Are You Sure You Want to Build that Business App?

Most smartphone users download 0 apps per month. That’s right zero, zip, zilch, nada. Sixty five percent of US smart phone users download no apps per month. Yet the time we spend using apps continues to rise. The problem for many businesses is the vast majority of time spent in apps is on social media, messaging and entertainment applications, not engaging with companies. My local supermarket has an app, so has my insurance company, my optician and some of my favorite clothes retailers. I would never think of downloading them though.

apps

Have Business Apps Failed?

The logic behind building business apps was understandable. Business want to engage with their customers, customers are using apps, therefore we need to build an app. We need to hang out where our customers are hanging out. There were however a number of problems with this logic:

It’s Personal – Smartphone and Mobile devices are for the most part personal devices. A private space away from the work environment, for communicating with close friends and families, for participating in hobbies, music, TV and movies. For the things we are passionate about. For the most part people aren’t passionate about businesses. Do we want businesses invading this personal private space?

Storage Issues – I seem to get a message from Apple every day telling me I’ve exceeded my storage limit.  Do you want to waste storage on business apps? If you need to free up storage the business apps are the first to go.

Most Business Apps are Useless – Let’s face it most business apps are useless. They are deigned to sell not serve. After all this time most business apps can’t do customer service right, throwing the user out of the native app into a browser if you want to reach customer service.

Security – what information are you sharing with businesses? – We are more paranoid than ever about sharing personal information. Do we want to share location and contact details with companies? How much personal information do we want to share with businesses?

Inconvenient – This might be a first world problem but apps are just a little bit inconvenient. It’s time consuming to have to download an app and to create another user ID and password that will be forgotten in minutes. Interstitials encouraging users to download a mobile app are also frustrating for web users and can result in huge abandonment rates.

Ultimately customers aren’t using business apps. So if you are thinking of building a business app you are probably 2 or 3 years too late. You are merely copying rather than trying to leapfrog the competition. So what’s the solution? To get a potential answer lets go back to the start of this post and to the logic behind business apps, businesses want to engage with customers and customers are mobile, so let’s build an app. But if they aren’t downloading apps how do you engage with mobile customers? The solution is that we engage with customers inside the apps they are actually using, for example messaging apps. And a potential solution has emerged in the form of chatbots.

In my next posts I’ll take a look at chatbots and their role as a next generation customer service portal and their wider impact on mobile devices.

Does CRM have a major role in the Internet of Things? No

For several years Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications have attempted to sharp elbow their way into the heart of the enterprise. The CRM application has capitalised on the fact that customer experience has emerged as a significant business differentiator requiring organizations to deliver consistency and continuity in how they manage customer data from opportunity, through on-boarding to customer support. It’s not surprising then that CRM vendors see the Internet of Things (IoT) as another technology to absorb into its ecosystem.

So will CRM continue its enterprise land grab and does it have a major role to play in the IoT? For a variety of reasons I will explain below the answer has to be no.

The Future of the IoT is Services not Devices
CRM vendors have a device centric view of the IoT. Their argument goes that the CRM application already manages our “things” such as loyalty cards, our mobile phones and vehicles and the IoT will simply be a continuation of this. This vision of the future has been driven by the growth of consumer IoT devices such as wearables and smart home automation technologies. It is a mistake however to view the IoT in terms of devices. The real power in IoT is in the data created by the sensors themselves. Organizations that can utilize this data and deliver services based on this data will dominate the IoT market.

Already some of the most successful commercial IoT solutions are providing services rather than simply devices to consumers. Examples include in-car telematics, used toCRM IoT 2 monitor driver performance and to adjust insurance premiums and heart implants that send data to physicians that can be analysed to identify any slowing of heart rhythm or rapid heartbeats. In the public realm, IoT will be used within Smart Cities to provide services to constituents that will, for example, reduce congestion, optimize energy use and support public safety. The common theme in all of these examples is that the IoT is being used to provide services with little or no input required by the individual. The IoT and the devices themselves are for the most part invisible. The vast bulk of IoT activity will be invisible, machine to machine not device to customer or vendor.

Many of the commercial and smart home technologies we see today are really just gimmicks as already available sensor and Wi-Fi technology wait on other essential components of the IoT ecosystem to catch up that will enable IoT driven services to be launched. In this IoT services ecosystem the role of CRM will be limited.

Data Loses its Value within Seconds
As previously discussed the real power of the IoT is in the data created by the sensors. The majority of data created by sensors will begin to lose value within seconds of being generated. Weather data, traffic congestion, pollution information, smoke and fire detection, location data and personal security information is constantly changing requiring real time analysis and complex event processing rather than storage in a CRM system. In this context the CRM application becomes merely a system of record providing a history of what happened. The IoT requires real time, not sometime, analytics and decisions.

