Closing the IoT Gap with Specialized Technical Services
Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
1.What is the IoT gap?
2.What is the difference between technical support and specialized technical services?
3.How does PlumChoice define support in the Internet of Things?
4.How does my company deliver on the Internet of Services?
5.How will Specialized Technical Services enhance warranty?
6.How can Specialized Technical Services help me sell my core products?
7.How do I offset the costs of providing Specialized Technical Services?
8.What is your advice on driving usage that enhances my brand and drives repeat purchase?
9.How and why should I support other brands – there are so many?
10.What does support look like in the next 3-5 years?
11.Who should provide IoT support and who will win?
12.What are some of the services you see emerging for the additional payment or subscription?
13.What are the up-sell/cross-sell opportunities at the point of retail for IoT devices?
14.Clearly there is a major scope for managed services; which market area do you see as a priority?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the “Internet of Things” gap? As the IoT becomes mainstream, how does that gap change?
The promise of the IoT is convenience, control and simplicity. The reality is that consumers purchase a connected device or two – or a home automation system – and those devices and technologies are brought into existing, highly-personalized technology environments, and immediately bring greater complexity into those environments.
While the new purchase is more than likely to work as intended, it wasn’t designed specifically for that personalized environment ... how could it be when there are more permutations of home/small business/mobile technology environments than there are people in the U.S.?
Therein lies the gap: the consumer needs their “stuff” to work in their personalized, and increasingly complex environment; but they don’t know where they can turn for help when something in their environment – your stuff or someone else’s – isn’t doing what they expect it to do, when they want, how they want ... even if that’s because they simply don’t know how to do what they want to do.
Sure, you probably offer installation (paid or free), which is a necessary first step. But what about after that? Do they really know how to have the technology do what they want? How can you ensure they activate any associated services? Have they adopted the product and/or services such that it’s become part of their way of life?
When they add something else to their environment (maybe something that’s not your brand’s or that you didn’t sell to them), how might that affect the entire environment and more specifically, the their experience with YOUR product/s?
This gap is screaming for a continuous service experience – an Internet of Services that expands beyond data sharing and information delivery – so consumers can gain the full, expected value of your product/s right from the start ... from installation, configuration and setup, to training, usage, interoperability and ongoing support.
What is the difference between technical support and specialized technical services?
Traditional large call centers are designed to skillfully handle high volumes of traffic from fairly homogeneous drivers, where common activities can be standardized to gain efficiencies, efficacy and predictable customer satisfaction ratings. These calls comprise 80-90% of a large call center’s volume and they can typically be handled in a satisfactory manner – for both the consumer and the provider. These fall into the category of technical support, with the following characteristics:
•For mature products/markets
The service model for handling these inquiries is self-contained, with a focus on cost containment.
The other 10-20% of support requests (the long-tail of technical support), are often referred to as out-of-scope. Sometimes – though inconsistently – handled well by a few super-star agents, they have one or more of the following characteristics:
•Usage oriented, and/or
•Involve new products
PlumChoice is purpose built to handle these technically complex, infrequent support requests and needs. We have the specialized talent, expertise and flexibility to take on the support needs that large call centers are not designed to handle, or simply would prefer not to handle given the nature of those needs. Specialized Technical Services enable companies to:
•Deliver exceptional customer service experiences
•Create brand loyalty
•Generate new revenue streams
•Incubate, test and/or launch new IoT products or services without disrupting call center traffic or infrastructure
•Contain support costs
How does PlumChoice define support in the Internet of Things?
The promise of the IoT is convenience, control and simplicity. This promise requires a broader definition of technical support that spans the lifecycle of the technology and its usage; it demands a continuous service experience that addresses the needs related to a specific connected device or system starting with installation, onboarding/activation, including configuration/set-up and initial training through usage, ongoing maintenance and problem resolution through interoperability across the consumer or SMB’s highly personalized technology environment.
This is the “Internet of Services” that goes beyond the data and information gathered, shared and/or relayed by a device or app to ensure the consumer or small business has what they need to experience the value intended by the product, service. Specialized technical services in the IoT are a key component of the Internet of Services that is complementary to the data capture and information exchange typically referred to as the Internet of Services.
