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With IoT and big data, consumer expectations for service are changing – and rapidly. Customers engage with businesses through more channels than ever, and they’re demanding faster and more efficient service. But organizations now have the ability to leverage vast amounts of data gathered from embedded devices to create a better customer experience, forge stronger relationships, increase loyalty, and ultimately improve sales.

A recent Forrester report says “the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to transform companies from being products-based to services-based.” This is a perfect summation of the new approach businesses must take with customer interactions. It’s all about service, and IoT is one of the key drivers behind this new kind of customer experience. Let’s look at four ways IoT is revolutionizing the customer journey.

1. Increased Ease and Efficiency

For some time, companies have been offering their customers the ability to engage in self-service activities via the web and mobile devices. Virtual agents, online scheduling and self-service have all translated into better service experiences at lower costs.

But IoT and embedded devices take it to the next level. For example, businesses can use data collected from wearables and mobile devices to arm remote technicians and representatives with relevant customer information. And many of these devices are collecting data about behavior and preferences seamlessly, offering businesses a more detailed view into how consumers use products and services.

Not only are these data points valuable in helping companies to improve the products themselves, but they also allow contact center agents to provide a faster, more personal experience. With in-depth insights into a customer’s history and IoT device activities, contact center agents can offer more relevant solutions or complementary offerings. Businesses are also using data to divert customers from one channel of communication to another based on availability and the nature of their question, reducing wait times and increasing agent efficiency.

2. More Proactive Service

Forrester predicts that the number of connected devices will increase to 30 billion by 2020, and companies are using the data gathered from these devices to create a new kind of proactive customer service. For example, potential issues and failures can be anticipated and resolved before they happen, and patches can be pushed to customers before a problem arises. However, this puts some new requirements on businesses if they are to properly execute this new approach to service. Companies must stay on top of interoperability standards, device connections, and data models to ensure they provide a truly proactive experience. Vendors and end users alike will also need to be cognizant of security best practices.

3. More Targeted Service

Thanks to IoT, businesses are increasingly able to offer the right service at the right time – whether that be a live agent, a web chat, a SMS message, an embedded bot or an online tutorial. Companies are also pushing out targeted information on upcoming sales and coupons based on specific customer usage data, moving away from more generic “spam-like” promotions that can irritate customers. They’re also rolling out broader feedback programs, incorporating sentiment analysis and multi-channel data to paint a better picture of customer issues. This targeted approach places a higher value on the customer as an individual – something customers have come to expect if they are going to stay loyal to a company or brand.

4. Deeper Analytics

While companies are actively engaging in data analytics, this area will continue to deepen as the volume of data continues to increase and create exciting possibilities for businesses. More in-depth reporting and analytics on the data gathered from embedded devices are being used to monitor performance around customer service. The results enable companies to improve the overall experience by connecting customers to the right person or information faster. Analytics are also going deeper than a basic purchase history to unlock a better understanding of customers’ individual needs based on how they actually engage with the devices around them.

There’s no doubt IoT is changing the way companies engage with customers, and that it will continue to transform the customer experience. However, with more power transferred to the customer, businesses will need to work harder to stay competitive by employing these techniques to offer a more tailored customer experience. As Forrester says, “delivering differentiated customer service has become a strategic imperative” – one that we only expect to increase in value as IoT evolves.

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