Every organisation is almost in a frenzy on how to provide customers martini accessibility (anytime, anyplace, anywhere and now anyhow) but are oblivious to the benefits Internet of Things can give to their organisation and their customers. They are only looking at how to provide Omni Channel Customer Services the traditional way. The basic premise being served here is that if the customer can access you easily at any time then they will be a happy customer. The problem with this premise is that in most of these contact scenarios the customer is already unhappy or has an issue which will quickly escalate and now you are in a position where you must resolve their situation and then turn them into happy customer – that’s a lot of preventable effort!
What if we turn this approach on its head? What would the role of the Customer Service Centre be if a greater proportion of our mission was to ensure that they were never unhappy in the first place? Instead more of our customer engagements are about prevention and experience improvement. From a customer’s perspective, every contact with your organisation would more likely be a positive one. Smart objects communicating through an Internet of Things enables this.
With Gartner predicting that by 2018 we could see as many as 500 smart objects collaborating in the home through an Internet of Things, organisations need to be looking at how this phenomenon will impact their customer engagement strategies.
Let’s look at some of the opportunities on offer.
The Support Centre
The traditional Support Centre is currently very much an inbound reactive function that is fully focussed on problem and incident resolution. If organisations made their service/product offerings smarter so that real time notifications were sent back to the Customer Service Centre prior to an issue materialising. Organisations would be able book a service or have parts issued, this would then result in an outbound preventative focus with the customer having a positive perception of the service/product offering. For example B2B organisations offering fleet management services could make substantial cost savings from preventaive action by having data from their fleet reported back in near real time to their service centre.
Some companies are already taking the initiative such as:
- Rentokil Initial making their products smarter so that Hygiene and Pest B2B service offerings can be smartly scheduled with intelligent utilisation of their supply chain.
- Companies with real estate portfolios are using smart devices linked to video and audio enable the service provider to take preventative and near immediate action. These companies are saving a fortune by providing a high percentage of resolutions online and often fixing these before the customer has become aware of the issue. In turn this is driving more of their customers to join the online IoT eco system thus delivering even greater benefits.
- Organisations with significant supply chain challenges, both B2C and B2B, are looking at introducing intelligent Pelipod delivery containers/cabinets that send information back to base through the internet to track deliveries, collections and access. This is enabling businesses to save significant costs on having to keep multiple inventory items that never get used.
The telecom and mobile sector should be leaping ahead in this area, but alas they are lagging, with the exception of one which has embraced Internet of Things for some of its supply chain automation. They could make their mobile and router devices smarter so that alerts and notifications are sent to the customer and service centre to initiate a smart work flow. For example, Routers could be made smarter so that proactive diagnostics are undertaken without the customer or the support department triggering the process.
Telcos are all creating mobile applications to make account management and the raising support calls to be easier. What if these mobile applications could covertly undertake diagnostics of the top 10 types of support call? The challenges are many, such as changing the Contact Centre and Supply Chain work flows, but the opportunities are a game changer. The first Telcos to take the initiative would have a huge advantage in reduced customer churn rates allowing them to then just focus on giving customers excellent value through their services, offers and prices.
Marketing departments are spending huge amounts getting new customers and convincing their current customers to stay. One just needs to look at areas where Virgin Media and BT are trying to convince customers to switch – where many were once ex customers, there are mailshot letters arriving at customers nearly every quarter with some type of offer. Internet of Things enables businesses to capture customer and usage data for the full lifecycle of the customer. This allows the marketing department to have a view of the full customer and product or service cycle and thereby empowering them to look at how to improve their offerings. This technology will take one-to-one marketing to a new level.
Referrals are the utopia for marketing departments. What if smart Internet of Things devices could intelligently capture the customer’s mood during the lifecycle of the product’s performance through smart information capture? The provider would be able to link this data to execution of referral work flows to understand how to maximise referrals. This would enable Internet of Things triggered referral marketing strategies, thereby changing the operational emphasis of outbound contact centres.
Sales departments are missing out on huge opportunities by missing product lifecycle events that could trigger a sales contact opportunity, which would only be possible through an Internet of Things connected smart device. If a product is out of warranty and is no longer transmitting usage information, there is an opportunity for businesses to schedule a call and make an offer before the customer switches to another provider. At the moment, the business will have no idea the customer is or about to speak to another provider and when marketing makes contact during a future campaign the customer will have already switched. All opportunities for up selling and cross selling will also have vanished.
How extensive will the Internet of Things organisational transformation be?
Once businesses grasp the opportunities available from Internet of Things connected smart devices they will need to re-evaluate their Contact Centre services and strategies. There will be no area untouched by this change as they will need to review and transform their Target Operating Models, HR and workforce planning, KPI and Management reporting, Work flow automation, supply chain tactical (0-3 months) and strategic (3-24 month) planning.
The next generation of contact centres will be the result of the Internet of Things revolution and organisations not planning with IoT in mind will not be able to deliver the same customer experience as the competition. The IoT supported contact centre will be a department that is joined up with the rest of the organisation where IoT enabled smart devices are driving the workflows in Marketing, Sales and Support to deliver a truly joined up service offering. The next generation of contact centre will be a place where the customer is looked after for the full customer and product lifecycle.
I would be interested to hear what challenges your organisations are facing in integrating IoT into your service or product offerings and supporting Target Operating models.
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Jamshaid Anwar is Director of Delivery at CoolHarbour and has spent 20 years providing FTSE 100 companies with Technology and Strategy consultancy on how to deliver excellent customer services.