IoT Has Arrived, But Has Your Customer Service Offering?

IoT Has Arrived, But Has Your Customer Service Offering?

IoT Has Arrived, But Has Your Customer Service Offering?

What happens when IoT products and services don’t live up to expectations?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly permeating its way into modern-day vocabulary, but even those not familiar with the term have likely had some interaction with connected devices. In less than three years, there will be more than 2.1 billion networked consumer entertainment devices, which include connected TVs, digital media adaptors, video game consoles and other web-enabled devices, according to a recent study conducted by research firm IDC and sponsored by TELUS International (“Preparing Your Support Team for the IoT-Connected Consumer”). This is a staggeringly high number, and it doesn’t even represent the multitude of other IoT applications in health care, transportation or retail.

It’s safe to say that the era of IoT is officially here, and with it comes tremendous value for the overall customer experience. Connected devices bring with them the promise of faster, easier, simpler and even more cost-efficient ways of dealing with everyday tasks. But what happens when those IoT products and services don’t live up to those expectations? Who should one turn to for support, and where does the onus fall? The answers are not all that clear, which means a significant opportunity for forward-thinking companies to use customer service as a differentiator in the marketplace.

Catering to the Needs of the IoT-Connected Consumer

As the sheer number of connected products continue to rise, so, too, do customer expectations. When it comes to customer service, the modern consumer is looking for a timely and friendly response via their preferred support channel. The potential complexity of IoT-related issues is not going to change those expectations; in fact, their connected devices not living up to their promise of ease and simplicity may even exacerbate them.

Take IoT in the home, for example. Who should a customer contact for support when trying to set up their Logitech remote to work with their Wi-Fi, in order to control their GE appliances or Nest thermostat? Connected devices are just that—connected—and the number of linked brands, services and products makes delivering support all the more challenging.

Further still, this example assumes customers are actually aware of the capabilities of their connected devices, but that’s not always the case. While IDC estimates that 35 million American households today have some kind of multimedia home-networking application, only 31% are taking full advantage of their digital capabilities. Additionally, nearly 16% of users reported not knowing how to set up and fully utilize their devices, and 24% felt that their digital devices had capabilities that would be useful, but they were unsure of what they were.

Companies who are able to help bridge these gaps by offering a more holistic and proactive approach to customer service will have a greater appeal to consumers. Finding a contact center partner with skilled agents that can deliver seamless support across various platforms may be the key to delivering successful end-to-end service in a mixed IoT environment.

The Universal Contact Center Agent

The new challenges brought forth by IoT will require a greater investment in contact centers, including agents who are highly skilled to successfully solve complex IoT-related requests.

When a customer reaches out to a contact center for help, the very last thing they want to hear after waiting on hold is, “Sorry, we can’t help you with that,” before being directed to another avenue of support. A universal agent will need to understand, not only the supported solution, but its entire ecosystem of devices, services and software. This means being able to troubleshoot for the Logitech remote, GE appliances, Nest thermostat and even the customer’s Internet connectivity in order to successfully meet their needs and expectations.

Even with a higher skillset, agents will need proper training and tools to succeed. The knowledge bases referenced in the contact center will need to evolve in order to accommodate the differing and growing number of devices in an IoT environment. Success metrics will also have to adapt as customer support calls will take longer and require additional resources. Average handle time (AHT) and first-call resolution (FCR) will make way for customer satisfaction (Csat) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) as more accurate judgments of contact center performance.

An Emphasis on Privacy and Security

With recent IoT-related cyber attacks making headlines worldwide, there is now an even greater sensitivity around the topic of privacy and security when it comes to connected devices. Combating the growing perception of IoT as a risk to consumer data will be a significant challenge for the contact center agent, especially when it comes to troubleshooting.

To provide adequate support, agents may be required to access the consumer’s environment. This could mean co-browsing or taking control via remote access in order to fully assess and solve the problem at hand. With many consumers highly interested in IoT-enabled products like home monitoring, for the very purpose of safety and security, it’s important to emphasize the protection of their personal data for an optimal customer experience.

Transparent and open communications about how brands are protecting this data and building security into the products themselves can build consumer trust. Companies and their call centers should communicate just how much customer data is being accessed including the processes they have in place to ensure privacy and security. It’s an opportunity to arm call center agents with the appropriate information and messaging to put customers at ease.

Just as customer expectations are on the rise, the expectations put on contact center outsourcing providers are also increasing. Forward-thinking business process outsourcing (BPO) providers are emphasizing their security and privacy standards including hiring staff only after extensive background checks and, once on the call center floor, agent activity remains carefully monitored. Further, BPOs should constantly review and test their business continuity plans not only with their clients but also with their downstream partners to ensure IoT-related threats do not impact the brands and customers they are serving.

As the number of IoT devices increase so does the complexity of supporting consumers in a connected environment. But with greater complexity comes greater opportunity, and those companies who prove innovative, knowledgeable and passionate about delivering customer service excellence will stand out among the rest.

Michael Ringman

Michael Ringman

Michael Ringman is CIO of TELUS International, a global BPO and ITO company with service delivery centers around the world, including in Canada, the United States, Central America, Europe and Asia. TELUS International is the global arm of TELUS, one of Canada’s largest telecom companies serving almost 13 million subscriber connections. (

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