The world we live in today is increasingly connected. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group estimates that this year there will be around 25 billion connected devices, which will double to 50 billion by 2020. This is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and there is a tremendous focus on one fundamental principle driving expectations for the IoT market: how can it be tapped to elevate the customer experience and connected product management?
Say, for example, your company purchased an industrial printer. Through IoT-enabling, the manufacturer can remotely monitor ink levels. This not only allows it to automatically suggest when you need to buy more ink when running low, but also provides the capability to run diagnostics to see if the printer could be improved or needs repair, or suggest a more efficient printer better suited to your needs.
Beyond the benefits to the consumer, the company can receive more accurate and detailed feedback on how a customer is using a device. This is particularly helpful for organisations that sell through channel partners and generally do not have direct contact with those using their devices. Companies often receive little information about usage, and when they do, it is purely anecdotal. However, an IoT-enabled device can give accurate, real-time information that is far more granular than a customer would ever be able to give.
Yet to achieve such benefits from the IoT, businesses need to keep three key concepts in mind: connect, manage and engage.
Connecting doesn’t mean simply linking devices to the internet. Fast, robust and secure IoT connectivity is extremely difficult to pull off at scale. The connections created must be adaptable to how the business wants to manage its devices and the information gleaned from it. Therefore, it is vital to have an agile infrastructure that can deliver connected device messages securely and quickly to people and other Things wanting to access that data.
For collected data to be useful, it must be managed effectively. For example, IoT product data management could include the interactions between the device manufacturer and its customer via detailed feature usage statistics. This includes collating the data and integrating it with existing business tools, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The final element is customer engagement. Using the printer example from earlier, the IoT can enable the manufacturer to remotely access and diagnose a customer’s connected device quickly and without placing the burden on an already frustrated customer to explain what the problem is. By using the video camera on a user’s mobile device, a customer service representative can see exactly what the issue is and direct the customer to resolve the issue using an electronic whiteboard. This engages customers on a closer, deeper level to improve the customer experience, and boost satisfaction and brand loyalty through shorter help times. It also saves organisation money on unnecessary returns.
Focus on the product not the infrastructure
Despite these benefits, some businesses are still hesitant to jump into the IoT. One obstacle is figuring out how to build the tech stack to connect their devices. This is not surprising as IoT infrastructure is very nuanced, encompassing storage, messaging and routing protocols, security, directories, analysis, automation, and APIs, among other elements.
KPMG found in a recent survey of business leaders that more than 20 per cent of respondents found technology complexity a barrier to implementation. However, the complexity of creating an IoT platform infrastructure need not prevent businesses from implementing connected devices. By using ready-built networks, offering fast, secure and scalable connections alongside a range of tools, businesses can concentrate their efforts on creating innovative connected products and better user experiences.
The IoT has already revolutionised the way businesses operate, and now it’s being used to elevate the customer service experience. For companies to remain competitive, they will need to take advantage of the benefits of the IoT to improve their value propositions, engage with customers on a whole new level, and build new revenue streams.
By Sean Lorenz, senior product marketing manager at LogMeIn