Providing Live Service For Smart Products

March 21, 2015

The world of customer service is ever changing. The capability to deliver omni-channel, personalised customer engagement is now common. It has transformed how organisations from SMEs to global brands deliver their service strategies.

Welcome to the next stage.

A New Service Ecosystem

Until now the Internet of Things (IoT) and Customer Service operations have not been directly linked. Things have changed. Pioneering organisations of any size can provide live support in response to feedback from any smart product.

This is enabled when you combine case management with the omni-channel routing. Any alert from a smart product can be recognised by this service ecosystem. These are then routed to any suitably skilled service advisor who makes contact with the customer to let them know what is happening. All this happens within the simplicity of a single browser screen.

From the customer’s perspective, this level of proactive service is ideal. In fact the service organisation has probably reached out even before they were aware of any symptoms that indicated a problem. This capability exactly matches current consumer expectations for reduced effort and personalised engagement.

Imagine The Use Cases

A smart product is one that has sensors, software and communications embedded into it. This means it can monitor and provide alerts when any critical condition occurs. In response Network Operating Centres (NOCs) are well established solutions for remotely managing them. Such as railways, power stations and data centres.

Think of these as first generation examples. Restricted to a small niche of products and serviced via a proprietary type of solution. The good news is that today we can roll out this approach on a grand scale. The breakthrough is affordability. Both in the range of products that can be made smart and a cloud based service infrastructure that is affordable for SMEs and global enterprises alike.

Let’s think about the implications.

For a start it reinvents the cost and capability of the NOC. Traditionally, machine to machine (M2M) support required special hardware and software with complex computer-telephony (CTI) integration. As such this operated as a siloed function. Only a handful of people had visibility with the implication that first line support could not react in real time.

Cloud deployed functionality means browser access for anyone who needs to be involved including in-field service teams. This allows for more sophisticated and effective service strategies to emerge. Cloud infrastructures encourage open standards integration and rapid introduction of new functionality. This means new service propositions can be quickly prototyped and scaled for competitive advantage.

Cloud infrastructures are also massively more cost effective than deploying one-off NOC style solutions. The implications are that many more organisations are now able to integrate smart product management into existing customer service operations. This is timely as the world of smart products continues to rapidly evolve.

Within consumer markets we can already see this in the current buzz being generated around consumer wearables. Yet once the excitement of ownership wears off, what unique services could early adopters enjoy from enterprising brands?

For instance, who is going to be the first insurance company to offer personalised policies based on real time health monitoring? When will ‘at risk’ patients be able to rely on live support from experts in their particular medical condition?

What about the emerging world of ‘smart’ consumer products?

We rely on them to keep working. We also expect proactive service. So when can we expect car manufacturers to anticipate customer needs by letting them know when something needs fixing? Before the symptoms are even notic […]

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2015: Tapping Into Big Changes Taking Place In Social Customer Service

January 12, 2015

Now we are entering 2015, I thought it would be interesting to review how social customer service has evolved during the last twelve months. In particular, any insights that can tell us what we might expect more of during this year.

My own experiences from my 2015 master classes and speaking engagements are that rapidly evolving expectations remain the engine for driving innovation in all forms of customer engagement. Social customer service is no exception. The range of channels and how they are used keep evolving as a result.

For instance, over a number of master classes, I learnt from Air France that Instagram had become a service channel for them with volumes scaling rapidly. Later in the year, Safaricom in Kenya revealed that WhatsApp is being trialled based on customer demand.

This means we are past the traditional twin mix of Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also heard that social platform owners are now waking up. They can see just how well their services suit digital consumers wanting real time access to an organisation’s attention.

What does this imply? First expect more service channels to surface. For instance Snapchat versus Facebook usage within the 15-19 age groups clearly shows how different generations gravitate to their preferred social platforms. Secondly we may start to see more service capability from the platform owners themselves as they start to understand that service enquiries are a crucial ingredient in the overall engagement mix they provide for brands.

Tapping into An Expert Viewpoint

Outside my own perspective, who else has a vantage point to see what’s happening? There are now plenty of vendors to choose from: another encouraging sign of a growing industry. I ended up choosing one of the original brands in the social customer service space who, in my view, has remained a seminal influence on how best practice has developed thus far.

As EMEA VP for Conversocial, Julian Johns hears the heartbeat of the industry every day and knows who is buying and what’s motivating them. Certainly I hear the brand’s name on the shortlist pretty much every time an organisation needs to beef up its capability. So given that exposure, I happily trotted down to Conversocial’s City of London office late last year and interviewed Julian.

This is what I learnt.

Martin: Reflecting on what’s been happening, what’s your headline from 2014?

Julian: I guess it would be that the biggest sectors just kept growing. In particular retail and travel (trains, planes and car rental). I’m expecting the same again this year. The reasons are pretty straight forward. In these situations, consumers now expect to get their questions answered on social. This has allowed the best brands to develop a positive reputation which in turn keeps attracting more consumers as the word gets out that social is the easiest way to get service resolution. Our top UK retail clients are now using between 20-35 seats to service this demand.

Martin: That certainly tallies with the volumes I’m aware of. Global headcounts now run into the hundreds for the most active brands. So I guess that means the proportion of social interaction is due to keep rising through organic growth in well established sectors. But that rings alarm bells for me since consumer expectation is bound to spill out across sectors, even if they have yet to get serious about social customer service. But before getting into that, is anything else you’ve noticed in your core markets?

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