Today’s companies must have a strong focus on customer service if they are going to succeed in competitive markets. This is not new, but what is new is the addition of the Internet of Things (IoT) to the picture, and that addition can have a tremendous impact on customer service for companies in the coming years. Increased connectivity leads to increased expectations from customers, and that, in turn, increases the demand placed on companies to rise to those expectations. Here are some impacts on customer service expected from the growth of the Internet of Things.

Customer Service Is Going to Become More Complex

The Internet of Things is going to make customer service more complex, and this change starts with those companies offering Internet of Things services. Telecoms are going to need to be able to understand their service, but also how the customer will best use that service, how the customer uses other IoT devices in the home or office and how the company’s products over lap and interact with other products.

Charles Sutherland, chief research officer at HfS Research, was recently quoted by on this topic. He says, “In every example of IoT, there are varying levels of overlap in terms of who’s doing what. For telecoms, it’ll be a challenge to provide customer service. You’re already seeing it when they stumble over home automation.”

Here’s how this might look in the field. Consider a software glitch on a connected thermostat. This glitch impacts not only the thermostat, but also the customer’s HVAC system and, ultimately, the customer’s comfort in the home. This small software problem leads to a big customer service issue, pointing to the complexity of the interconnected world we are entering.

The Internet of Things Can Make Customer Service Smarter

One benefit of the Internet of Things in the world of customer service is data. All of those connected devices and technology your customers have are constantly gathering data on those customers. If used appropriately, that data can give you the tools to reach your customers more efficiently, giving your company clear insight into what your customers want and how they are using the services you provide. If you use that data to provide value-added services to the products and services you already provide to your customers, you can see improved customer satisfaction. Diego Tamburini calls this the “secret sauce” that could give your marketing efforts a true edge over your competition.

This type of data collection and analysis has a huge potential impact once more items are connected or equipped with sensors. On the manufacturing side of things, companies will be able to draw conclusions about past uses of their products and make plans for improving future models of the product to better meet customer demands. The technology is even almost to the point where a manufacturer can use sensors to detect when a part on a product is about to fail, and send a replacement part or schedule a routine maintenance appointment to replace that part before the system has a chance to fail. Predictive maintenance keeps customers in working products at all times, and this goes far to improving the customer’s view of the product a company provides.

Automation of Some Customer Service Concerns

One of the benefits of the Internet of Things is automation, and this can apply to customer service just as it does to other areas. Systems are being developed that can monitor and manage connected devices in an IoT system and provide the user with a dashboard to troubleshoot problems. This can eliminate a layer of human intervention and save the contact center for those situations where a true intervention is needed.

Tim Wilson of Near Shore Americas indicates this is a great benefit, but also a new customer service responsibility. He indicates that machines can be the first step toward solving problems, then human resources when the machines cannot fix the problem. “Agents will have to step up to the plate,” he warns. He also indicates that proactive customer service may need to occur, as customer service professionals can respond to the data collected by the IoT devices and reach out to the customer when the automated technology cannot solve the problem.

So what does the Internet of Things change for the world of customer service? It will bring greater expectations which can be met through greater automation. It will also make the world a bit more complicated, but with that complication it will bring increased data to help. All in all, companies should have a greater number of tools to consider exceeding their customer expectations, if those tools are used appropriately.