The internet of things (IoT) is becoming ever more advanced and impressive. We’ve used devices for many years but no longer are we just talking about the standard flip of a light switch, or the turning of the dial on our thermostat. The devices using IoT technology today are a lot more complicated than that.
First things first, the number of IoT devices is rapidly expanding and people are adding to the number of connected (or smart) devices they own on almost a weekly basis. This has created a direct change in the relationship between customer and device.
IoT products are much more than a simple product; they provide a service.
IoT devices are becoming so smart that we’ll soon all have homes which know the time we’ll be home because they know the time we get into the car or the train after work. With this information, your smart thermostat will turn the heating on, the oven will warm itself up and the hall lights will turn on; all in preparation for your arrival home.
But what does this mean for the companies doing the manufacturing of these things; these things which used to be products but now act extremely differently and must therefore be serviced and maintained in an entirely different way.
Historically, companies tended to work to the service paradigm of, “we provide you with a product and that’s the end of our relationship”. If something went wrong with the product, the company would, of course, check if the customer was in warranty and within the confines of the company support model. If they were, the company would fix the product and afterwards again hope that they wouldn’t hear from the customer again (unless it’s another sale!)
The problem companies now have is that the above simply will not work for smart products and services. The above framework does not work in an intelligent world where our devices are talking and interacting with one another. Companies must now consider what users of their products want and need to do with their devices and then support them through the journey of buying, installing, integrating and obviously using their IoT devices.
The relationship between the company and customer now requires a continuous service; an open ended experience. This change may well worry a number of companies, not least for the increase costs concerned. However, those who are embracing IoT will not concern themselves with the negatives of such a change; no indeed, they will see opportunities.
Companies who start changing the KPIs they measure, the type of people they employ and updating their customer service and support models will be the winners here. Customers who get a continuous and expansive service will develop a better relationship with the companies supplying their devices and companies will, as a result, earn a better reputation
The current time is one where users are more swayed by other customer reviews and ratings rather than price or even the product itself. Brand experience is therefore incredibly important. Companies must focus on their users and ensure their experiences, from initial payment right through to using the product, are as smooth and stress-free as possible.
With so many companies launching their products into the IoT market, it is also worth considering how closely you work with other partners and if your company plans to support other companys’ products; after all few people will want to buy every single home device from one company. But how frustrating for the customer if their microwave won’t connect with their smartphone simply because it was made by a different company. Users will not stand for that. They will go elsewhere.
This new world of IoT has created a wealth of opportunity for companies, you just have to accept that customer service is back up at the top of the list; a priority one to address. Accept this and your company and its IoT devices will flourish; don’t accept it and you may well find your company starts to flounder.