IoT To Transform Customer Service Over Next 5 Years

When it comes to customer service, connected devices are driving the most value.

That’s according to a new research report that identified the top technologies that will reshape customer service by 2021.

The Internet of Things will enable brands to improve customer service efficiencies and create new opportunities for customer loyalty, according to the report Plan Now for Customer Service by 2021 by Forrester Research.

The technologies identified in the report, comprising interviews with vendor and user companies, are two-way video communication, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), virtual assistants, messaging and connected devices.

Overall, connected devices were ranked at the top as driving the most value on both the consumer and business sides.

“IoT combined with improved predictive analytics will eventually enable preemptive service, meaning fixes before a customer even knows there is a problem,” Ian Jacobs, the senior analyst and author of the report, told the IoT Daily.  

“Connected products will simply have fewer problems,” said Jacobs. “The key here for brands is capitalizing on that to build better customer loyalty.

“Brands will need to decide whether to let customers know that they fixed an incipient problem, for example. We’ve all been looking for more predictive service and now we are already staring pre-emptive service in the face. That’s pretty amazing.”

Traditionally, the focus of customer service has been on inward-facing development and investment to reduce costs, Forrester noted. However, by utilizing new technologies and shifting focus to customer experiences, the future of customer service could hold new opportunities for customer loyalty and revenue generation.

Here are key findings in the report:

  • Augmented reality enables brands to provide their service within the context of the consumer. For example, a consumer holds a smartphone over an account statement on their desk and useful information appears as an overlay over the image.
  • Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa use artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand, anticipate and serve customers’ needs. The benefit of a virtual assistant over human customer service agents is that the information is stored and can be accessed at a later date by another representative (human or not).
  • Virtual assistants in tandem with connected devices could provide multi-faceted value. For example, a smart refrigerator with built-in virtual assistant that can create a grocery list from dictation, as well as help the consumer with any issues they have with the appliance.
  • IoT will drive product-based companies to shift toward service-based models. Connected devices will push customer service as a whole to focus on relationships, both between brands and their customers and between field repair units and their control centers.

IoT technology also can provide support via connected products.

“Another potential impact of IoT is the creation of dynamic ecosystems of customer service. When my thermostat is connected to both my car and my lighting system, that becomes one product in my mind,” Jacobs said.

“When a breakdown occurs, I’ll want my thermostat provider to support the connections I made between their product and my car.”

Although there are challenges associated with such ecosystems, Jacobs said they also can provide strong potential benefits.

“When the thermostat becomes the center of a dynamic ecosystem of value, the product takes on a much more central place in my life. In fact, the fact that is a connected device can elevate it to a lifestyle brand."

Widespread deployments of these technologies won’t be seen for several years, according to Forrester.

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