As our connected lives increasingly rely on a plethora of devices, services, apps, systems, protocols and brands, consumers and small companies demand more and more that the technical “things” work when and where they want – and they expect that the “thing maker” or “thing seller” will help to ensure their purchases work seamlessly as part of their highly personalized, immersive technical environments.
How does my company deliver on the Internet of Services?
The first step is to consider the importance of the customer experience to the success of your business and brand in the IoT. If the company places a high value on the customer experience throughout the purchase and usage journey, the second step is to determine the most critical points of the journey – and the current gaps – given the maturity of your product or roadmap items.
For example, if you are a new entrant to the CE space or the IoT, installation, onboarding/activation, configuration and initial training are the most critical barriers to positive customer experience, so it’s logical to focus your services there.
If, however, your existing market perceives you as a trusted CE brand and/or you’ve successfully brought less traditional connected devices into the market already, you might have solved for installation and want to ensure ongoing usage needs and interoperability are handled well. Of course, if you are in the application space, bringing new applications to market, onboarding and activation are your pivot point, followed by initial training, plus ongoing usage and value exchange.
PlumChoice can aid you in determining the linchpins to customer experience given our years of specialized technical services for both traditional and new connected technologies. Our specialized capabilities with the technically complex – from installation through interoperability and product sunsetting – in addition to our full go-to-market services, enable a continuous service experience designed for customer delight.
I already offer warranty on the devices I make; how will Specialized Technical Services enhance the warranty?
Specialized Technical Services expand your customers’ brand experience by augmenting warranty coverage beyond hardware defects to include security, setup and configuration, performance optimization, general support and troubleshooting for application, system, and network and mobility issues.
What more can you tell me about how Specialized Technical Services help me sell my core products t?
Having a specialized technical services offer as a bundle or attach at point of sale – or as a core product “feature” – puts you in first position with key buyers. Especially in today’s highly competitive and evolving market, specialized technical services that help the customer get the value they expect from your technology from the get-go are brand and product differentiators; eventually they will become defacto standards, expected out-of-the-box by the consumer and small business.
Beyond minimizing no-fault-found returns, the availability of technical support influences not only where many consumers purchase a device, but also the brand of device they purchase (Parks Associates – Source: Expanding to the Home Network ~ 2014).
Providing Specialized Technical Services is expensive, how do I offset the costs?
Technical support or service can run the gamut from minimal cost to very expensive, depending on the objectives, operational mindset and service and delivery model. In the case of Specialized Technical Services from PlumChoice, multiple models are available to fit your objectives and operational mindset.
PlumChoice’s flexible business models enable the Service to be self-funding, or monetized as an additional revenue stream. Specialized Technical Services of various scopes may be part of the original purchase (bundle, attach, or a product feature), purchased separately by the consumer at point-of-need or as a value-added service, or cross-/upsold at appropriate interaction points.
Many brands agree that installation service is table stakes for new technology adoption; what is your advice on driving usage that enhances my brand and drives repeat purchase?
Bundling support services with your core products/services ensures that consumers have the best experience possible with your brand. Consumers want solutions that are simple to install and configure, and that deliver on the convenience and control they desire from the IoT, given the complexity of not just their technical environments, but also their connected lives.
We’ve all seen the no-fault-found return figures that have reached as high as 40% in some instances; and that doesn’t take into account some of the less expensive connected products that are relegated to a shelf in the closet or the basement because the consumer or small business can’t quite figure things out, but doesn’t bother to return the goods.
PlumChoice’s advice? Establish the value of the customer experience for your brand, and take a crawl, walk, run approach in providing specialized technical services for the keystones to adoption and ongoing usage, starting with installation, configuration, onboarding/activation and initial training. Proactively follow up with your customer to provide high-value usage information and tips with an appropriate cadence. Ensure when there is a need for assistance, it’s simple to access and the process is designed for a positive customer experience. Don’t forget, however, that such service must be brand agnostic to ensure interoperability within the customer’s evolving, highly personalized technology environment.
This approach not only enables a positive experience with primary technology purchase, but also creates a halo effect, putting your brand in a position of choice for repeat purchases due to the fact that you’re bridging the IoT gap with a continuous service experience.
