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Can IoT and Smart Speakers Be Used for Customer Service?

In 2019, an estimated 144.3 million smart speakers were shipped globally. In addition, consumers ordered millions of other home connected devices, such as TVs, computers, printers, gaming consoles, security systems and doorbell cameras. That’s a lot of smart devices.

The list of home and auto connected devices is a long one. All these devices can be connected via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and interact together, but these devices can do much more. They have unlocked access to a wider world — the Internet of Things (IoT).
But how are people using these devices?

Entertainment is by far the primary use. The complex interaction between these devices enriches our experience. It also gives us assurance that our homes are protected, and we can communicate with these devices from within our homes, cars or while traveling.

IoT for Everything

IoT is a system of interconnected devices — just about any electronic device can be connected — and with a smart speaker used as a hub, you can control all these devices easily. For example, you can use smart electric plugs to turn home devices on or off with a voice command or even your phone. Turn on lamps when you’re not home so it looks like you are. Turn off the slow cooker to avoid overcooking if you’re running late. Or even set up outdoor lights to turn on or off with the sunset and sunrise.

It is now fairly easy to create a connected home without the need for wires or specialist knowledge. As long as you have Wi-Fi, all these other devices can easily be connected to your home network just by using an app.

Helping Customers Where They Are

If you are opening the box on a new TV, laptop or iPad, and something strange happens during the setup, then it’s normal to turn to Google or your smart speaker for advice before ever contacting a customer service channel.

This creates a number of options for brands that want their customers to be able to easily use tools such as smart speakers. Should Alexa respond, “I’m not sure how to do that, but would you like me to connect you to a customer service agent?” Or should it possibly return with the best possible answer from an FAQ — assuming the brand has published this information so the smart speaker can find it?

This is just one issue that managers designing customer experience need to think about when considering how consumers are using these devices. There is also the option to process transactions, but these devices work using voice, so the process is different from browsing search results on Google.

About three years ago, Kayak tried introducing a service where users could just say, “Hey Alexa, book me a hotel room tomorrow night in Boston with Kayak.” This sounds simple, but there are a lot of variables even for such a simple question. What is your budget? Central or near a particular point of interest? With a pool? With a business center? With parking?

Changing How We Use Smart Speakers

Not many brands are exploring smart speakers for transactions like this at present just because of the difficulty in defining a long list of variables and the fact that this kind of selection works better when you can see a list of options — like that first page of Google or TripAdvisor search results.

There are 157 million smart speakers in American homes today. Smart brands emerging from the COVID-19 crisis will be thinking about how consumer familiarity with these devices can help simplify the customer experience — even for something as simple as answering installation questions.