The first iPhone was launched in 2007. And yet, with more than a decade of smartphone ownership under our belts, many telcos still struggle to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction when it comes to managing issues, faults and repairs.
Smartphone penetration is only getting bigger, with six billion mobile devices expected to be in circulation globally by 2020. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg: the next generation of connected devices, involving smartphones, smart homes, connected cars and every other element of the Internet of Things, will add even more fuel to the fire.
We recently chaired a workshop for companies in this sector, exploring the new intelligent diagnostics and self-service support approaches that allow customers to solve more of their problems themselves, and equip telcos with the self-service channels that the next generation of customer service demands.
Heading into disaster?
Unfortunately, what we discovered is that the industry is facing a significant problem. Companies are already planning for this vastly broader ecosystem of connected devices – some are even selling them – whilst expecting to solve potential customer service issues with the call centres and technology that can barely manage to support smartphones.
The smartphone is the device at the centre of this connected world, as it’s already the hub by which consumers manage everything from communication and e-commerce to banking and research. It will also become the interface with other connected devices – our control mechanism for the fridge that re-orders milk, the car that reports engine problems and the voice assistant we use to buy a new jumper.
These connected devices will have their own networks of apps and providers, and telcos may be the best-placed businesses to package them together and sell customers an integrated service that sits on their phone. But first, they’ll have to convince the public that it’s simple, straightforward, easy to use and – perhaps most importantly – easy to fix if something goes wrong.
Finding a twenty-first-century solution
What providers will need is a two-way support channel into customers’ homes and vehicles, allowing them to swiftly manage and fix problems themselves or interact with call centre/high street staff, as they prefer. It will have to be flexible enough to create and manage that ecosystem of connected devices and provide visibility on how it is identifying and servicing faults.
Largely speaking, that will require a blend of automated self-service, as most consumers prefer to sort out problems themselves, and artificial intelligence systems that can find and fix the fault. Ideally, perhaps, detecting the fault before the user does and solving it before they even notice there was a problem.
Curiously, it’s also possible that the tech-savvy nature of many early adopters of connected devices has masked the issue: those users generally like identifying and solving problems themselves, so companies simply aren’t prepared for the tidal wave of fault reports that will come through when the general public gets involved.
The smartphone is the key
The smartphone is already our channel of choice, so it surely also has to be the ideal device for solving issues with our other connected devices. But that means telcos need to have a plan today for how they want to deal with their customer service challenges of tomorrow.