected things”—including door locks, streetlights and even tennis rackets—by 2018, all transmitting tiny amounts of data to us, the cloud and each other. This represents a significant opportunity because it means that there’s more information out there, and information is power when it comes to the customer experience.
While my snowblower example is an overly simplified illustration of how connected devices could impact our everyday lives, let’s consider how connectedness could impact businesses. The agriculture industry, for example, has tractors, planters and combines with sensors that monitor each machine’s efficiency as well as the environmental factors impacting the machine’s performance. What if that information could be used to improve yield or reduce time in the field? As product engineers, marketers and sales professionals, how can we use this information to improve the customer experience?
Imagine if an agricultural machine’s data was used to predict a performance issue and proactively deploy a service technician, which would eliminate the angry phone calls or negative survey responses that typically signal an issue. (As customer experience practitioners, we must also consider how we can use data from connected devices to supplement or replace traditional survey data and feedback mechanisms, which are becoming a thing of the past.) I’ve outlined a few steps to get you started with this new approach:
1. Determine how your customers are “connected.” Beyond just mapping your customers’ journey, you must identify where and how your customers are connected to the internet. You can develop a starting point by mapping out potential data sources (which products are already “smart”) and engagement channels (where customers go for data and information when making decisions).
2. Identify your customers’ goals. Understanding what your customers are trying to achieve and identifying their objectives will help you develop an individualized engagement strategy. For example (leveraging the agriculture industry again), a “connected” customer might be trying to optimize yield by examining the soil data—acidity, moisture, etc.—collected from her planter.
3. Develop a strategy for interacting with customers. Once you understand your customers’ goals, you can develop and deploy tactics to help them achieve their desired outcomes. Remember, it’s about making your customers’ lives easier, so design the experience that enables customers to achieve their goals faster and easier. This might mean that you proactively send your “connected” customer in the agriculture industry an alert when soil conditions in her area are optimal for planting.
4. Measure the impact of your efforts. The beautiful thing about the Internet of Things is that there’s no shortage of data. That means that you can quickly measure the impact without waiting for a survey response. You can set up your engagement strategy with specific metrics that take advantage of your customers’ “connectedness.” Consider the agriculture example again: Imagine the impact that you could have if you were able to measure your customer’s change in yield after receiving those alerts.
Until my snowblower becomes a connected device, I’ll resort to other “antiquated” ways of keeping up with required maintenance. In the meantime, connected devices will continue to improve our experiences in ways we’ve never considered. To keep pace, CX professionals must quickly learn how to leverage data from the Internet of Things to design, measure and improve customer experience.