Making the Consumer IoT Experience More Human by Embedding Service Into Things


Brian Hannon, Chief Commercial Officer at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International (Voxpro), a company that focuses on improving the digital customer experience, believes the only companies marketing connected products to consumers who will win will be those who think through the entire customer journey as part of their product design, development and evolution.

“We’re working with companies in the fastest growing areas, and IoT is clearly one of those,” Hannon said, adding that “companies who have their own approach to customer experience, companies that embed planning for CX to work within the design of product are succeeding, and are way ahead with customer satisfaction while taking advantage of the feedback loop to improve those products over time.”

Hannon wrote in a recent blog that “harnessing digital connections to foster deeper human connections is the highest opportunity of the internet of things,” and believes that given more devices, more software, more systems and more human attachment to living digitally will continue to grow, and that brands marketing smart homes, smart cars, wearables and more will succeed when they increase customer engagement, rather than trying to avoid it with “self-service” approaches.

“Some companies underestimate the power of not only deepening customer relationships but taking advantage of behavioral data fundamental to improving that product, or building new products and services based on that intelligence,” Hannon said.

Working with some of the largest tech companies in the world, Voxpro collaborates on deeply understanding the “customer journey” – aligning to the consumer and their changing, digitally-enhanced lives, keeping the process simple and human.

And because more and more sensors (for example fall detection sensors built into wearables or smartphones, or motion detection sensors installed in the homes) integrate messaging, notifications and alerts, the journey is not just one taken by one consumer, but by people connected with that consumer.

“For example, in a smart home set up to help older adults stay in their homes, a sensor may send a message to the adults’ children or other caregivers,” Hannon said, “so the company creating that solution needs to understand multiple journeys to get the solution right. What can they do, for example, to make it easier for a child living a thousand miles away to help care for their parent after a fall?”

Making experiences with connected systems more intuitive is also key, according to Hannon.

“Voice activated assistants, like Alexa and Siri, have huge potential to make interactions easier, and with the feedback loop, can leverage AI and machine learning to serve consumers more intelligently and intuitively,” Hannon said. “Even for people who may be uncomfortable living in a smart home, including older people, voice commands can be an enormous advantage, eliminating the need to find and use a mobile device, for example.”

Hannon sees companies who invest in understanding in great depth what all participants want from a smart home solution, for their own home, or their parents’ home in this use case. “It’s important to ask and understand what the experience can look like for the parent, for their family, for their caregivers and for their healthcare providers.”

Asked about the future of smart homes in ten years, when there may be 100 or more connected things operating, and the potential for a “single pane of glass” view of the entire smart home, Hannon was skeptical that consumers will really want that – but pointed out that this is a perfect example of why it is important to ask, to research, to understand.

“Is there value in an open platform where apps and devices can be unified on a personalized smart home dashboard? That makes sense, but before we know for sure, we’ll need to follow the evolution of the space,” Hannon said, “as some people or even most people may not want that at all and prefer to use different interfaces for different applications.

“Rather than worrying about educating people on how to use complicated devices and services,” Hannon said, “it makes more sense to invest in creating what is intuitive and simple, investing in creating great UI and UX with quality hardware and software. More functionality can always be added in – the key is to drive engagement and benefit from the information only active engagement produces.”

Hannon cited the trends with ride sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft. “They started out with a fairly straightforward service but are learning that last mile mobility is a challenge for a lot of people, so are rolling out adjacent services, like scooters for very short distances. The trend is to go narrower and deeper to meet consumer needs better, while building brand loyalty and appreciation from existing customers for enhanced offerings based on what they need and would benefit from.”

With the real world as the best laboratory, Voxpro is continuing to attract hundreds of companies to their visioning and strategic consulting services, which is driving innovation and contributing to TELUS International’s own transformation from traditional voice and Internet access services, for example, into richer digital service solutions, including customer service, technical support, and consumption of more broadband and security services.

Voxpro is a part of TELUS International, and was founded by Dan and Linda Kiely, who, according to the company’s website, “set out to completely redefine the BPO industry. Too many brands were viewing customer contacts as a necessary cost, instead of an opportunity. Voxpro ripped up the script.”

This was a smart and strategic move, particularly given the massive changes underway in the customer contact center world, including outsourcing of customer service, especially associated with consumer electronics and mobile devices.

Voxpro was always motivated and inspired by their customers, the most innovative companies who “were beginning to realize that customers are their most precious asset; take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.”

Voxpro started to partner exclusively with these companies to “provide their customers with a ‘beautiful’ experience at every single contact.”

This led to contracts with high growth, rapidly scaling technology companies in the sharing economy, fintech, gaming, SaaS, and now IoT.

They joined forces last year with global Canadian BPO, TELUS International, with natural synergies that seem to be paying off.

“Where we’re different is in our bias towards the human factors, and how IoT, for example, impacts not just the logical but the emotional and psychological lives of people,” Hannon said. “For example, while a healthcare provider may benefit from an in-home health monitoring system, what may really drive adoption and success is that the consumer now feels more independent. They don’t have to go to the doctor’s office, and they don’t have to be treated in a rehabilitation facility.”

Hannon reiterated “multiple benefits” given systems that connect not just the end user and their provider, in this case, but their entire family and circle of caregivers.

“In addition to direct medical benefits, these solutions can reduce anxiety, allow adult children to go about their lives, with a better quality of life, knowing they can stay connected with their aging parents in new ways. Everybody feels better.”

Hannon’s blog says, “…everything is shifting. Dramatically. Data is going to be instant and substantial. Customer touchpoints are going to explode, and product manufacturers will need to grasp the potential of Customer Experience, almost overnight.”

There’s enormous potential here for success, as well as failure, Hannon believes, depending on the brand’s willingness to understand not just the technology and all the moving parts already associated with quality mass consumer IoT solutions, but the psychology and human factors that ultimately determine how popular and sustainable new connected products are from the start – and over time as feedback loops feed innovation. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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