How Big Data & the Internet of Things Can Empower Exceptional Customer Experiences

It’s time to get past the hype and deliver solutions that provide real customer value

By Rob Maille 

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O.K. So you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking you’re about to be fed a big steaming bowl of buzz soup. And for good reason.

Consider the ubiquity of “Big Data” and the “Internet of Things” (IoT). These terms have been thrown around so often, for so long—and in the widest (and wildest) range of contexts—that even the most fervent believers became numb to the hype. And yet, the promise of these technologies incited countless others to intensify the search for signs of technological maturity and real-world solutions with demonstrable value.

Hype vs. Reality: Moving beyond the tipping point

The good news is that this inevitable phase of confusion and hype eventually dissipates. Several industry pundits believe we’ve already passed the tipping point for Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Estimates differ, but many point to 2014 as Big Data’s year—with IoT crossing the threshold in late 2015.

Which means the hype has been replaced by a series of small shifts that together push the technology past its evolutionary “tipping point.” Once past this critical threshold, the process rapidly gains momentum—which inevitably drives significant change and increased adoption.

From buzz soup to foundational CX technologies

It also provides the perfect opportunity to view these shiny new disruptive technologies through a CX lens. You’ll see that they’ve transformed from a salty buzz soup to form a foundational platform—or, you could say, the first two legs of a three-legged stool that’s poised to redefine “exceptional” customer experiences.

Big Data is the collection of “what we know” about our customers that can be gathered from their usage of the internet. It can be anything from the things they click, where they came from, where they went when they left, how long they were there, what products they were looking at, and what other links caught their interest. When we break down all that data and analyze it, we gain incredible insight into our customers’ browsing habits. For example, we can identify patterns that help us make assumptions about how customers accomplish all their daily personal and business tasks.

Now, let’s move onto the Internet of Things. Fact: We’ve long since moved way past the world where you could only interact with the internet through a computer. Our cars, TVs, phones, watches, scales, and even our clothing, all reach through to the web—creating an important ecosystem that can give a person better convenience, visibility, and control over their life. Imagine all that for a moment. There you have it: the Internet of Things refers to all the different entry points leading to the internet that each reveal something to us about what that customer is doing at their time of access.

So, what happens when we bring this all together? 

By analyzing what you did (Big Data) with what you are doing now (IoT), we can figure out pretty accurately what you want to do next.

At this point you may be thinking, “You had me read all this so you could ultimately tell me my privacy just went out the window?” While it is true that some of your privacy has already left the building, using customer data and IoT—as long as you are aware and willing to participate—can be a great time saver while not infringing on your privacy. Imagine a digital Sherpa making the journey through life with you to help make decisions for you along the way. Think about how much time this saves you and how it improves the quality of your life.

The ideal travel experience 

Say I’m making a trip I booked and planned myself. I figured out every deal and then navigated through the world of frequent flyer miles, travel disruptions, and cancellations and booked the flight. Great. But now, I’m stuck in traffic and about to miss my scheduled flight. What is the experience of handling this scenario? Today, if I am running late for a flight, I use my smartphone to log into Orbitz, for example, and I’m shown the interface to “Book a Flight.” But I’m not really trying to book another flight, am I?

In a perfect world, Orbitz would be my travel Sherpa, leverage what it knows about me (I have a flight in 20 minutes) and my means of access (that I’m on my smartphone, and my geo location is at least 45 minutes from my departure airport) to figure out what is likely happening, and prompt me. “It looks like you’re about to miss your scheduled flight. Do you want to reschedule to one of these later flights?” Yes, yes I do. That’s a much better experience – and one that helps decrease anxiety and dramatically improve the quality of travel.

The lawn is more intelligent on the other side

Here’s another scenario. If you’re as obsessed as I am about having a great-looking lawn, then you know about the many challenges it presents. It would be great to have a Sherpa here, too. Imagine if your Apple watch was synced with your spreader so you know exactly where you have walked in your back yard, in order to validate that your coverage is even and without gaps.

Or a digital spike that you can insert in the ground, which will tell you the soil’s pH balance, moisture level, or evidence of parasite infestation, etc. It could then recommend product(s) and treatments and have them shipped to you as soon as you click the “Go” button.

These are just two examples that demonstrate where a great customer experience could come into play, and highlight why Big Data and the Internet of Things are much more than simple buzzwords. The possibilities are endless when your customer experience is seated firmly on this three-legged stool.

 

Rob Maille is the Creative Director of Collaborative Consulting, a Burlington, Mass.-based strategy and operations management firm.

 

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