The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

A new Service perspective: you are the products you use

ioeA new paradigm for Customer Service is increasingly leading the way during the last weeks. A paradigm which is based on the new Internet of Things revolution and that has begun to stimulate the curiosity of different people working on this topic. Last week Don Scheibenreif, a Gartner Research VP, has published an interesting post where he asks which are the next impacts on marketing, sales and customer service strategies and processes when smart objects will start to interact each other. Moreover, another post this week by Peter Zeinoun attempt to introduce the new concept of “Support of Things” with all the consequences you can imagine on customer experience.

Here I try to develop what I have in mind about the effects of something bigger than the Internet of Thing (IoT) on customer-facing processes. When I say “bigger” I mean that I want to move the focus on what Cisco called Internet of Everything (IoE) or a condition where smart objects and people interacts each other in real-time, exchanging data and giving the right information to trigger specific actions or improve/create processes.

This repositioning is fundamental because using this point of view, you’ll better understand the extent of this big shift on a Customer Service strategy. Try to imagine an IoE world where, practically, every home device (fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, thermostat, burglar alarm, garage door, etc.) or different wearable/mobile objects (shoes, wristband, watch, dress, tablet, phone, etc.) are connectible. Each of them can generate a huge amount of data that is the code, in a specific format, that explain how you are using it, how it “reacts” to your usage during its lifecycle, how and whom it has interacted with and so on.

All this data can create the big picture of human choices, habits and behaviours; a sort of real-time profile that a manufacturer can analyse to understand deeply its customers.

Just as an example, watch this video from Cisco and try to imagine how these possibilities can be expanded considering the information that objects can deliver in our behalf considering the actual use of them.

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Probably in these cases, we can imagine a real proactive customer service scenario with a real customer satisfaction achievement based on the experience lived by our clients through smart objects.








“IoE, what’s in it for me?” said the CRM


Recently, lots of new buzz around about the “Internet of Everything” concept and impacts it will have on business and people’s life. And all this buzz is nurtured by big corporations like Cisco which foresees a huge potential on connections between processes, data, things and people (“The Internet of Everything is a $19 trillion global opportunity over the next decade: Private-sector firms can create as much as $14.4 trillion of value while cities, governments and other public-sector organizations can create $4.6 trillion.” – Cisco). With this kind of data, it is impossible to ignore what is happening and how much value will be generated. But first, let’s start with a Wikipedia definition of “Internet of Things” or “where all this stuff began”:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

Well, this is only a dimension of the whole story because, in order to exchange “Things” with “Everything”, you need to consider also:

  • People: we just know how new ways of communication have changed our habits through new devices (that introduced and enforced mobility), social applications (that has connected us with companies forcing them to change their customer strategy as social CRM) and, finally, collaborative workspaces (that allow us to create more value in our jobs).
  • Data: we are well aware of how big data and related analytics have given big opportunities to detail and enrich our knowledge and understanding in every aspect of our lives and businesses.
  • Process: digital transformation have just entered into corporates’ life deeply modifying their business models, and process digitalization is one of the main component of this revolution.

Connecting and acting on these four nodes is the starting point of IoE vision implementation and consequent benefits enjoyment. My personal point of view about the IoE building blocks can be summarized by the following image (that I’ll explain in a next post but that is quite self-explaining).


Even if the level of adoption of connected devices is still low (as pointed out by Altimeter in an interesting blog post by Jessica Groopman), companies strongly believe that this is the natural next evolution of internet application, and it is verified by various research analyses and estimates (one for all, the Business Insider Intelligence reportThe Internet of Everything: 2015”)

So what can we expect in the next future? A significant growth on adoption of devices and related economic profit, where the lion’s share goes on IoT.


The interesting point is that early adopters among companies realized that the most important benefit for their business comes from an enhanced customer service level. An improvement realized, probably, thanks to better relation/interaction/engagement with their customers, which allow to collect relevant information about their product/service usage and evaluation.


And looking a little bit further, we also see that companies strongly believe that this adoption will help them to better achieve their business goals, and among them we find the need to improve customer satisfaction through an improved level of engagement.


Obviously, enlarging the perimeter from the IoT to the IoE paradigm the main benefit for business will be an increased and optimized Operational Efficiency (which means to revolutionize internal processes), but immediately after companies confirm the importance of Customer Service as an area strongly affected by this adoption.


And if we want an effective confirmation on the Customer Service importance for business, we can see that even the Manufacturing sector (probably the main IoE early adopter) are practically using IoT ecosystem also to better understand their product usage and consequently fulfil customer expectations.


Finally, just to understand what exactly is happening on the CRM side I suggest to have a look at a post by Steven Van Belleghem where he discusses about the first examples of IoE as a real-time customer service enabler (now it’s really possible). Among other things, he tells about the electric car company Tesla that send their drivers a proactive message 7 days before a problem will occur (with evident advantages in terms of drivers time saving and safety increase) and airline company KLM that trained a special team focused on proactively solving customer problems (i.e. communicating gate changes to passengers).

The message is that people will pretend more and more from companies and the only way to fulfil their expectations is to solve problems before a critical event occurs and the customer becomes aware of it. A scenario where Customer Service, thanks to sensors, devices and connections, is able to endlessly monitor product/service performance and communicate mainly in a outbound logic, distributing proactive solutions.

That’s really fascinating, isn’t it?

Where is your Social Caring team?

Many applications are struggling in the Social CRM market space nowadays and more and more are trying to “verticalize” their features in order to adapt them to the traditional customer-facing processes. This is the case of Customer Operations and specifically of Customer Service approach through well-consolidated processes adopted in contact centres. Since the Social CRM capabilities’ drivers come from Social Listening/Monitoring and traditional CRM activities, there is a consistent effort from vendors coming from the CTI world that are trying to match these two aspects, replicating what’s in place in your contact centres (see image below) and minimizing impacts on processes through the delivery of concepts like “universal queue” (in other words: assembling customer interactions coming from different channels – included social media – and assigning them to CSRs thanks to business rules and constraints).

customer service chain

So the integration between social and traditional approaches is set on the upper side of the Customer Service chain (contact management layer).

This is for sure a reasonable perspective especially for COOs that are really careful to performance and cost issues. However, are we sure that this is the right or at least the most complete perspective to use? People complaining or asking for commercial information are physically the same independently if they use a phone, an email, or other touchpoints. Nevertheless, are we really confident that they also behave in the same manner or (worse) they use those touchpoints with the same expectations?

How many social media gurus have told you that social customer will have an impact on your business through social media because of their characteristics of being “public” and “networked”? Well, do you know what? They are right. And if they are right, it also means that social customer is more careful about its expectations, satisfaction and its power to spread publicly frustration and rage against bad service.

Therefore, COOs have to understand that, in addition to cost issues, they need to cope with social interactions in a more dedicated way. And that’s possible, in my humble opinion, only if you use an organizational perspective which set a dedicated social caring team with specific responsibilities and skills (particularly oriented to the management of the relationship through social media) with their own service levels and business workflows. In other words, I believe that the integration between social and traditional approaches must be executed in the lowest side of the Customer Service chain (operational CRM or case management layer) to allow the final collection of all interaction data in a unique place.

What do you think? Please leave in the comments your point of view.