Internet of Things

8月 062014
 
Photo credit: The Digital Future of Retail, Merchandising Matters.

Photo credit: The Digital Future of Retail, Merchandising Matters.

The other day I received a letter in the mail. What was in the letter left me feeling depressed. It left me feeling inadequate, unprepared, incapable of mustering the mental and emotional energy to complete it’s request.

You see it wasn’t asking me to do something that I’d never done before. It asked me to do something that I had already relegated to extinction.

The letter asked me to find a pen (that worked), fill out a form by hand, write a check, find an envelope, write the address on the envelope, place the filled out form and the check in the envelope, find a stamp, lick and place the stamp on the envelope, walk the envelope out to the mail box and then wait for almost 20 hours for it to send (the mail man had come earlier that day). Since it was going across the country, it would be handed off between people, machines, and transportation vehicles and would probably be another several days until they received it. I also knew that a similar manual process would happen on the other end just in order to receive my communication. My efforts would not only take way longer than it should have to relay information and money, but it would likely be close to two weeks before the requestors would get what they wanted. Two weeks for what should have taken two minutes, leveraging today’s commonly available technology.

For several days, I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it. My current systems and expectations have (perhaps prematurely) moved so far beyond those tasks, that I couldn’t find a way to smoothly integrate the process into my day. While late Sunday night, I actually honored the request, it felt like I was being forced to use an abacus instead of a calculator, or computer.

For effect, I am being a bit dramatic, but I’m not embellishing as much as it might appear.

But, how many of us ask our customers to perform analogous tasks with layers of unnecessary friction because we’re simultaneously stuck in the framing of the past, and the inertia of the present? What if most activities in the world were like a trip to the DMV? Thankfully, most are not. These experiences highlight the pain of a poor experience.

What makes experiences great?

The specific answers to this are highly contextual, and the subject of an entire field of study. However, at their aggregate level, great customer experiences come from delivering one or both of the following:

  1. They help the customer accomplish what they’re trying to get done, and/or
  2. They help the customer “feel good”.

How? There are six fundamental things that customers want:

  1. Know Me.
  2. Be Relevant.
  3. Be Competent.
  4. Be Trustworthy.
  5. Be Likable.
  6. Be Available.

It is easy to get caught focusing on the emerging technical capabilities of the Internet of Everything. There’s a tremendous amount to learn. However, the most valuable work will be performed attaching these new capabilities to fundamental human drivers and expectations.

Going back to my example, instead of asking me to fill out a form with the information they needed, what if they already knew the answer? What if they presented a request to validate what they believed they knew in my preferred channel? Instead of asking me to write and send a check (a method of payment now hundreds of years old), how could they reduce the friction around payment to the minimum gesture of approval?

Most organizations have plenty of work to do on basic steps such as this. But how will the Internet of Everything help in creating better experiences for customers? Most of the story is yet to be written, but there are a growing set of early examples that we can observe and learn from.

Companies that are leading the way

The first organization that comes to mind is Amazon. Look at the list of 6 things above and ask if you would check the box in each category? The rollout of Mayday may potentially become the new standard in customer service, not just for Amazon, but for the world at large. Their work towards predicting what you might buy before you buy it, and staging their warehouses with expected items prior to purchase, and then delivering within hours or minutes are all on the horizon.

Starbucks also recently stated their intention to allow customers to order and pay before they even arrive at the store, making it easer than ever to order, pay, and receive your favorite Starbucks beverage. Loyalty and rewards will of course be built in.

Vail Resorts makes the entire slope experience better by leveraging small chips that allow users to get on and off of lifts easier, communicate with their friends and family, look at interesting daily stats, and get offers that are relevant to them.

Disney has invested $1 Billion in Magic Bands to help reduce friction around transactions and provide a more personalized experience.

The Internet of Everything and Better Customer Experience

Using our “Six Things Customers Want” as an anchor, here are some tips about how the cutting edge of tech innovation can be leveraged to improve the customer experience.

1. Know Me -> SENSORS EVERYWHERE

Mobile phones increasingly have more sensors to better capture data about each individuals context. External sensors are able to track behavior, capture identity, understand behaviors and preferences. This is the raw material of understanding. Listening, watching, observing, and extracting meaning from these observations is getting easier to do at scale.

2. Be Relevant -> LEVERAGE BIG DATA AND ANALYTICS TO CORRELATE OFFERINGS WITH CUSTOMER NEEDS AND PREFERENCES

The amount of data available is overwhelming. Making sense of it is often impossible. But, some are having success in finding correlations – new clues that help peel back one more layer of onion skin. At its simplest, processing power is getting stronger and more affordable. We see several emerging areas of innovation especially in B2B marketing tech, where clues are improving the likelihood of sales teams talking to the right prospect or customer at the right time. Broadening the data set to include additional sensor generated data should help refine the models to create better alignment between customer/company communication.

3. Be Competent -> AUGMENTED CAPABILITIES

Competency reveals itself at the individual and organizational levels. Helping doctors make better assessments by augmenting their capabilities, helping customer service organizations respond faster and more accurately, drivers leveraging additional information and capabilities arguably will create better drivers. Service technicians, police officers, and just about everyone should ultimately be able to perform their jobs better, armed with better information and new capabilities to do their jobs better.

