How the IoT Is Changing the Customer Experience and Improving Competitive Advantage

By Marne Martin

The Internet of Things, as well as data from connected devices and other digital technologies, can facilitate seamless customer service, rapid problem-solving and the more efficient deployment of skilled resources.

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While the Internet of Things (IoT) certainly isn’t new anymore, it has the potential to be one of the main drivers to positively impact the customer experience. According to Gartner, we can expect 8.4 billion connected “things”—electronics, sensors and software that can be sensed, monitored and controlled remotely across network infrastructure—this year.

These “things” are vastly improving relationships between companies that deliver services in the field and their customers. With large industries around the world, such as utilities, continuing to deregulate, the IoT is helping smaller companies and startups to compete and scale through more competitive service-level agreements (SLAs). What’s more, with a growing engineer shortage, more effective service models are required and a real difference can be made in such sectors as appliance manufacturing, health care, original equipment manufacturing, insurance and security.

Let’s further explore how the IoT, data from connected devices and other digital technologies will facilitate seamless customer services, rapid problem-solving and the more efficient deployment of skilled resources.

Improve Customer Service With Unprecedented Level of Detail
The customer service delivery model changes when companies can provide proactive notification of customers affected by an outage or an affected asset. We can better position customer support centers to allow more immediate service, thus reducing costs and providing customer care simultaneously.

With the data from connected things combined with artificial intelligence (AI), we can better understand and learn our customers’ preferences and behaviors. This opens up the opportunity to add value with a service that is personalized to customers’ expectations so they are engaged and more satisfied with the brand experience.

Another benefit is that by using AI and the IoT, service or product teams can create predictive failure models, enabling companies to offer customers valuable maintenance contracts which prevent future downtime, while increasing the lifetime value of each customer relationship. This can increase revenues by adding a premium for a personalized maintenance package. It will also provide incredible peace of mind in scenarios in which reliability is of paramount importance, like with health-care equipment.

Detect Failures Before They Occur
Rather than waiting for problems to arise first, the IoT allows condition-based monitoring to prevent failures before they occur. Connected devices can schedule predictive maintenance, detect issues before they debilitate functionality and diagnose problems accurately. When connected to a powerful AI-based workforce-management solution, companies can optimally schedule a technician by balancing skills, asset location, parts, technicians’ locations and traffic.

This lends an opportunity to address an issue before it is even noticed by a customer. This makes it possible to easily facilitate service calls, route jobs to the best-qualified and available agent or technician, and deliver customer satisfaction surveys following onsite or machine-to-machine cloud-based equipment servicing.

Deploy Higher-Performing Products and Services Through Data-Driven Decisions
Maintenance management and delivery has traditionally relied on either periodically examining and repairing problems based on a fixed schedule, whether needed or not (calendar-based maintenance), or waiting for things to fail and then fixing the problem, no matter how many visits it takes (reactive maintenance). The IoT offers another option by equipping the mobile workforce with a way to proactively manage maintenance. For instance, a technician can determine what products might need to be updated, based on their original installation dates.

Better Understand Your Business
The IoT collects an incredible amount of customer and asset data. With such rich insights, operations vastly improve. It enables us to pinpoint areas of efficiency, providing service companies and manufacturers with unparalleled insight into real-time and historical performance. Solid information enables field teams to do more of what works and target problem areas for improvement.

Over the long term, assets will become more robust, thereby reducing the cost of maintaining them. It enables businesses to develop future fee-based services, such as guaranteed uptime, or tighter SLA timeframes. This helps companies to build better, long-lasting relationships with customers, based on a data-driven understanding of services in the field.

It is, of course, not just about company and asset performance. Insurers can use data fed back by sensors to model driver behavior or even record accidents in real time. That is a sea-change for the sector.

The IoT Difference
The Internet of Things is arming businesses with the tools to improve the speed and quality of the customer experience, while optimizing the effectiveness of field services. It has proved invaluable for analyzing internal operations, product management and customer-service options. The true value comes from providing services connected through existing and emerging digital technologies all along the service supply chain.

By joining forces with AI, services and products are being deployed and managed in a smarter, more efficient way. Using these technologies combined, we can now provide customers with the ease and convenience they want, with better offerings to earn loyalty and trust—the foundation to increasing customer lifetime value.

This increases sales, which, with lower costs from optimal service delivery, helps to increase profitability. It is not just short-term gain, though. The big data delivered by the IoT presents the prospect of informed and sustained competitive advantage. It is technology which will bring about the brand value customers, shareholders and business owners demand.

Marne Martin is the CEO of ServicePower (www.servicepower.com). She is an experienced international executive leading transformation and growth for companies in the technology and telecommunication industries. ServicePower helps field service organizations with innovative, effective mobile workforce-management solutions. Tweet Marne at @marne_martin or connect with her at LinkedIn.