Leveraging the Internet of Everything to Create a Better Customer Experience


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The other day I received a letter in the mail. What was in the letter left me feeling depressed. It left me feeling inadequate, unprepared, incapable of mustering the mental and emotional energy to complete it’s request.

You see it wasn’t asking me to do something that I’d never done before. It asked me to do something that I had already relegated to extinction.

The letter asked me to find a pen (that worked), fill out a form by hand, write a check, find an envelope, write the address on the envelope, place the filled out form and the check in the envelope, find a stamp, lick and place the stamp on the envelope, walk the envelope out to the mail box and then wait for almost 20 hours for it to send (the mail man had come earlier that day). Since it was going across the country, it would be handed off between people, machines, and transportation vehicles and would probably be another several days until they received it. I also knew that a similar manual process would happen on the other end just in order to receive my communication. My efforts would not only take way longer than it should have to relay information and money, but it would likely be close to two weeks before the requestors would get what they wanted. Two weeks for what should have taken two minutes, leveraging today’s commonly available technology.

For several days, I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it. My current systems and expectations have (perhaps prematurely) moved so far beyond those tasks, that I couldn’t find a way to smoothly integrate the process into my day. While late Sunday night, I actually honored the request, it felt like I was being forced to use an abacus instead of a calculator, or computer.

For effect, I am being a bit dramatic, but I’m not embellishing as much as it might appear.

But, how many of us ask our customers to perform analogous tasks with layers of unnecessary friction because we’re simultaneously stuck in the framing of the past, and the inertia of the present? What if most activities in the world were like a trip to the DMV? Thankfully, most are not. These experiences highlight the pain of a poor experience.

What makes experiences great?

The specific answers to this are highly contextual, and the subject of an entire field of study. However, at their aggregate level, great customer experiences come from delivering one or both of the following:

1. They help the customer accomplish what they’re trying to get done, and/or
2. They help the customer “feel good”.

How? There are six fundamental things that customers want:

1. Know Me
2. Be Relevant
3. Be Competent
4. Be Trustworthy
5. Be Likable
6. Be Available

It is easy to get caught focusing on the emerging technical capabilities of the Internet of Everything. There’s a tremendous amount to learn. However, the most valuable work will be performed attaching these new capabilities to fundamental human drivers and expectations.

Going back to my example, instead of asking me to fill out a form with the information they needed, what if they already knew the answer? What if they presented a request to validate what they believed they knew in my preferred channel? Instead of asking me to write and send a check (a method of payment now hundreds of years old), how could they reduce the friction around payment to the minimum gesture of approval?

Most organizations have plenty of work to do on basic steps such as this. But how will the Internet of Everything help in creating better experiences for customers? Most of the story is yet to be written, but there are a growing set of early examples that we can observe and learn from.

Companies that are leading the way

The first organization that comes to mind is Amazon. Look at the list of 6 things above and ask if you would check the box in each category? The rollout of Mayday may potentially become the new standard in customer service, not just for Amazon, but for the world at large. Their work towards predicting what you might buy before you buy it, and staging their warehouses with expected items prior to purchase, and then delivering within hours or minutes are all on the horizon.

Starbucks also recently stated their intention to allow customers to order and pay before they even arrive at the store, making it easer than ever to order, pay, and receive your favorite Starbucks beverage. Loyalty and rewards will of course be built in.

Vail Resorts makes the entire slope experience better by leveraging small chips that allow users to get on and off of lifts easier, communicate with their friends and family, look at interesting daily stats, and get offers that are relevant to them.

Disney has invested $1 Billion in Magic Bands to help reduce friction around transactions and provide a more personalized experience.

The Internet of Everything and Better Customer Experience

Using our “Six Things Customers Want” as an anchor, here are some tips about how the cutting edge of tech innovation can be leveraged to improve the customer experience.


Mobile phones increasingly have more sensors to better capture data about each individuals context. External sensors are able to track behavior, capture identity, understand behaviors and preferences. This is the raw material of understanding. Listening, watching, observing, and extracting meaning from these observations is getting easier to do at scale.


The amount of data available is overwhelming. Making sense of it is often impossible. But, some are having success in finding correlations – new clues that help peel back one more layer of onion skin. At its simplest, processing power is getting stronger and more affordable. We see several emerging areas of innovation especially in B2B marketing tech, where clues are improving the likelihood of sales teams talking to the right prospect or customer at the right time. Broadening the data set to include additional sensor generated data should help refine the models to create better alignment between customer/company communication.


Competency reveals itself at the individual and organizational levels. Helping doctors make better assessments by augmenting their capabilities, helping customer service organizations respond faster and more accurately, drivers leveraging additional information and capabilities arguably will create better drivers. Service technicians, police officers, and just about everyone should ultimately be able to perform their jobs better, armed with better information and new capabilities to do their jobs better.


Embedded throughout this narrative are very potent arguments in favor of privacy and against omnipresent government and corporate actors that know everything. Trust is at the center of all of this. But the trajectory is pushing us all individually and institutionally towards transparency, whether we like it or not. Customer reviews, unified online IDs, and a world where and increasing amount of behaviors require a digital passport is accelerating the trustworthiness of some, while destroying others. AirBnB and Uber, for example, allow reviews on both sides of the transaction. Organizations who do a great job and prove to be trustworthy will benefit.

5. Be Likable -> SIRI?

Of all 6, here’s where the Internet of Everything’s story might be the weakest. Likability still seems largely reserved for human interaction. Please help me if I’m dead wrong here. However, over time, as advances in artificial intelligence become more mature, there may be more of a story here. Siri has succeeded largely because of her wit, and the ability to recognize and admit her own shortcomings. We’re still a ways off from seeing tangible benefits from the Internet of Everything as it relates to likeability. So, humans can rejoice. There’s still something technology can’t do!


The original internet was a revolution in availability. Organizations discovered that having a website was a competitive advantage. For the first time, many companies now were at least partially available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Increased capability wrapped up in mobile technologies has enabled more people to be more available from anywhere at any time. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine to machine communication extend the opportunities for capabilities (answers, information, products) to be available in more places. This is true not just from the corporate perspective, but offering what the customers want in ever narrower contexts is also playing a part (increasing e-commerce on social networks, ambient information on wearables). Availability continues to take on new meaning, while continues to reset customer expectations.

In closing, decision makers need to be asking two critical questions:

1. Where is your organization on the continuum of providing a great experience?
2 How can it potentially leverage the Internet of Everything to better provide the 6 things customers want?

This post is brought to you by InnovateThink and Cisco.

* Slides: Six Things Customers Want

* IMG Credit: The Digital Future of Retail

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Brian Vellmure
For more than a decade, Brian Vellmure has impacted hundreds of companies on their journey towards increased profitability through strategic customer focused initiatives. For more insightful thoughts and resources, please subscribe to Brian's blog by clicking here


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