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Customer Experience

The Internet of Things, Voice of the Customer, and Understanding the In-Use Experience

by Lane Cochrane, on Jul 24, 2018

Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will give us the opportunity to get closer than ever to the heart of the Customer Experience (CX).

IoT is re-imagining how we interact with many of the items around us, and with Gartner forecasting that the consumer market will have 12.9 billion IoT units installed in 2020 - over three times what was seen in 2016 (4.0 billion units) - this highlights the speed at which these solutions are becoming mainstream. 

In Customer Experience Management (CEM), a key moment to understand is the ‘in-use’ experience – when the customer is actually using the product to solve the problem for which they originally purchased it. This is a critical moment in the customer journey when their perception of value is being determined. It is a moment that should be measured, and one that CX Professionals will be able to better understand thanks to IoT. 

To do this, it will be key for IoT solution providers to integrate Voice of the Customer (VoC) within their experiences, because IoT without VoC will fail to deliver on the full potential of the Internet of Things.


The in-use experience is critical to the total customer experience

The traditional view of a product, one of a standardized solution to a defined problem for a customer segment, is giving way to an appreciation of customer experience. 

For each customer, each use of the product is contextual to their need and environment in that moment. As a result, each use creates a perception of an experience, and subsequently, each experience builds or undermines the customer’s overall perception of the solution and brand.

The customer’s primary assessment of value is not at the point of exchange when they bought the product. Instead, it is at the point of use [1]. That is, when they are using the product and achieving the solution they had envisioned when they purchased it. 

Too often, CX initiatives are seen by an enterprise as improvements to the elements surrounding the product, such as the sale, support, and account management, to name a few. The actual product group, however, is rarely the primary recipient of continuous VoC data.

Very often, our customer intelligence is strong at the beginning of the customer journey and perhaps at the end, but knowledge about the in-use experience is less robust.  

Part of the issue is that organizational structure may place the product design team at arm's length to the customer teams and the customer feedback. Even when this is not the case, the in-use experience has not been as easy to capture as other points on the customer journey. It is far easier to install listening posts for the parts of the journey before and after product use, such as during the Purchase Consideration and Conversion stages, and also during Product Support. 

To build a customer-centric product that produces the right experience, the product team has historically leveraged other research tools that often suffer the constraints of having to measure perceptions out of context, to invoke recall, or in a contrived scenario. This research is likely directed towards existing hypotheses, given the investment being made to collect the data. 

Ongoing VoC data, which creates a continuous improvement orientation, is not as easily done. However, IoT provides the right opportunity to collect VoC at this critical point in the customer journey.


Make VoC and customer feedback part of the IoT solution

In the past, VoC collection tools were grafted on top of the experiences, rather than integrated directly into the experience itself. 

Standalone VoC platforms with standardized templates perpetuated this idea of a parallel vs. integrated process. However, VoC should also be part of the experience, collecting feedback and measuring seamlessly within the execution of the experience. This will facilitate the integration of experience data with the user-generated behavioral data  and other contextual data collected during the interaction.  

CX practitioners should be planning now about integrating the crucial customer checkpoints naturally into the IoT conversations, and avoid after-the-fact VoC solutions that risk having less representative collection. This requires mapping out the user flows and inserting the feedback elements from the beginning.

This feedback will be succinct, usually a categorical designation of the rating of the customer interaction, along with open-ended feedback on the interaction if problematic. In many cases, customer intent will be necessary to collect as well. Seamless engagement methods, simple conversational styles, and intuitive flows will be the critical component of integrated customer experience and customer experience analytics.

The volumes of customer data that Internet of Things solutions will monitor will create the environment for an unprecedented explosion of anticipatory algorithms, focused on improving CX as it unfolds. It is important to remember that customer experience is a perceived entity:

Without direct feedback integrated into the models and the algorithms that will emerge from the flood of IoT data, there will be significant risk that Artificial Intelligence (AI) models will optimize against inferred success from the behavior data alone, optimizing on assumptions rather than the actual experience as perceived by the customer.


VoC will determine IoT success

According to a report by Zebra Technologies, The Intelligent Enterprise Index, 70 percent of enterprises state that the main reason they are implementing IoT is to improve the customer experience. This necessitates the ongoing collection of the customer’s perception about the experience.

Improving the in-use experience will determine the adoption of Internet of Things solutions and the level of data-sharing customers will tolerate. Without integrated feedback, the Enterprise-to-Customer relationship will be viewed as skewed towards the desires of the enterprise and not the needs of the customer. Asking about the experience and integrating that data into the execution of the experience will maintain a customer-centric approach that is rewarded by current and new customers.  

This presents a significant opportunity to get close to how products deliver in real contexts. The experience, along with the measuring of the experience, should be foremost in the design from the beginning.


[1] Stephen L. Vargo, Robert F. Lusch (2004) Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. Journal of Marketing: January 2004, Vol. 68, No. 1, pp. 1-17.


Banner image source: Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

Lane Cochrane
Lane Cochrane

Lane Cochrane has more than 20 years of management and business development experience in the market research and analytics industry. As Chief Innovation Officer, Lane is responsible for developing customer analytics offerings that maximize the value of customer research within the evolving customer experience management industry.

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