It all started with the 1-800 number. Companies wanted to get closer to their customers and make themselves just a phone call away, says salesforce.com Service Cloud and Desk.com SVP and GM, Alex Bard. Then came the Internet, and with it, new options for customers to connect, including email and web-based chats. Next was the social revolution, when the “how” and “when” really began to change. Customer service was no longer about the Monday through Friday, nine-to-five timeframe. People could talk to companies anytime, anywhere.
Now we are in the mobile revolution. Gartner predicts that this year alone, more smart phones will ship than traditional mobile phones. “We’re all walking around with computers in our pockets and we all expect service at the ‘speed of now,’” says Bard. Companies that don’t respond immediately are being left behind. But all of this is still largely reactive. You’ve got an issue, you reach out to the company, and they address your issue.
With the “Internet of Things,” customer service is going to change, says Bard. According to ABI Research, by 2020, more than 50 billion additional devices will be wirelessly connected to physical things. These will include TVs, washing machines, thermostats, refrigerators, and even cars -- all of these connected devices will be chattier than humans are. The question, challenge, and opportunity will be what a company does with all of that data.
Obviously, people don’t want to have service issues and it can sometimes be a hassle to contact a company for support. “Therefore the best customer service experience is one that never has to happen,” says Bard. The Internet of Things will empower products to communicate in advance to alert users of impending problems before they arise. But in order for this level of customer service to be offered enterprises need the right tools and business processes to proactively listen when machines start talking.
According to Bard, salesforce.com will serve as the platform for listening and acting on information from connected devices by creating a workflow around not only identifying the anomaly within a device, but also figuring out what to do with the anomaly. So whether it’s simply saying to the customer, “Hey, we solved a problem for you, have a great day,” or “Hey, we need your help in solving this before it becomes a real issue,” that will all be processed through the Service Cloud.
Customers will no longer be stranded on the side of the road. Instead their car will let them know when an issue is about to occur and there’s a dealership a few miles away where they can get it fixed. Instead of experiencing their printer running out of ink right when they are printing an important document, consumers will have an ink cartridge arrive on their doorstep before they even realize they need it.
Bard likes to use the 2002 film Minority Report as an example, in that it was all about this amazing advanced technology that enabled Tom Cruise and company to see and prevent crimes before they happened. “The Internet of Things, coupled with the Service Cloud, and a company’s own vision, will allow for customer service cases to be proactively solved before they happen, rather than reactively, which is largely the world we live in today,” says Bard.
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