4. Be Trustworthy -> INCREASED TRANSPARENCY

Embedded throughout this narrative are very potent arguments in favor of privacy and against omnipresent government and corporate actors that know everything. Trust is at the center of all of this. But the trajectory is pushing us all individually and institutionally towards transparency, whether we like it or not. Customer reviews, unified online IDs, and a world where and increasing amount of behaviors require a digital passport is accelerating the trustworthiness of some, while destroying others. AirBnB and Uber, for example, allow reviews on both sides of the transaction. Organizations who do a great job and prove to be trustworthy will benefit.

5. Be Likable -> SIRI?

Of all 6, here’s where the Internet of Everything’s story might be the weakest. Likability still seems largely reserved for human interaction. Please help me if I’m dead wrong here. However, over time, as advances in artificial intelligence become more mature, there may be more of a story here. Siri has succeeded largely because of her wit, and the ability to recognize and admit her own shortcomings. We’re still a ways off from seeing tangible benefits from the Internet of Everything as it relates to likeability. So, humans can rejoice. There’s still something technology can’t do!

6. Be Available -> MOBILE + ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The original internet was a revolution in availability. Organizations discovered that having a website was a competitive advantage. For the first time, many companies now were at least partially available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Increased capability wrapped up in mobile technologies has enabled more people to be more available from anywhere at any time. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine to machine communication extend the opportunities for capabilities (answers, information, products) to be available in more places. This is true not just from the corporate perspective, but offering what the customers want in ever narrower contexts is also playing a part (increasing e-commerce on social networks, ambient information on wearables). Availability continues to take on new meaning, while continues to reset customer expectations.

In closing, decision makers need to be asking two critical questions:

  1. Where is your organization on the continuum of providing a great experience?
  2. How can it potentially leverage the Internet of Everything to better provide the 6 things customers want?

This post is brought to you by InnovateThink and Cisco and has been cross posted at LinkedIn and at Value Creator.

* Slides: Six Things Customers Want
* IMG Credit: The Digital Future of Retail

tags: analytics, big data, customer experience, Internet of Things, mobile
4月 092014
 

There are many reasons for marketers to see opportunity in the Internet of Things, most especially because it entails the interconnection of objects and devices and the data that's generated from these devices. It's not so much that we have to get our geek on, but the devices themselves ultimately connect to individuals that are impacted in some way by the device. Those individuals, of course, are our customers.

The origin of  the term, "The Internet of Things," according to Wikipedia, dates back to 1999 and it references the concept as having been discussed "since at least 1991."  I believe it's even older than that because well before the 1990s we knew the early concept as the "busy signal" when your best friend's sister hung on the telephone all night and you could not get through ("off hook" was the official Bell System term).

No matter the origin of the term, it has now blossomed into a world-wide phenomenon that now has it's own day - April 9 is Global Internet of Things Day.

Solar panels being installed on our roof.

Solar panels being installed on our roof.

To understand the opportunity and its implications, it's worth considering one example - my home. This past summer, my wife and I took the plunge and installed solar panels on the roof or our house. Along with the panels came a monitoring system that reports all sorts of metrics and serves it up to us on demand in an online portal. We can see how much energy our panels are producing, and also which circuits are using what amounts of electricity and at what times.

Since getting our system, we've gotten important information that helps us manage our electricity consumption and make important choices that have enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint and save money. Cases in point include:

  • We discovered our 6-arm dining room chandelier with incandescent bulbs used more electricity than our refrigerator and freezer combined. Switching to LED bulbs cut the consumption of that one chandelier by 75%.
  • Seeing a spike in energy usage in our second floor HVAC unit pointed to a problem with the unit. A service call confirmed our system's coils were rusted out and had lost 95% of the coolant, so we replaced the unit before it stopped working completely during one of the coldest winters on record.
  • Knowing the biggest energy using appliances in the house taught us to use the clothes dryer and pottery kiln at certain times, and to turn our thermostat down and use our fireplace on the coldest evenings.
The web portal lets us monitor electricity usage by circuit in our house.

The web portal lets us monitor electricity usage by circuit in our house.

Mobile technology and the near-ubiquity of Internet access now makes it possible to connect even the most mundane devices and enable users to monitor or manage them remotely. The opportunity for marketers is precisely to enable the users to access that information, as well as potential service providers who can understand the needs of their customers in real-time.

The web portal lets us understand energy production and usage patterns and how to manage them.

The web portal lets us understand energy production and usage patterns and how to manage them.

In the case of our solar panels, the company that installed them monitors them remotely and has told us a couple of times when one or another of our panels or power inverters were not performing "up to standard." In both cases, they came out and repaired or replaced the problem devices (free of charge!)

As even the simplest devices have grown in sophistication due to technological advances, the role of those devices in the overall customer experience has grown in kind. Consider any aspect of your business and its operations and think about how devices play a role in your customers' interaction with your organization.

As the Internet of Things becomes more ingrained in all aspects of our lives, it behooves all marketers to understand how that interconnectedness and the big data that results from it is a huge opportunity for us to craft the customer experiences that drive long-term loyalty and generate real value for all involved.

Let me know what you think.  As always, thank you for following - and have a nice Global Internet of Things Day!

 

tags: big data, customer experience management, Internet of Things, mobile