By 2020 it is predicted that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet. The estimates from various sources vary by tens of billions, but the trend is undoubtedly rising to a massive number. By 2020 around 3 billion people will have the means to own multiple devices, many of them connected constantly. Most vehicles will have significant connectivity. Consumer goods will be unusual in not having connection, and embedded connectivity will be present in billions of sensors that can be monitored and controlled.
We are seeing a rapid evolution from simple networked devices, through networked industries where supply and service chains are interconnected, to a vision of “networked everything” including the customer and their expectations of service, with the ability to compare alternatives constantly.
What impact will this have on customer service?
As physical objects become more like services due to their ubiquitous connectivity, the customer service associated with a product also becomes more like that expected from a service. There will be a reduction in basic setup questions and also reporting of faults, as pro-active self-diagnosis will be the norm. The need to activate and manage warranties, repairs and reverse logistics will be much reduced. All of this will cut down the need for contact centre support on a transactional basis. Mobile and tablet channels will inevitably become the centre of “networked everything” interactions, being the natural control centres for the end user. The vast majority of device service interactions will be invisible to the owner.
There should also be a corresponding increase in data-driven offers and responses that can be used to enhance and differentiate the experience of product ownership. An evolution of interaction, building on social networking principles that are both non-intrusive and natural will be the key to successful service delivery.
All of this will be location independent – customer service will be expected and demanded at any time and in any place, and the device itself can react in real time.
How will brand equity be preserved with so much automation and standardisation of service levels? Here basic customer experience principles will still apply. When the products are becoming ever smarter, keeping the customer in the centre of the service management process will be the main challenge and not leaving them feeling disconnected, or from a service marketing perspective unaware of the great service being provided in the background.
The sheer volume of device interactions must be distilled into the traditional “moments of truth” in a customer journey, and where before these often dealt with problem resolution should focus more on the building and maintenance of brand reputation and differentiation. The service design principles behind this are evolving and will ultimately redefine customer satisfaction – or else the ability to quickly lose your brand reputation in the new world of connected smart devices.