One of life’s irritations for any customer is when something that they expect to work does not. While there could be any number of reasons for a product not functioning, including the user not fully knowing how to operate it or a fault, a frustrated customer is likely to contact the associated support or service team.
Whether it is over the phone, through email, or via instant messaging, these contacts cost companies time, money and, in some cases, the customer and reputation if handled badly. According to intelligence consulting firm, Walker, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. As such, organisations should be doing whatever they can to improve the customer experience and reduce negative interactions, for the benefit of all involved.
The advent of the Internet of Thing (IoT), where seemingly disparate devices and appliances are connected to the web, presents an unparalleled opportunity to reduce the number of negative customer interactions. The IoT enables whoever is responsible for servicing or support, to instantaneously see what the customer issue is and help accordingly. For example, if a customer is unable to set their central heating thermostat, an engineer could remotely either programme the device or take the customer through a step-by-step process of how to do it and see that it is being done correctly.
More significantly, the IoT can even allow the device itself to communicate an issue to a support team, even if the customer is unaware of one. Based on this information, a support team could then take a number of pre-emptive actions, which could include either notifying the customer or even rectifying the issue before the customer is affected.
Such a capability allows a business to become much more proactive in resolving customer problems, offering the potential to reduce the cost and time associated with support, while increasing customer satisfaction, attraction and retention.
But how can businesses make this a reality? Devices that have long been connected to the internet, such as computers, printers and mobile handsets, have benefited from remote repair and servicing for several years. Translating this across to less complex connected items needs a similar approach, based upon the three principles of: reliability; scalability; and security.
· Reliability – the item or device needs to be continuously connected to the internet as any break in uptime could lead to faults being missed.
· Scalability – the manufacturer needs to ensure they have, or can have access to, the infrastructure that will grow alongside their sales. This requires a network that can go from 1 to 10,000, 100,000 or more connections remotely overnight. Only then will there be certainty that all devices can be monitored as soon as the customer is using them.
· Security – the IoT relies upon large quantities of data being transmitted and stored between devices and the servers of manufacturers or service providers. Therefore, it is paramount to have end-to-end security and effective data protection policies in place. This includes using TLS and SSL for communications channels, and implementing API keys to ensure only authorised people can access information.
To fully take advantage of the IoT, businesses need tools that allow them to consistently and safely pre-empt device issues. Only then will they be able to have a truly proactive customer service model and all of the benefits it brings.
Peter Zeinoun is Director of Products, LogMeIn