Internet of things requires customer services rethink, says Gartner

The growth of the internet of things will see devices begin to initiate customer service requests on behalf of humans, says Gartner

Three years from now, 5% of customer service cases will be autonomously initiated by connected devices as more objects connect to the internet.

A new report on mobile customer service, produced by analysts at Gartner, has predicted that as the amount of internet-connected devices grows to billions, the home of 2018 could have as many as 500 smart objects collaborating in a “personal internet of things (IoT)”.

Gartner research director, Olive Huang, said that, as these things and systems become connected, the ability to monitor operations, status, and service levels becomes much easier, and the connected nature of the future home – or business – means these things could become agents for services currently requested and delivered through people.

Huang spoke of transformational change in the customer service space as a result of this.

“A number of industries will be the front runners in this trend, such as manufacturing, healthcare providers, insurance, banking and securities, retail and wholesale, computing services, government, transportation, utilities, real estate and business services, agriculture and communications,” she said.

Despite the impact of the internet of things, there will still be a need for human agents, said Gartner. While automation and intelligence agents are bringing down the number of interactions that humans need to solve, most industries will still have to retain a well-trained core of agents.

Currently, the report said, 60% of customer service interactions needed human intervention in 2014. By the end of 2016, forecasted Gartner, this will be down to 30% thanks to self-service, online communities and device-managed interaction.

Customer service via video, helped by the increasing availability of bandwidth to support it, is also becoming more important, said Gartner, which estimated that at least 50 of the 500 largest businesses in the world would be using video extensively in their customer service practices by 2018.

Gartner also warned that failure to focus on strengthening mobile customer service practice would harm the ability of many businesses to engage with their customers.

"Marketing may fill the sales funnel, and the sales department can close a deal, yet it is the overall impression of the enterprise generated by the quality of customer service that differentiates one enterprise from another," said Michael Maoz, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

 "Translating this general and departmental customer engagement concept into operational components across the enterprise is transforming the definition of customer service from an isolated function into an enterprise objective delivered across all points where the customer 'touches' the business.”

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