The introduction of cutting-edge Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies has changed the way people receive, interact with, and interpret information. Because of this, companies must also adapt to meet and deliver on evolving customer expectations and needs — this is called service on the edge.
What is service on the edge?
Service on the edge can be defined as any product or service that meets a customer need the moment that need arises, and where the need arises. That is, service will occur at the point of action — for example, on a device itself which is really the edge of a company’s computing network. So "service on the edge" means any and every device you encounter will have service built into it as a standard.
To provide services on the edge, a company must fully understand their customers. Only when you really know your customer can you accurately predict where and when these opportunities to provide services will arise. But how can changing environments and advanced technologies affect what service looks like in the future?
Why service on the edge matters: a look at the future
Today's youth grow up with technology and smart devices— it's difficult for them to imagine life without it.
For example, they wave their hands in front of a paper towel dispenser because it never crosses their mind to touch the dispenser for a towel to come out. Similarly, many children who grow up using touchscreens naturally expect any screen or surface to work as a touchscreen. Here's an example of a toddler trying to interact with a print magazine:
The advances and accessibility of technology can also extend to how we think about customer service. Imagine this scenario: you see a child attempt to play with a toy, then speak to it and ask why it won't work. Because of the child's experience with speaking to or watching their parents talk to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or digital assistants like Siri, the child expects a voice interface and some level of intelligence in everything in their world.
That expectation provides abundant opportunities. After all, voice-friendly interfaces have expanded across multiple products, transforming the customer experience of everything from microwaves to smart speakers.
That expectation is the key to what future services on the edge will look like.
What does this mean for companies and customers? While it seems daunting to think that the world has become more complex, these technological advances instead introduce a more natural way of interacting with the objects that surround us every day.
How companies can deliver services on the edge to customer interactions
From a customer’s perspective, services on the edge provide a quicker and easier way of obtaining information and access. Consumers want information faster available at all times, and wherever they are. What’s more, they no longer have to be tech-savvy to figure out how to troubleshoot problems and repair their devices.
Let’s take a look at another scenario: Imagine you wake up one morning craving a smoothie. You pull out your blender, fill it with fresh produce, and press blend — but nothing happens. Instead of digging around for the user manual or contacting customer support, wouldn’t it be easier to ask, “Blender, why aren’t you working?
The confluence of smart devices, artificial intelligence (AI) breakthroughs, and CRM (customer relationship management) software provides endless opportunities for both companies and customers. Voice interfaces can be placed virtually anywhere and can be powered by artificial intelligence and connected to your CRM for quick troubleshooting, tracking, tips, and tricks. This leads to faster resolution times and saves money for the company while also providing greater customer satisfaction with immediate help and solutions.
Voice interfaces are also a powerful enabler for those who are visually impaired, illiterate, or not proficient in the language of the original creators of the device. The product might have been first designed to support English, but smart devices can provide new languages and support without worrying about printed documentation translations.
What to take into account when providing services on the edge
These exciting advancements in technology are quickly changing all forms of interactions. However, these changes also come with necessary ethical and security considerations. Companies should take regulation rules and privacy and security concerns into account when providing services on the edge.
For instance, any smart device connected to the Internet has the potential to listen in on conversations or record private information. This could potentially allow the creators of the device to use it for proprietary purposes that are unknown to the user (for example, targeted advertising, selling the data to data brokers).
In terms of privacy when creating smart devices, privacy by design is paramount to user trust. User trust is also included as a principle in GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the European Union’s law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area.
Another equally critical consideration is security. There are terrible examples of hackers getting access to personal data and wreaking havoc via connected devices. As the ease and ubiquity of access rises, significant security precautions must be put into place to prevent greater security violations from occurring.
Service on the edge: the future of customer experience
As consumer expectations evolve alongside technological advancements, customer service is adapting to provide customers with more immersive experiences and products. Artificial intelligence is becoming a common denominator in well-implemented products and services. The relationship between company and customer is closer than ever, yet we must be conscious of ethical use and user privacy. Artificial intelligence and smart products are being integrated into our daily lives, changing the way we expect, experience, and interact with services.