Internet of Things: Why the Support of Things is the future of customer experience

7th Apr 2015

While already besieged, the customer service industry is in for an even wilder ride thanks to the growing adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) product market. While wearables and connected devices are becoming mainstream, many brands continue to cling to outdated customer service models. These traditional support models will inevitably break under the weight of this new consumer reality.

According to Dimension Data’s 2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, consumer dissatisfaction levels are at record highs. Even with the addition of new engagement channels such as email, web chat and social media, nearly half of all UK retailers get a failing grade when it comes to customer responsiveness, as reported in the 2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study. And those on the other end of the phone - customer service agents - are equally unhappy, leaving their field in record numbers.

It’s a double-edged sword: consumers expect instant gratification when they need assistance, but front-line contact centre staff can’t keep up with the increased complexity of transactions, lacking the tools they need to meet customer expectations. Add in the intricacy of these new connected devices and it’s clear that the customer experience is headed for a breakdown of unprecedented proportions.

In an attempt to keep pace with this exponential change, companies are looking to reinvent the way they support their customers. This approach, sometimes referred to as the Support of Things (SoT), is the future of the customer experience.

Here are three key markets where the SoT model can deliver immediate improvement for the customer experience:

1. Not-yet-connected appliances

While just about every company selling physical products is exploring ways to connect their products to the Internet, some are not there yet. These companies don’t have the benefit of having information streams coming from the product itself that could be used to help diagnose issues. Many brands are exploring ways to connect their products, but in the meantime, they need solutions that give them insights about customer issues and product behaviors. This is where support solutions providing real-time feeds from the customer or field technician will be critical.

2. Connected PCs, smartphones, and tablets

Those in the remote support technology field have had a front row seat to witness the evolution of the SoT approach. Customer support professionals for connected device makers and retailers have the built-in benefit of serving a customer base that is already using connected products, which can make diagnosing and fixing problems somewhat easier. But what if the problem can’t be picked up through the call agent or customer’s Internet connection? What if the consumer’s product can’t power up properly, or can’t connect to the Internet? This common (and frustrating) scenario is where new forms of support that can be tapped into through secondary devices are winning favour.

3. Connected household items

Consumers are used to a high level of support with connected PCs, smartphones and tablets. But what if the thing you’re supporting doesn’t have a screen? Many connected products, such as lighting, thermostats, home theater systems, cable set-top boxes, wireless routers, kitchen gadgets, smart toys don’t have consumer-facing screens as the interface. In many cases, the interface is a mobile app. For these types of support transactions, mobile chat and mobile remote support are crucial – but even they don’t deliver the full customer experience. Video-assisted customer support, using only the camera function on every consumer’s iPhone or Android mobile device, can add a new level of engagement that solves problems faster and boosts satisfaction rates. With remote video, a customer support representative can tap into a live video feed to actually see the physical product in front them as if they were there, too. This opens the door for new levels of real-time support.

Real-time visualisation: crucial for SoT

Many product makers and retailers provide only phone-based or email support, which is less practical for more complicated support calls for connected products. Consumers are not happy with these options, which take time and often end up unresolved, as the customer has to describe what they’re seeing instead of just being able to physically show the person on the other end of the line.

The greatest advantage for businesses and customer contact centres that adopt video as a support tool is the shortened support times. Problems that once took an hour can now take just minutes. The ability for customer service agents to see what the consumer’s product looks like, the exact error message being displayed on a product, or even the serial number on the back of a product, can’t be underestimated.

The second major benefit for retailers and manufacturers is the ability to reduce product returns attributed to “No Fault Found.” We all know that customers who get frustrated with poor support often return their products to the store. What you may not realise is that “No Fault Found” returns are a huge problem that is chipping away at retailers’ and product manufacturers’ profit margins. Accenture estimates that the total cost of consumer electronics returns is costing the industry $13.8 billion USD a year – and a staggering 68% of that loss is attributed to “No Fault Found” returns.

Companies used to servicing smart devices will need to find ways to solve issues that can’t be solved through typical remote connections. Technology exists today that allows technicians to view, assess and resolve issues that were once only resolved by actually being there. Connected “thing” companies will need to rely heavily on mobile device support tools – the core of the SoT approach.

Peter Zeinoun is director of products at LogMeIn.

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