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Service + Support Leaders: Your next call isn’t with a human – it’s with the Machine Customer in their living room.

By Christopher Sladdin | August 17, 2022 | 0 Comments

Customer Service and SupportDigital and Self-Service Customer ServiceService and Support Customer Experience (CX) and VOCService and Support Strategy and Leadership

This is part one in a mini series on Machine Customers and the impact on the Service Function. Part two can be found here.

Have you thought about how the product your customer has purchased, or the smart device they own might initiate a service request? Machine customers are already here, and they’re impacting many of our daily lives – maybe you’ve recently asked Siri, or Alexa to call customer service, provide some basic information, or wait on hold for you. At our recent Future of Customer Service event however, a large group of Customer Service & Support leaders said that preparing for the influx of machine customers hadn’t crossed their minds, or felt like a very distant trend. But look around you – Machine Customers are everywhere, and it’s time for Customer Service and Support leaders to consider the impact they will have on their function, because, if Machine Customers haven’t already arrived in your industry, they will sooner rather than later.

In this first of two blogs on machine customers, I want to dispel the common misconceptions I hear in response to the question “what is a machine customer?” We’ll talk about what a machine customer is, what it isn’t, and I’ll share a few examples of machine customers that I discuss with my clients.

A Machine Customer Isn’t Your Chatbot, or Your AI or ML Capabilities

First, let’s remind ourselves what a machine customer is, and what it isn’t. A machine customer isn’t a chatbot or AI within the service function which provides issue resolution. In fact, a machine customer doesn’t live inside your organization at all.

Rather, a machine customer is something in your customer’s home, car, business, or phone. Specifically, these are products or bots that request and perform service on behalf of their owner for lower customer effort. So identifying issues, reporting them to customer service, and obtaining resolution. In the most effortless experiences, the entire service journey takes place without the customer having to say or do anything at all. 

Machine Customer Definition for Customer Service & Support: Products or bots that request and perform service on behalf of their owner for lower customer effort.

Machine Customers are Everywhere

Let’s take a look at four examples of machine customers and the low-effort service they undertake that will be instantly familiar to many of us.

  • In Your Home: Close to 50% of UK homes, and 75% of US homes now have smart meters installed. Smart meters are ‘machine customers’, in that they make recurring transactions on behalf of users (for example, automatically reporting your meter readings to generate a bill, rather than you having to manually read and report the meter reading once a month) and they also report issues (for example, if your electricity supply is cut during the night, it can alert the supplier so they can send engineers to fix the distribution before you wake up).
  • In Your Car: Tesla vehicles continuously gather product information in order to self-diagnose the need for a repair, and can then submit a service request which automatically pre-order spare parts to the nearest repair center. The company is also reported to be working on using this functionality to automatically call a pickup/tow truck before the car has even come to a stop.
  • In Your Office: While it may have been a while since you last went into the office, let alone used the copy machine, your office Xerox is also an example of a machine customer. The company’s Automatic Supplies Replenishment service which is built-in to many of their devices monitors device usage and makes recurring transactions 21 days in advance to ensure that you never run out of toner.  
  • In Your Pocket: 83% of the global population now owns a smartphone, according to Statista, and most smartphones have access to digital assistants. Our recent data on customer behavior shows that nearly half of Millennial and Gen Z customers would consider using a digital assistant like Siri or Alexa to interact with customer service on their behalf. Maybe you’ve tried this yourself, to hail a taxi/cab, transfer money, etc.?

Do you need to respond?

If you’ve owned or used one of these products, and benefitted from the machine customer within, it would be difficult to imagine switching back to a competitor product which doesn’t offer this low-effort customer service. All it takes is for one of your competitors to innovate and offer machine customer functionality, and all of a sudden, you’ll be left behind as your customers opt for the competitor’s lower-effort service. 

Machine Customers are here to stay, and many leaders I’ve been speaking with have been surprised to find that some of their peers and competitors have already launched some form of machine customer integration with their support services. Perhaps you are currently deploying a chatbot? If so, machine customer integration is something you need to be considering. So, will your organization be next to respond?

In next month’s blog: Questions your Service function needs to have answers to in order to respond to the growth in Machine Customers. 

Can’t wait that long? Schedule an inquiry with me or a fellow Customer Service & Support expert today to think through your approach to machine customers and prepare to deliver the next generation of Customer Service.

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