The Broken Promise of the Connected Oven

Creating a great customer experience, the holy grail for many companies, got its start in stores. Clever retailers learned that nurturing positive feelings during the customer’s interaction could be scripted in such a way that the outcome benefited the sale. The thinking was—and still is—that a positive customer experience promotes loyalty and encourages brand advocacy.

While the origin of customer experience was in-store, this quickly expanded beyond the walls of the shop into other channels—the first being call centers—and, with the rise of the internet, to email and social media. As with all things new, a lot of these efforts happened in isolation. Employees in the shop didn’t have a clue to whom you had already spoken in the call center and vice versa. 

A lot of time and money has been spent in the last few years to improve that. Customer 360 projects (using data from customer touchpoints to get a complete view from purchase to service and support) and omnichannel initiatives are being initiated to bring down those walls. All this sounds familiar, right?

However, a new type of channel looms on the horizon, and it is going to be the toughest one of all to achieve. In order to master it, customer experience needs to evolve to the next level—a level I call the “connected customer experience.” The channel? Connected products.

With the advance of IoT, more and more products are getting smarter. But making things smarter also raises expectations because, as Peter Parker (alias Spider-Man) knows, with great power comes great responsibility. And that is exactly what is going to bite a lot of companies in the backside.

Beware the Disconnected Customer Experience

I recently had an experience that brought it all home. Last year, when I got my kitchen redone, I spent a fortune on an oven from a very exclusive brand. My wife selected the oven based on the brand, the aesthetics, and some of the features—such as being able to heat it to 300° Celsius, turning it into a real pizza oven.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself and had to figure out all the gadgets and gizmos, and quite quickly ended up consulting the paper manual. It turned out that the oven—and another two devices I bought—had a connected feature. “Cool!” I thought. “Let’s connect.”

I downloaded the app, created my profile, and connected all three devices. This all went quite smoothly. It was nice to see the timer going off on my mobile phone, reminding me while I was working that there was still something in the oven. I even figured out how to start the oven safely from a distance. So far so good. 

That is, until we wanted to bake a pizza. While heating the oven to 300°, it started to give an alert on the display: “Contact service desk.”

I was looking up the phone number in the manual and noticed that it said if your oven is connected, your service assistant can diagnose the problem remotely. “Aha!” I thought. “The wonders of IoT finally at work.” What a deception it turned out to be.

From a traditional experience perspective, the whole conversation with the call center went fine. The phone was picked up quickly, and the person was friendly. However, when I mentioned that I had a connected oven and that I had already registered, she had to admit that there was no link between her administration and the app.

I wasn’t known in the (service desk’s) system yet. Why not? I registered my device on the app! We then had to go through the whole registration process again. She couldn’t access my oven (and honestly, I don’t think she would have known what to diagnose if she could have). So, I had to read out the error codes, and a bunch of other codes from an impossible place, lying down on the ground to see the sticker at the bottom of the door (which I am pretty sure would all have been accessible through the app). A service visit has now been scheduled with a technician who is going to visit me in 10 days’ time. I will keep you posted.

The Last Mile of CX

This example underlines the point that, from a customer experience perspective, if your products are connected, you also must aim for a connected customer experience. Your product must become integral to the traditional channels as well as integrated throughout the whole support ecosystem—across email, social media, chat, and call-center systems.

Why not dispatch the error message automatically from the app to the service desk? Why not have the service desk call you automatically, informing you of the issue and the resolution? With everything in place, that last mile shouldn’t be too hard. After all, there is nothing comparable to a connected customer experience—where everything goes smoothly and as it should—to help gain customer loyalty. Which brings me to this conclusion: The end game of IoT is not device connectivity or management. The end game of IoT is business process integration, because a disconnected experience, such as the one I had, will quickly sour your customer on your product—connected or not.


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