B2B Technical Support in the Age of IoT: How Companies Can Provide a Better Product Experience for Connected Devices

IoT (Internet of Things) is becoming ubiquitous in B2B tech. While internet-connected devices have been around for a long time, they’ve recently made leaps and bounds in type, quality, and interconnectivity. 

These IoT advances help providers offer better B2B technical support, but it isn’t without its unique challenges. However, even with numerous new hurdles, B2B companies can’t afford to forgo making changes to offer a smarter, better customer service approach.

Just take a peek at the data:

  • IoT isn’t going anywhere. Research by ABI estimates that by 2020, IoT will grow to upwards of 30 billion connected devices. 
  • Poor IoT support hurts your business. 1 in 3 people stop doing business with a company due to poor customer experience.
  • B2B consumers expect more than B2C consumers do. “72% of business buyers agree with the statement ‘I expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs’; 67% say they’ve switched vendors for a more ‘consumer-like experience’.” 
  • The B2B IoT market is ripe for the picking. In 2015, the market spend was $195 billion and is projected to make a staggering jump to $470 billion by 2019.

Providing a better product experience for customers is something that many B2B companies are aware they need to be doing. 

The problem they face is knowing where to start.

How To Improve Your Product Experiences for Your Customers 

How To Improve Your Product Experiences for Your Customers

In the CX world, we’ve come to learn one universal truth: 

For customers to have great product experiences, companies must continuously offer smart and fast support. The two go hand in hand. 

To help navigate the best course of action, we’ve discovered a five-step framework you can use to get started: 

  1. Study current IoT trends and predictions. These give you a good idea of what customers want and what’s working so you can find areas of improvement for your company.
  2. Define areas for improvement. See how your current processes stack up to trends and define areas in your CX that need revision.
  3. Identify the challenges. Making changes to your processes or current toolset isn’t without its hurdles. What challenges are likely to come up as you move through enhancing your product experience and support? Spot the hurdles so you know what to expect.
  4. Plan out how you’ll overcome those challenges. Look at the challenges you’ve identified and map out how utilizing different tools, processes, and training may help you sidestep those hurdles. 
  5. Start implementing your plan. At this point, you should have a clear understanding of what you can do to optimize your customer experience. It’s time to get started. 

But more than offer you a simple framework, we want to dive deeper and show you some current trends in the market. 

By identifying existing trends in B2B technology, we hope you gain clearer insights into what you can do to improve your customer experiences. 

Smarter B2B Technical Support for IoT: The Trends, Challenges, and Tips For Excellent Experiences

Trend #1: Embracing Holistic Customer Journeys

Traditional customer journeys are often thought of as linear; your customer goes from point A to B to C to purchase, all in a nice and trackable line. 

But in an IoT world, customer journeys are anything but a neat, straight line. Rather, modern customer experiences are woven together with numerous touchpoints and interactions across a range of products and service providers. 

Today, companies are stepping up to provide a holistic customer journey by focusing on offering a better customer experience overall

This gives companies new avenues for improved support resolutions, clarity in areas for improvement, lower churn rate, and a path exhorting customer loyalty. 

The Challenge

As a B2B tech provider servicing another business’s IoT devices, the ability to provide technical support to a wide variety of products is an important part of your customer’s experience that needs attention. 

This is easier said than done. 

Connected IoT devices thrive in a delicate business ecosystem that can be easily thrown off balance. When that happens, your customers will find the most convenient way to contact you for support. 

But again, with modern customer journeys, the most convenient way to get support for one person can be entirely different for another. 

For example, let’s say three merchants have a similar support issue. One might prefer a phone call while another prefers the convenience of self-service solutions, and the third might just want to chat with a support agent online. 

Being able to offer each customer the best way to communicate is important, which means the challenge for you is finding a way to do that. 

What To Do About It

Internally, all teams within a company need to make a mental shift towards customer experience being a top priority. 

However, since much of the responsibility in offering a great experience is through support teams, consider using a platform that empowers you to offer omnichannel support. 

omnichannel support

Omnichannel support tools like Relay’s product support platform gather the pieces of the customer support journey back to one place and give businesses the opportunity to extend the channels of communication.

It also makes it possible to pick up conversations where they left off — even if the conversations switch from one support channel to another. 

Our free Omnichannel Starter Guide is a great place to learn more about the topic and how it helps craft a better customer journey. 

Trend #2: Embrace and Build Customer-Centric Ecosystems

Embrace and Build Customer-Centric Ecosystems

Before IoT was so highly adopted, there wasn’t as much interconnectivity between different devices - which meant the natural silos that existed between brands and services weren’t cause for alarm. Today, however, that’s a different story. 

