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What Happens When Things Become Customers?

by Don Scheibenreif  |  April 3, 2015  |  3 Comments

As things become more intelligent, they will gain the capacity to buy and sell in the world of Digital Business and the Internet of Things. This means new opportunities for revenue and efficiencies for all types of enterprises, but also new ways of managing customer relationships. My colleague  Jenny Sussin and I explore this idea in our recently published note, Internet of Things Scenario: When Things Become Customers.  We highlight some early examples of where we see this happening, and the risks and benefits of a world where  your non-human customers could possibly outnumber your human customers.

In this exciting, but potentially risky future, we consider:

  • How does marketing need to change? Will we need something called “Thing Marketing”?
  • How does sales need to change? How do I sell to non-human customers?
  • How does customer service need to change?  Will we need human reps to handle non-human customers?
  • What can my company do to get ready? Areas like partnerships, security, governance and product development

With the rise of the Internet of Things, we believe things as customers is not a matter of if, but when. At minimum, we recommend all organizations begin to consider the possibilty that things will become your customers or will act on behalf of customers, as their agents, even if it might seem strange.

How will you feel if things become your customers?


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Category: business-moment  data-and-analytics-strategies  digital-business  internet-of-things  

Don Scheibenreif
Vice President and Distinguished Analyst
9 years at Gartner
9 years IT Industry

Don Scheibenreif is a Distinguished VP Analyst with Gartner's Customer Experience research group. He works with with Customer Experience and other IT leaders on how emerging trends and digital business will impact CX and enterprise digital transformation. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on What Happens When Things Become Customers?

  1. Don,

    This is great food for thought! Some aspects of customer service and satisfaction may change. The emphasis on human relations training for customer service reps would diminish. However I don’t see it going away, because somewhere along the value chain a human being is still programming the purchasing/supply interface. Human contact may be one step removed, but we’re not to antonymous AI yet!

    Other more fundamental customer service principles will gain in importance. Can we make the process visible to the humans depending on the system? Is the system easily accessible to customers, or do they have to hunt for the right service? Can the system be responsive to customer requests, especially expedited or special orders?

    Every automation process I’ve ever worked with has run into the messy reality that the end user and designer is ultimately human, and in that sense “messy” to work with.

    If we design systems with that in mind we are more likely to create systems that are responsive to customer needs. On the other hand if we automate a bad process, all we get is an automatically bad process.

    • Don Scheibenreif says:

      Thanks Kevin – these are all great thoughts and I agree. Automation will only work to a certain point, before it becomes counter-productive. You might be interested in the work Gartner is doping on Digital Humanism: “Use These Five Steps to Achieve a Digitally Humanist CRM Automation Strategy”

  2. […] on this topic. Last week Don Scheibenreif, a Gartner Research VP, has published an interesting post where he asks which are the next impacts on marketing, sales and customer service strategies and […]

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