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The Internet of Things Will Transform Customer Service

When we refer to the Internet of Things today, our first inclination may be to imagine a device around the home connected to a mobile app that provides us statistical information regarding usage. This has rapidly morphed into a control app, allowing us the ability to modify a set of parameters based on said statistics, from anywhere over the Internet. The "smart home" emerges in the short-run as the killer use case, however, health monitoring is set to explode once 5 million people purchase Apple Watches next month, so watch out.

But where does it go from there? The next phase of IoT innovation is not controlling your home appliances or office machines, realistically, we are already beyond this. Rather, the next generation of IoT will integrate with customer service technologies, such as Unified Communications systems, CRM and ERP systems as well as On Demand Knowledge Bases in order to streamline customer journeys, increase responsiveness and enhance the customer experience.

For example, the make, model and vital statistics of your Samsung refrigerator will be integrated with your customer service record (if you choose to connect it, of course). Indeed, the refrigerator itself will detect usage patterns or faults, log them and notify you. However, maintenance tips from knowledge bases or recipes may also be emailed to you. But in addition to this, one day your fridge will also automatically schedule a service call, dispatch a repair man or order a replacement part and automatically ship it to you. You can apply this use case to other items as well, such as cars.

An additional step would be to connect the device and its operator (you) directly to a customer service representative when all other avenues of self-service have failed. For example, Internet of Things connected devices and equipment, like your cable box may automatically trigger a callback request from the call center in severe cases that require immediate assistance, bringing the concept of proactive customer care to a whole new level. All your data and the context of the situation, including steps that have already been taken, would be transferred along with the request for service so that customer and agent would not have to start all over again at the beginning.

Amazon's Mayday function allows Fire users to quickly connect to an Amazon Tech advisor. Imagine a wide variety of products, large and small, becoming next generation VoIP walkie-talkies bridging the gap between you, knowledge bases and customer care agents. A customer service conduit is built directly into every device. No more 800 numbers. A Wi-Fi radio is integrated into the unit and pre-configured to take advantage of LTE-U or Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Another use case is where product specialists (a sales person) speaks directly to consumers, through the device, in the act of making a purchase decision, answering critical key questions in the moment in order to close the sale before the shopper places the item down and leaves the store. A "Before you put me down, ask a Question" sticker would appear prominently on the device. This may be particularly useful when making complex buying decisions. Products on shelves automatically connect to the store's guest Wi-Fi network upon arrival. Motion sensors in the units would also measure customer engagement with the product and report the data back to Marketing.

The Internet of Things is not just about things. It's about connecting people also, and the bandwidth provided by high throughput Wi-Fi networks allow for rich customer service experiences. They are many details to work out. However, at the rate at which intelligence is being built into all devices, this future is not as far away as we might think.