I don’t have the money, the time, the inclination or the SMEs to support my product beyond the products/technologies it’s designed to specifically work with; how and why should I support other brands within broader ecosystems when there are an infinite number of possible permutations in consumers homes?
Simply put, it’s about the ability to say “yes.” Imagine a world where you can say “yes” to your customer more often throughout the lifecycle of their purchase of or from your brand? It’s a world in which the highly informed, very demanding, incredibly connected customer seeks convenience, control and simplicity. Specialized Technical Services can help you deliver on that promise. And it doesn’t need to be expensive and time consuming; nor does it require you to find, develop and afford the SMEs to deliver it.
While you can neither predict nor control the broader technology environments into which your products and services are incorporated by a consumer or small business, you CAN provide a safety net for your customers and your brand with the right kind of technical services.
Some brands absorb the costs of these services in exchange for positive customer experiences; others offset or cover the costs with bundled pricing. In many cases, such services – delivered by an organization purpose-built to do so – become self- funding. Some even drive additional revenue when the brand charges the customer via one-time fees or subscription-based plans. Regardless of the model, for the brand, it’s about the results: minimizing NFFR (no fault found returns), driving adoption, increasing usage and making a difference in how your customer experiences your brand.
What is the future of support, could you paint for us what the next 3–5 years looks like?
Our personal technology environments are evermore immersive and complex. With the mainstreaming of the IoT, we see an even greater need – demand, even – for technical assistance before and after a technology purchase.
Those brands that limit support – to their brand, to a small number of channels, to a very tight scope – will lose out. The way to a productive future for all of us involves:
•Broader adoption of multichannel support
•More and more effective automation
•Proactive support via app-based and online communications
•Predictive support services
In addition, supporting only the products and services with your logo or – in the case of retail and eTail, only those products and services you sell – will be a thing of the past. Enabling your customer in his or her entire connected environment – home, mobile and at work – will no longer be optional, it will be expected.
Who should provide IoT support and who will win?
Retailers/eTailers, CE manufacturers, ISPs, aggregators and ISVs should all bring the appropriate scope and level of Specialized Technical Services to market as a requisite component of their strategic IoT execution. Without it, adoption and ongoing value exchange are difficult at best. What’s more, in a market where the buyer is increasingly informed from all corners of their lives, s/he will expect to have choice. Some buyers will choose their ISP for service, others the CE brand or retailer, and others still will turn to their app or cloud provider.
The need for a continuous service sits on both sides of the equation: the supplier and the supplied. Put your brand in a position to win when it comes to size of basket/ARPU, consumer trust, repeat purchase and greater lifetime value – wrap Specialized Technical Services around your IoT products and services.
What are some of the services you see emerging for additional payment or subscription?
In our 14 years of experience providing specialized technical services to consumers and SMBs on behalf of Fortune 1000 manufacturers, retailers, Telcos, cable providers, and software companies, we’ve seen a market evolution: initially, few consumers paid for premium services while today, more and more will pay for the experience they desire. Yet there are still some who expect that service as part of the original price of the product.
Today, we service end users who pay for on-site installation services, and some who pay for DIY help. We expect this trend to continue, alongside the demand for more flexibility in pricing models and terms, such as 30-day, 60-day and longer- term subscriptions, as well as one-time use and membership plans.
PlumChoice also provides core support services to end users where the CE maker or retailer assume the costs. Here we find that end users’ needs are often broader than the expected scope of service. This creates an opportunity for upsell/cross- sell into services such as whole-home subscription to take care of their entire connected home.
What are the possible upsell/cross-sell opportunities at the point of retail for IoT devices?
There are a variety of upsell/cross-sell opportunities at the point of retail for IoT devices. When a customer purchases IoT devices, there is an opportunity to cross- sell an option for providing ongoing technical support in the form of a monthly or annual prepaid subscription, one-time event, or time-bound period. You could also consider inserting a card in the IoT device packaging which provides options for technical support if the end user encounters an issue and requires help, which would contribute to lowering return rates. There are also upsell opportunities for expert assistance in helping the customer (via chat, text, or voice interaction) select the components they need to solve their problem as well as offering a cross- sell for technical support.