Customer service must transform with the rise of IoT

Competition between manufacturers is only intensifying with the rise of IoT, and customer experience is critical to the success of connected products. In this short article we are taking a look at how IoT Customer Service is critical to customer experience and the entire success of a manufacturer’s product.

When you transform existing products to smart connected products you are becoming a service provider. This requires a very different support model than most companies are thinking today. Going forward your customers will expect you to be both technically sophisticated and have the ability anticipate and remedy customer problems.

buy suppliesThe dirty little secret in DIY consumer connected products today is that products are difficult to install. The GM of Wink, Home Depot’s connected product partner, stated at a recent connected home conference in San Francisco that the Wink call center receives 800 calls a day. Sadly, a call center is simply a Band-Aid to the core underlying issue of poor product design. To avoid this clunky product install trap you need to design out difficult installation processes to avoid calls in the first place. More and more customers of my company Arrayent are realizing that easy installation is an essential product feature, and they are making use of it in the field by using consumer-testing companies like CenterCode to drive out installation problems in the first place. These companies in fact are anticipating customer problems before the customer does. As an added bonus you just avoided the deadly “one star reviews” that can tank your product during product launch. Active “easy install” management is the first level of IoT product support competency, and it has nothing to do with support team expending energy covering up for product defects.

Once your product is installed in the consumer’s home the opportunity begins, because competent IoT Customer Service brings with it many opportunities to achieve customer delight. The first opportunity is to decrease support costs. More and more firmware content in consumer products represents a huge exposure to product recalls. One well known example is that in 2014 Toyota had to recall 700,000 Prius models to fix a firmware glitch. BMW’s 7-series and Mini Cooper brands have been put at risk with firmware glitches affecting over 100,000 vehicles. Connected products means new firmware can be updated in the field over-the-air, no human intervention required. Over-the-air updates eliminate the cost of either a return or the cost of a service technician truck roll. In the spirit of anticipation though, manufacturers also apply these in the firmware changes in the factory and avoid sending bad firmware in the first place.

Of course the unanticipated happens. This new support infrastructure may also allow the customer to help themselves using automated diagnostics and trouble resolution tools. Even when helped by a live agent the call times can be reduced thanks to the live device data and better diagnostics tools.  If a device fails, the transmitted error code eliminates the diagnosis truck roll. Now your service technician can be arranged immediately and be carrying along the correct replacement part on the first truck roll.

buy supplies 2The bigger opportunity of course is to improve the top-line revenue with IoT-enabled support offerings. Would more customers purchase extended warranties if they offered uptime guarantees? Think about taking a page out of jet engine fleet management companies that monitor their devices and even offer fixes before failures occur. An obvious consumer example is monitoring your air conditioning system to see if the compressor needs a coolant recharge, a cost of a hundred dollars that precedes a total compressor burn out that cost thousands of dollars. Even more exciting is that Smartphone OS updates and innovative consumer brands like Tesla are already creating an impression that products can and will improve in place. Think about offering new features that were not relevant at time the product was designed. For example, consider more water efficient wash cycles inspired in this time of drought. Monitoring and improve in place support features all lead to a much better overall support experience for the customer, and over time we think that there will be a much higher uptake on extended warranties. That’s high margin revenue you and a delighted more loyal customer base.

The connected revolution is happening, so get ready. The bar is set high, but so are the opportunities if done well.

By Shane Dyer, Founder of Arrayent (http://www.arrayent.com)

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