Making the Internet of Customers a Reality
Building a full picture of the customer journey is extremely challenging. However, the Internet of Things (IoT) can make gathering information about the customer experiences much simpler. By incorporating information from product sensors in their CRM systems, companies can better track the customer journey during all stages of the product life cycle.
Big players have already made inroads into incorporating IoT data into their information systems. Pitney Bowes can now connect operational information from their machines at customer locations to proactively identify, diagnose and resolve asset service issues before clients are even aware of a problem. Coca-Cola uses data from connected vending machines to gain valuable understanding about where and when to advertise.
IoT is not just for the Big Guys
By leveraging simpler and lower-cost IoT options, smaller businesses can take advantage of IoT benefits once thought only affordable for larger companies. The results are impressive. A recent Boston Consulting Group study revealed that SMBs adopting IoT increased annual revenue 15 percent faster than those without IoT solutions.
Many new companies have created IoT solutions that are affordable for smaller businesses. Take for example, Valarm, which uses sensors to help track fleet vehicles, trucks, trailers and golf carts. By using old smartphones as sensors, it is able to cut the cost to one tenth of the normal price, making the technology available to SMBs. Vehicle IoT systems can be used to notify fleet managers when employees or suppliers are driving dangerously or to send an offer to a vehicle owner to bring a car in for service when fluid levels reach a specified level, color or temperature.
RainMachine, inexpensively combines sensors, smartphones, and up-to-the-minute localized weather data to program and automatically adjust sprinkler schedules according to the type of plants/trees being grown at each customer site.
There are possibilities for retail applications as well. As shoppers move through a store, in-store beacons can be employed to check their location, purchase history and loyalty status, triggering discount offers for relevant merchandise on the spot
In the construction industry, modular homes manufacturers can use IoT data from each component to streamline production and assembly and provide real-time reports of product delivery times to homeowners.
Internet of Customer Challenges
The Internet of Customers is a game-changer in the sense of enabling new business value, but it does create a systems integration challenge. IoT systems can be viewed as an overlay on existing IT systems that needs to integrate CRM, other legacy systems and new connected devices. With multiple platforms, numerous protocols and large numbers of APIs, IoT systems integration can be a challenge. In addition, as the IoT of Customers connects more devices together, it provides more decentralized entry points for malware creating more complexity and new security risks.
Middleware, in the form of a system integration platform can provide an interface between all the different systems to provide a unified programming model to interact between the devices and legacy systems. Providing a common solution to data integration, management and security issues, increases efficiency and reduces the risk. In addition, built in adapters to third party solutions and development tools can speed up the process of creating IoT applications.
As we enter the era of Internet of Things (IoT), customer relationship management (CRM) solutions will evolve and take customer service to the next level by enabling enterprises to better understand their customers and offer proactive support.
Having a better understanding of the customer journey is the best way organizations can build a strong brand and lasting customer loyalty. Organizations that leverage IoT to gain insights into each step of the customer journey can gain a competitive advantage, and having tools to simplify and speed up the process can make this capability available to any size business and not just the Giants.
Stephan Romeder, is the General Manager of Magic Software Enterprises Europe, a leading provider of multi-channel application development, application integration and enterprise mobility solutions. He is also the Managing Director of Magic Software Deutschland, covering Germany, Austria...