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Smart homes, IoT and the customer experience

Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020 according to consulting firm Walker. While numerous factors contribute to the customer experience, information is at the top of the list. And that is where the internet of things comes in: the ability of IoT-enabled home devices and sensors to generate valuable insights for consumers is just beginning to transform the value product and service providers can offer to their customers.

Think home energy intelligence on connected devices, such as smart thermostats and lights, as well as legacy appliances, such as HVACs. If data could be made available from a home’s connected heating/cooling unit on performance deterioration trends and predictive insights on failures, HVAC contractors could preempt many service calls that often lead to customer frustration.

Providing consumers with easily digestible information from IoT-enabled devices can accelerate the adoption of connected home technologies in several key ways.

Addresses smart home device complexity

Early adopters of connected home devices may be able to handle self-installation, but for mass market these devices can be complex not only to install, but also to get them to play nicely with one another. If smart home installers and service providers had access to data from these devices, it becomes easier to help consumers diagnose issues via customer service, or even make the information available for customers to troubleshoot on their own.

Blake Kozak, analyst at IHS Markit, affirms that professional customer service will become more integral for IoT-enabled home devices as more consumers link up their thermostats and intelligent personal assistants, such as Alexa, with legacy home appliances, like HVACs and refrigerators:

“It takes a lot of time and research to actually install, and properly use, a smart home system, and it becomes especially challenging when you have multiple devices that are interconnected. We’re seeing a lot of the market swing more toward the professional side, because they can vet products before they go into the home. [They] know which products will work together, and which don’t, and consumers then know who to call if the device doesn’t work.”

Whether a consumer is turning to a professional or self-servicing, the more intelligence made available through connected devices the quicker the resolution will be.

Preempt negative customer experience

From a customer experience perspective, a great deal of focus is on how brands can use artificial intelligence and IoT to automate customer service and remove the human element. Within five years, research suggests consumers will manage a whopping 85% of relationships with an enterprise without interacting with a single human being.

But to reduce the customer service human element without driving customers nuts, the information must be accurate, up to date and personalized to that individual’s connected home situation. Without data that can be personalized to a customer’s specific setup of connected home devices, as well as diagnostic information on the “health” of those devices, it is hard to make a dent in delivering a superior customer experience.

Home energy intelligence can preempt negative customer experiences by knowing when a device or home appliance is likely to break down before it happens and provide the consumer with peace of mind. In the case of HVAC contractors, for example, home energy intelligence drives greater loyalty for repairs, replacements and ongoing service agreements. Providers can alert customers to the performance and efficiency of their HVAC, the single largest user of energy in the home and key to comfort, on a real-time basis — informing consumers on the power usage and health of these appliances in order to help them reduce energy costs, preempt appliance breakdowns and avoid catastrophic failure.

Learn how customers interact with home devices

IoT-enabled home devices can in effect offer service providers an uninterrupted “focus group” on how customers interact with their devices and appliances, and issues that come up, as well as other usage insights that can guide future product development.

Data on these interactions are increasingly necessary to meet customer experience expectations of millennials, a segment driving smart home adoption. In fact, Parks Associates research indicates millennials will lead smart home and consumer electronics purchasing during holiday seasons, with 46% reporting high intentions to buy at least one device and 36% planning to give one as a gift.

Moreover, when it comes to the connected home specifically, more is better for millennials. More information, as well as more frequent interaction with the service providers, through various touchpoints. The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s “Spotlight on Millennials” report indicated that millennials place high value on digital experiences, easy-to-access information, environment-friendly products/services and saving money. Information on how millennials — and other demographics — interact with their connected home devices can go a long way in meeting customer service expectations. Personalized programs based on home intelligence offer greater control of how millennials use these devices for comfort, safety, security and cost savings. The report also reinforced that millennials seek more frequent and meaningful interaction with service providers than prior generations.

Connected home devices are not limited to smart thermostats and lights. Performance and usage insights are possible even for homes with legacy “non-connected” appliances such as HVACs and refrigerators because every appliance in the home is connected — to the power network in the home that feeds the electricity to power them. By using data these devices and appliances produce, service providers can significantly enhance the customer experience.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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