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Doc Searls Video Q&A: How The Internet of Things Will Revolutionize Customer Service


Recently I read an article from Harvard University fellow David “Doc” Searls that made me realize the “Internet of Things” (IoT) could be the secret to providing more proactive, efficient and cost-effective customer service.

IoT is the concept of everyday objects being trackable, locatable, readable and controllable through the Internet. In Searls’ article, he described how companies could apply this idea by attaching QR codes to every product they sell. This way, when customers scan the code with a smartphone or tablet, product data can be instantly sent back to the company.

In this video interview, we discuss two big reasons why this concept could be a big opportunity for customer service:

  • It satisfies the customer’s desire for instant gratification. Companies can program the logic behind these QR codes to solve the most common customer service scenarios. That way, when the QR code is scanned, they instantly respond with the appropriate action. This action could vary, depending on who scans it and when and where they do so.
  • It reduces costs by proactively solving issues. One recent Enkata study found that preemptive customer service can reduce call volumes by as much as 30 percent, and boost customer retention by as much as 5 percent. Because the customer constantly sends data back to the company, they can preemptively detect and resolve issues.

Google (not surprisingly) is an early adopter of this strategy. They’ve attached QR codes to the set-top boxes they deliver to Kansas City, Mo. residents who sign up for Google Fiber. When the customer scans the code, they receive instructions for setup and Google knows they are ready to activate the connection.

This strategy is a much more cost-effective way to apply IoT than using RFID tags, as other industry observers have suggested. Rather than all of the intelligence having to live on each individual tag, it can be housed in a cloud-based data storage space that does all the processing once data is sent from the QR code.

Having this means for collecting product data can improve the customer experience in another way. The more companies collect data about how customers actually use their products and where they run into problems, the more they can improve their offerings to prevent issues from happening.

“When companies know the contexts for how their products are really used in the world, much more inventive and cost-saving things can be done,” Searls said.

Thumbnail image created by sammael99 (75k+ views).

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Ashley Verrill

About the Author

Ashley Verrill has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, TechCrunch, GigaOM,, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others.

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