Customer Service in the IoT World

In most places of the European world, grocery shopping creates as much stress as going to take your flight at the airport: once you have been searching down the aisles to find the products you wish to purchase and checked with your coupon book if you can get any special deal, you head to the cashier where a (unfortunately, too often grumpy) cashier scans your goods so fast that you have no time to fill up your reusable grocery bags (finally!!) before the next customer’s stuff gets down the conveyor’s belt.
It would probably not take much of customer consideration for the cashier to scan articles at a slower pace and wait until you have packed away your shopping items before they get mixed up with the next customer’s shopping list.
As one would expect, customer service is not limited to helping placing order, managing returns and customer inquiries but it is also about creating a positive experience at all levels of the customer-touch chain. It initiates when the customer finds out about its next need and does not end until the customer is fully satisfied with the purchased product.
Big Data feeding via IoT devices
IoT clearly is the data feeder for Big Data systems using in Marketing analysis. Customer and machine behaviours are collected, sliced and diced to provide a comprehensive picture of the environment in which they operate. It shows the interaction between humans and machines, highlights the flaws, areas for improvement and successes. When it comes to industry automation, behavioural data is relatively easier to accumulate as machines and professional users are all interconnected with hardware sharing an integrated software backbone, it is, however, more complicated at consumer level where data collection is less reliable and sources are fragmented.
Gathering data while providing value
The integration of new technologies like Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence into the daily life of the consumer becomes the conduit for data gathering via IoT devices. Both Amazon and COOP Italy have demonstrated that connected shoppers get positive value when using technology while shopping, thus uploading valuable information into the Big Data and continue to improve on the customer experience.
As examples, Amazon Go focuses on the ease of shopping without check out lines and COOP Italy’s shop of the future focuses on enhanced VR consumer information like nutrition facts or product’s origin information. Interactive tables help present products in an attractive way, highlighting items on sale and brand promotions, showing to the customer virtual information that could not be shown on traditional displays as it would remove the primary focus on the product.
Customer Service?
The education for the consumer about using the new supermarkets and taking full advantage of the features of the technology becomes an important element of acceptance of the new generation of services. Technology must be invisible enough to keep the customer focused on what he/she wishes to purchase rather than in understanding the mechanisms and procedures to use the technology. Customer service then takes an increased level of importance in addition to pre and post-sale “traditional” activities as known today. Customer service becomes the glue between the technology and the customer to create the positive experience that will win their trust and loyalty.
Planning for Customer Service
In many minds, the image of customer service is large service centres (call centres) with the task to support customers over the web or by phone. This notion is still acceptable for some market areas such as remote support, yet, the image has to quickly change towards direct, quality interaction with customers.
Some businesses try to move to automated support for customers (i.e Customer Support kiosk at airports and train stations) while others work to differentiate themselves with face to face, direct support (i.e Genius Bar at the Apple Store). As more companies understand that not all customers are technology inclined, the welcoming face-to-face support comes as a relief to train consumers about how to use and take advantage of the technology implemented in a shop like Amazon Go or COOP’s supermarket of the future.
Customer service is rarely on the initial business plan and implementation program of projects I had the chance to participate into. Its role is critical to the success of the launch of any product into the market, regardless if it is professional or consumer. The cost and undertaking of such task is many time underestimated, thus reducing the chances of acceptance of a new product on the market, regardless how great it is (technologically). You owe it to yourself to ensure that customer training and support is included in your business and roll out plans.
Stiffan Consulting strives to help startups and established companies to create a good knowledge about how ensuring that your marketing and business development approach is sound and consistent with the customer base you are targeting. By assisting you in reviewing your goals, understand the potential markets and validate the right approach, I help ensuring product market success with you.
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© STIFFAN Consulting February 2017