Leveraging IoT Technologies to Understand Customers

By Terry Lawlor

Service-oriented enterprises and organizations have been slow to adopt Internet of Things technologies. Here is why they should take a closer look.

The Internet of Things is at the center of a lot of discussion. The circuits and sensors that power IoT technologies are becoming smaller, physical objects are becoming smarter and the collection of data is becoming ever-faster. Almost like modern magic, the promise of the IoT is that disparate "things" can now communicate to enable new actions, conjuring up results not previously possible.

So far, there has been a steady adoption of IoT technologies in industrial settings (utilities, oil and gas) but less so in service-oriented enterprises and organizations. As explained by a recent Gartner study, companies are more inclined to look to the IoT to solve internal, business-related issues in an effort to streamline processes, reduce costs and enhance asset utilization, and less likely to begin an IoT effort to address external, customer-facing objectives, such as improving customer and employee relations.

This focus on processes, costs and asset utilization could be why we've seen fewer service-oriented enterprises and organizations begin IoT-based projects. However, the value that these smart technologies could bring to these industries is potentially massive. As more things connect, these companies will be able to gain more understanding about consumers, employees and the customer experience than ever before. Intelligent products, like smartphones or cars, wearable devices such as health trackers, or fixed location items, such as smart home security, can collect real-time, direct-respondent data that companies can utilize in their market research and voice-of-the-customer efforts. By combining customer reaction and contextual data, businesses can shape their products and provide tailored offerings and service.

Here are how service-oriented brands can begin to leverage the data collected through IoT technologies:

Trigger surveys based on specific actions taken by the user of a connected device.
IoT takes the concept of "in-the-moment" responses to a new level, allowing organizations to view and act on feedback faster and more effectively than ever. One example is the ability to deliver highly relevant contextual surveys based on a customer's location. Bluetooth beacons installed at retail locations can trigger an app running on a customer's phone to launch a survey as he or she interacts with the brand, products or services.

By delivering a tailored survey to consumers' smartphones, companies can receive timely and personalized feedback about their expectations and experiences. For example, organizations sending surveys to attendees of a soccer match could gauge fans' enjoyment—whether they were pleased with the service at concession stands, whether they had difficulty finding their seats and whether they intend to attend another game.

Analyze IoT data to determine customer emotions.
Emotion is the most significant driver of customer loyalty. Wearables can now not only become a contactless payment device, but also monitor a customer's physical state, such as his or her heart rate. In the not-too-distant future, it should be possible to capture emotional signals from a customer's physical state at the point of purchase, which could provide valuable feedback regarding the customer experience at a key interaction point on that shopper's journey. Or the measurement of physical state could be combined with location data to enhance the triggering mechanism, so that feedback is collected when emotions are fresh in the customer's mind.

For example, customers using a wearable device at a theme park could be surveyed about their experiences based on their different physical reactions to the rides they went on, as well as at key purchase points, such as places in the park at which they stopped for food and stores in which they purchased souvenirs. The theme park's customer-service team could break down how visitors are seeing, thinking and feeling about each stop, and begin empathy mapping based on common responses. Rather than responding to emotions, empathy mapping can be used to proactively evoke the right emotion in certain areas of customer service. This leads to more meaningful connections.

Combine data collected by IoT devices with triggered survey responses to build up a more holistic view of the customer.
By enhancing voice-of-the-customer and business data with IoT device data, companies can begin to map out a 360-degree customer view that incorporates every interaction that has been conducted. This assists in the creation of tailored strategies and experiences that empower the consumer and improve the brands' products and services. Researchers and customer-service teams will then have a clear place to start when investigating where existing business processes could be greatly enhanced.

IoT devices will increasingly augment customer feedback processes, improving customer understanding and providing an extraordinary level of insight that was unimaginable a few years ago. As more and more of these devices deliver huge volumes of data from the edge of the internet, there will be significant technological challenges to overcome. While there are likely to be hiccups along the way, it is difficult not to be entranced by the possibilities presented by the IoT for improving customer experiences.

Terry Lawlor is the executive VP of product management at Confirmit, a provider of voice-of-the-customer, voice-of-the-employee and market-research solutions. He manages all aspects of product management, including strategy development, product definition, and product representation in client and marketing activities. Lawlor has worked with many global enterprises to solve complex business issues with innovative software solutions. He is a graduate of Durham University, in the United Kingdom, and a keen sports fan.