Engineering the Service Economy

Written by R.J. Stangle on Nov 20, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making it a very exciting time to be alive. At the time of writing, we’re witnessing IoT rapidly transform the world around us and fundamentally change the way we interact with it. It’s changing everything from the homes we live in, to the cities around us, to the SMBs that serve as the backbone of our economy.

Indeed, never before have the lines between user, consumer, and citizen been so brilliantly blurred. And never before has the line between the physical and digital worlds been so thin.

N9YYGfz9QYpU2GVgAQtA5z52nwHL46prKypMd1I_

Credit: Crew

As IoT becomes more of a standard protocol and less of a radical brand of futurism, though, we’re seeing it transcend more than just the physical-digital divide. It’s also beginning to permeate our lives and our economy in exciting new ways.

No longer is IoT limited to ‘smart products’ or ‘smart infrastructure’. It’s also evolving to include ‘smart services’ -- from how they’re developed to how they’re delivered. And the future of the service economy is one that will be engineered alongside the smart-products that continue to disrupt other sectors and shape the expectations of business users (in offices, warehouses, retail locations, etc.) and consumers alike.

The Customer Support of Things

When we think about the service sector, we tend to think about actual people offering users/customers some added-value. But IoT is shifting focus to the tools and infrastructure that make the service possible in the first place -- e.g. databases, chat tools, CRMs, etc.

dNvJUIQsgDMKrvcl08U8W-uzR7evN1UjeEwp1twj

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/389350330260497985/

Whether it’s delivered by a human agent (in person, online, or via phone) or some other interface (chatbots, help forums, etc.), what makes a service possible in the first place is the data that agents and tools can leverage to offer customers added-value. And as Dawn Kirspel notes, that data itself opens up additional automation opportunities:

"One benefit of the Internet of Things in the world of customer service is data [...] If used appropriately, that data can give you the tools to reach your customers more efficiently, [and] insight into what your customers want and how they are using the services you provide. [...] One of the [other] benefits of the Internet of Things is automation [...] This can eliminate a layer of human intervention and save the contact center for those situations where a true intervention is needed."

Essentially, IoT has created not only a market need for support, but an incredible opportunity for businesses to use data to both streamline and personalize customer service/support experiences. Not only can customer data be used to help agents better engage customers and address their needs, but it can also be used to build tools that help automate customers’ experiences across the board.

Engineering One-Throat-to-ChokeJR5fWbUDz5cIbFzLT1p8z3gPyC1n0bInYIclGa2w

As IoT creates new opportunities to develop full-service, end-to-end customer support experiences, businesses face the challenge of adapting them to different markets and constantly evolving support niches. Nick Mitchell puts it:

"Businesses that will thrive in this new paradigm will be ones that don't just offer support when there's an issue – but actively use relevant customer data to anticipate how users will engage not only with their product, but with others as well [emphasis added] [...] The Internet of Things will bring with it an enormous amount of data that can be of great value to the overall customer experience, provided companies anticipate the change ahead and build service models for a new age."

And a big part of anticipating ‘the change ahead’ and building service models for a new age will be understanding the user-experience of the agents who use the tools and processes to deliver the service in question. Essentially, engineering seamless support services is as much about building great user-experiences for your agents as it is for your customers.

AppHelp: A Customer of Technology

For businesses that excel at large-scale service but have limited support scope, managing the challenges of ever-evolving niche technical support needs can be a challenge. For instance, all the data necessary to innovate is often available, but the technology and practices needed to harness that insight toward developing usable solutions is often lacking.

zUGnKapKYRQpMFO4sTeX_XL068PptaTSOHNDLHio

Credit: Luis Llerena

In other words, businesses need to approach their technical support offerings more as a Customer-of-the-Technology than as a service provider.

This is where AppHelp comes in for its partners. We bring together agents, best practices, and technology in a way that helps businesses provide never out-of-date, full-service, and end-to-end customer support experiences to their user-base, across markets and demographics.

We’re creating not just seamless customer experiences, but seamless agent experiences. Rather than building tools with limitations that agents have to adapt to, our developers approach our customer support agents as their customers, developing solutions around agents’ actual needs, experiences, and feedback. Indeed, AppHelp's own approach is that of a customer-of-the-technology, not just servicing the marketplace, but contributing to it by bringing specialized expertise to its partners and their customers.

Engineering Service Solutions

As IoT expands and evolves, new service niches continue to opening up all around us. And the service-providers who are able to navigate them simultaneously are the ones who will lead their industries.

Fortunately, IoT also means that all the data needed to navigate those channels is becoming readily available. Where the true challenge lies is in developing technology and processes around not only what that data tells us, but how we (and agents) use that data to deliver the services that consumers and business-users have come to expect. And it’s by being a customer of the technology itself that we can ensure the solutions we develop are properly suited for these new service frontiers, and not just band-aid solutions to the challenges they pose.