With modern devices, products, and services more connected than ever, B2B technical support requires breaking down the silos to embrace an interconnected business ecosystem

That is, businesses need to be willing to participate in the ecosystem economy, by sharing data and insights across teams and companies to create a seamless experience for customers. 

The Challenge

Straight off the bat, the challenge here is actually getting providers to share information with each other. Product knowledge, along with consumer data and insights, is a goldmine. 

So, when asking companies to share this type of information, it can feel like they’re “giving up the goods.”

What To Do About It 

Possessiveness over customer data is only natural, but you can still bend this pitch as a win-win for everyone. 

As device connectivity continues to grow, more businesses will find themselves serving a shared set of customers. In order to provide a better end-to-end customer experiences, B2B providers will need to trust and rely on each other. 

With the right toolset, you can build a shared knowledge base where both internal and external teams can collaborate. You can choose what information is shared openly with others in your ecosystem and keep sensitive internal data private, so you can collaborate without handing over anything too valuable. 

Trend #3: Offer More Self-Service Options

Modern B2B customers are pretty tech-savvy and are comfortable handling simpler, non-urgent support issues on their own or with the help of a chatbot. 

In fact, 73% of customers prefer self-service to address support issues, and 63% are happy being helped by a chatbot so long as there’s an option to escalate the conversation to a human.

By offering features like this, you can reduce ticket backlog and help your support team become more efficient. 

The Challenge

Offering self-service is a great way to give your customers immediate access to helpful support resources. But it’s not enough to just set up some automation features in your customer service avenues and call it good. 

self support issues

In fact, poorly executed self-service is undoubtedly worse than offering nothing at all. We’ve all had those frustrating, I’d-rather-hit-my-head-on-a-wall moments with bad self-service. You don’t want that type of experience to be attached to your company — ever. So if you’re going the route of offering this, you need to make sure it’s done right. 

What To Do About It

Taking time to design a self-service strategy is one of the best ways to ensure this option offers a great experience. 

The three basic steps to designing an effective strategy are:

  1. Defining your objectives;
  2. Creating an action plan; and
  3. Focusing on the right support channels (i.e. website FAQs, Interactive voice recognition, public knowledge base, chatbots.)

Once you’ve created a strategy, you should implement a range of self-service resources for your customers. A B2B technical support platform that empowers your agents to provide omnichannel support can go a long way here. 

Your omnichannel support tool should provide chatbots and automation features that give customers a chance to go from self-service to being quickly connected to a live support agent if and when they need it. 

Trend #4: Switching From Reactive To Proactive Support

Traditional technical support is very reactive; when a problem arises, the customer contacts customer service and the issue is resolved. By implementing proactive support methods, you can then handle support issues without your customers even knowing there’s an issue. 

Your customers are hoping you’ll do this for them anyway. After conducting a survey, inContact found that 87% of customers want businesses to contact them proactively about support issues.

With interconnected IoT devices, there are more ways for B2B technical support providers to proactively spot problems and handle them before they become larger issues or affect consumer usage.  

The Challenge

Proactive support involves addressing support problems before your users even report an issue. That sounds great on paper, but it can create a whole bunch of hurdles you’ll have to leap over. 

This includes challenges like:

  • Getting your customer-facing teams on board with listening to customer needs and tracking recurring issues;
  • Constantly checking in with customers even when things are going well; and
  • Continually monitoring IoT devices and performing health checks to spot issues.

So if you’re serious about switching from reactive to proactive support, you and your teams need to hunker down and make some changes. 

What To Do About It

We’ve talked to a lot of companies that have shifted to proactive support and discovered seven tips that helped them make the jump. We covered all seven in our series Digital Transformation for Customer Support Part 4, so be sure to give it a read. 

In terms of proactively monitoring IoT devices, implementing network monitoring tools will help you stay on top of potential issues and keep your customers up and running 24/7.

Offering a Better Experience in Age of IoT Requires Means Providing Smarter Support

Better B2B customer journeys and product experiences hinge on the efforts of your technical support team. In our interconnected, IoT-powered world, traditional methods of reactive support simply don’t work as well as they did in the past. 

Thanks to other advancements in technology and intelligent support solutions, you have the tools at your disposal to make the necessary changes to provide better, smarter B2B support. For instance, Relay’s support platform can help you deliver exceptional support experiences via proactive, omnichannel solutions, as well as automation, intelligent chatbots, and private integrated knowledge bases. 

However, to get the most out of your B2B tech support tools, it’s important to start by creating and implementing a customer-focused support strategy. By following the steps outlined above, we hope you now have a few ideas to help you streamline the customer experience by providing even better B2B support. 

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