Internet of Customers: Customer Experience Automation Meets IoT?

The Internet of Things creates many new types of customer touchpoints and communication channels, which can fundamentally change how you manage the customer relationship.
By Glenn Johnson
Jul 05, 2016

Traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems focus our attention on building a comprehensive view of customer information. One-to-one marketing pioneers like Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote, in their book Managing Customer Relationships: A Strategic Framework, that "the objective is to integrate channels of communication so that a 360-degree view of the customer can be created."

The theory behind these systems is that employees in sales, marketing and service roles can delight customers by referencing past interactions they or their colleagues have had with them. As customers increasingly interact with brands online, much of this digital memory and response has become automated, not through human touchpoints, but rather via automated web experiences.

The Internet of Things brings an entirely new meaning to a 360-degree view of the customer. In fact, it is more literally true now than ever. Through networks of cameras, sensors, controllers and mobile devices, touchpoints are no longer limited to humans and computer screens. Temperature, motion and vibration sensors, as well as machine vision, digital audio, speech-to-text and a thousand other technologies, are converging to provide a customer's digital footprint that is more real-world and less digital-reality every day.

Building a full picture of this new type of customer journey is extremely challenging, due to the integration required to tie in all of these new technologies with existing software. But by recording, managing and integrating customer information, whether it comes from product sensors or CRM systems, companies can now better track the customer journey during all stages of the product life cycle.

This approach creates the Internet of Customers.

Big players have already made inroads into incorporating IoT data into their information systems. Pitney Bowes can now connect operational information from its machines at customer locations to proactively identify, diagnose and resolve asset service issues before clients are even aware of a problem. And Coca-Cola uses data from connected vending machines to gain valuable understanding about where and when to advertise.

There are possibilities for retail applications as well. As shoppers move through a store, in-store beacons can be employed to check their location, purchase history and loyalty status, triggering discount offers for relevant merchandise on the spot.

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