‘Service’ is Every Internet of Things Business

Written by Shannon Wenkoff on Aug 20, 2015

The one product all IoT device makers provide is really a service. It is the experience customers receive from their purchase both when the product works and when it doesn’t.

All IoT device makers deliver a service experience. The only difference is whether it’s an experience customers will want to have, will come back for, and will tell their friends about. In other words, the difference is whether that experience is a carefully thought out part of the product plan — or not.

Of course, the only experience customers want is the one they paid for. If the device is a health monitor, then they want to feel like they’re taking good care of their health. If it’s a home thermostat, then they want to feel comfortable. If it’s a home security system, then they want to feel protected.

Helping someone feel healthy, comfortable, or protected is a service, regardless of how much “product” is involved. Product issues, if any, should be invisible. Whether that happens through remote diagnosis and repair, automatic software updates, or magic — the customer doesn’t care. What matters is the experience, especially if the customer does become aware of an issue, which is likely.

According to research by Parks Associates, a research and consulting firm specializing in the consumer IoT space, 39% of owners of smart home devices report experiencing problems with their devices while approximately 10% experience more than one problem per device. But, again, making the product work isn’t the ultimate goal

Never Disappoint the Customer

The ultimate goal is to make the customer happy, when the product works as promised and when it doesn’t— throughout the ownership lifecycle. The most desirable IoT brands will be the ones that deliver seamless support before purchase, during setup, and throughout product ownership.

Before purchase:  What’s going to differentiate one smart door lock vendor from another when their products effectively do the same thing? A reputation for great service, such as through word of mouth or prior experience with the company, can be as important to marketing as the features that come wrapped in a box. Conversely, a poor service reputation can be just as bad as missing features or features that don’t work.

During setup:  If your product must be properly set up before you can impress the customer, you may never get the chance. Parks Associates found that only 33% of consumers want to set up smart devices on their own, with the majority preferring professional assistance. Better support during setup reduces “no-fault-found” returns, which carry high direct and indirect costs.

After setup:  Customer satisfaction usually suffers when problems occur. But with great support, problems can turn into opportunities to be a hero to your customer and build greater brand loyalty— in spite of the issues being reported. A customer calling for support is giving you an opportunity to help and you can leverage this interaction to cross sell, up sell, and get product feedback.

With all the hard work needed to bring an IoT product to market, it’s easy to forget that a product isn’t what the market ultimately wants, and the product is just a device for delivering what consumers really do want.