The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the relationships between companies that deliver services in the field and their customers. Whether it’s for consumer services like broadband, telecoms, satellite TV and utilities, or business services like facilities management, oil and gas extraction or HVAC, change is gathering momentum.

It has come at an important time. With large industries around the world, like utilities, continuing to deregulate, IoT is helping smaller companies and start-ups compete and scale through more competitive Service Level Agreements (SLAs). What’s more, with a growing engineer shortage, more effective service models are required.

It is not like the IoT is new anymore, according to Gartner, “things” – electronics, sensors, and software that can be sensed, monitored, and controlled remotely across network infrastructure – use the Internet more than people, and their number will reach 25 billion by 2020.

Here’s how IoT, data from connected devices and other digital technologies will facilitate seamless customer services, rapid problem-solving and the more efficient deployment of skilled resources:

Delivering Higher Performing Products and Services through Data-driven Decisions

Delivering maintenance has traditionally relied on either periodically examining and repairing problems based on a fixed schedule whether needed or not (calendar-based maintenance), or waiting for things to fail and then fixing the problem, no matter how many visits it takes (reactive maintenance). The IoT offers another option.

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Detect equipment failures before they occur

IoT allows condition-based monitoring to prevent failures before they occur. Connected devices can schedule predictive maintenance, detect issues before they debilitate functionality, and diagnose problems accurately. If connected to a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) based workforce management solution which can optimally schedule a technician by balancing skills, asset location, parts, technicians’ locations even traffic, there is an opportunity to address an issue before it is even noticed by a customer, or disrupts their lives.  With AI and a workforce management solution working in harmony, it is possible to easily facilitate service calls, routing jobs to the proper agent or technician, and even delivering customer satisfaction surveys following on-site or machine-to-machine cloud-based equipment servicing.

The benefits of this proactive fix aren’t just to the customer. Using IoT you are only deploying skilled engineers when they are needed, which is far more effective than the best guess calendar appointment system.

Improve customer service with unprecedented level of detail

Proactive notification of customers affected by an outage or an affected asset changes the customer service delivery model. You can better position your customer support centres to allow more immediate service, thus reducing costs and providing customer care simultaneously.

With the data from connected things combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), you can better understand and ‘learn’ your customers’ preferences and behaviour. This provides a superb opportunity to add value with a service that is personalised to customers’ expectations. Not only does this mean that you can keep them engaged and satisfied with your organisation, but you can also use AI and IoT to create predictive failure models, enabling your field teams to offer customers valuable maintenance contracts which prevent future downtime, while increasing the lifetime value of each customer relationship. This can increase revenues by adding a premium for a personalised maintenance package.

Understand your operations

Also, the customer and asset data collected become an incredibly rich source of business insight to improve operations. You can pinpoint areas of efficiency providing service companies and manufacturers unparalleled insight into real-time and historical performance. It then becomes possible to do more of what works and target problem areas for improvement, all based on solid information.

Over the long term assets will become more robust thereby reducing the cost of maintaining them. You can also develop future fee-based services, such as guaranteed uptime, or tighter SLA time frames. This helps build better, long-lasting relationships with your customers, based on the data-driven understanding of services in the field.

The IoT Revolution

The IoT is invaluable for analysing internal operations, product management, and customer service options. The true value comes from providing services connected through existing and emerging digital technologies all along the service supply chain. IoT is providing information across the cloud which can be utilised by artificial intelligence and delivered straight to customer and technicians’ mobiles, is a situation few could have imagined even three years ago.  It is these technologies which service companies must look at. They can now provide customers with the ease and convenience they want, with better offerings to earn loyalty and trust – the building blocks to increase customer lifetime value.

This helps generate increased sales, which, with lower costs from optimal service delivery, help to increase profitability. It is not just short term gain though, the ‘Big Data’ delivered by IoT presents the prospect of informed and sustained competitive advantage. This is why all C-Level executives must take this and other digital technologies very seriously. It is technology which will bring about the brand value customers, shareholders and business owners demand.