The Future of Customer Service is Self-Service – Not Assisted Service
The future of customer service is self-service not assisted service. In 2015 web self-service overtook all other customer service channels. Intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) use is seeing rapid adoption across multiple industry sectors. Mobile phone vendors have been working on personal assistants since almost the development of the first app. Your mobile device comes preinstalled with apps such as calendar, reminder, notes and a ticket and boarding pass wallet and these mobile capabilities will soon be augmented with speech recognition. Today, four of the largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon— offer speech recognition software. Speech recognition has the potential to transform the self-service user experience, making it a more natural experience and most importantly hands free. Speech recognition can deliver service to users anywhere and in any situation or context. It will be the user interface for IoT services. And already retailers have begun to explore the potential of voice driven self-service with for example Domino’s Pizza introducing Dom their virtual voice ordering assistant.

CRM applications are on the wrong side of the self v assisted service equation, having only a major role to play in assisted customer service.

Predictive and Proactive Customer Service is not a Business Opportunity
Another argument in favour of CRM and the IoT is that together they will deliver improved customer service. The expectation is that organizations will be able to offer proactive customer service based on alerts or status notifications from the smart devices and sensors. Again this takes a device rather than services view of the IoT.

The scenario of smart devices automatically triggering support services and outbound calls from customer service agents will certainly occur in support of high value products and services. No organization however is going to hire additional customer service agents to provide proactive customer service for low value products and services. In addition customers will be suspicious of assisted proactive service believing it’ll be used as a sales call and also may not appreciate the interruption.

We already obtain proactive customer service. For example our mobile phones, laptops gaming platforms are all automatically updated with the latest SW or firmware releases. None of us pay for this. For the most part proactive customer service will be automatic and invisible. Proactive customer service is not a business opportunity and is merely a cost of doing business in the 21st century.

Privacy Concerns will hold back Sales and Marketing
Another key benefit of IoT is the ability for vendors to track who is buying their products and how they are being used. This has the potential to transform marketing and to improve customer segmentation and targeting. The elephant in the room is however privacy. Good luck getting individual customers and businesses to allow you to mine and analyse their data. Assuming data access permission is granted what is in it for customers? Instead of cold calls will they instead get hot calls and more pushy sales reps?

A Step Too Far
The IoT is a step too far for CRM. The core components of IoT solutions will be data streaming, complex event processing, process automation technologies, business rules engines, voice recognition and biometrics. CRM systems will capture event histories and manage some IoT devices but this will be a peripheral role. CRM is suited for business today, it is a 00’s technology, it may not however be suited for the IoT driven businesses of the future.

Netflix customer service? Almost, but not quite.

For a few days I’ve been struggling to cast Netflix from my iPad to the Chromecast device attached to my TV. Being reasonably techie I made sure I was running the latest SW releases on both Netflix and Chromecast. I also tried using an iPhone and a different iPad but with no success. Last night I had enough (I’m in the middle of a “Making a Murderer” binge) so I decided to contact customer service.

To my pleasant surprise I found out that it was possible to call the Netflix help centre directly from their app using a VoIP call. The response time by the agent was quick as netflixwell, less than 30 seconds. So far, so good. However as I had made some initial attempts to correct the problem myself the tier one agent was unable to provide a fix and said that she would have to escalate the issue. This however is where the customer service journey fell apart. Instead of transitioning me to another service representative online she provided be with a landline number. A US based landline number. The problem is I’m located in the UK.

In the multichannel or omnichannel business environment of today organizations must consider the end to end customer service journey and the transitions or escalations between channels that are sometimes necessary in order to resolve a problem. These transitions should be as frictionless or effortless for the customer as possible. In my case Netflix dropped the ball. Their sterling efforts to make it easy for customers to contact them, their in-app customer service channel and their excellent customer response times were in vain because they hadn’t considered or optimized how they handle customer escalations.

So when it comes to Netflix customer service it’s almost, but not quite. I still haven’t made that call and I’m still having Chromecast problems.

The Future of Self-Service; Virtual Assistants, Speech Recognition and the Internet of Things

Introduction
When is the last time you visited a bank or even talked to a bank representative? When is the last time you contacted a travel agent? Where previously we’d have used a travel agent many of us now prefer to research and book the individual components of our holiday ourselves. The history of the internet has been a story of personal empowerment. Empowered customers, especially younger demographics, are today more than happy to resolve problems for themselves valuing the convenience, speed and anonymity offered by frictionless self-service experiences.

In 2015 leading analysts indicated that web self-service interactions overtook all other channels and that survey respondents reported using the FAQ pages on a company’s website more than speaking with an agent over the phone. The future of customer service is thus quite clearly self-service. However what is the future for self-service itself?

Intelligent Virtual Assistants
Intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) use is seeing rapid adoption across multiple industry sectors. IVAs attempt to humanize web self-service by delivering knowledge and information to customers via a human like interface. The attraction for businesses is obvious. Unlike a customer service representative IVAs can serve thousands of customers at once, they are available 24/7, across all channels and the experience is consistent.

However the predominant IVA experience today of typing in questions and receiving spoken answers via a computer generated assistant is unsatisfactory, unrealistic and, in my opinion, slightly creepy. Having a computer designed, cartoonish image acting as the face of your organization is also a risk. As a result many organizations, particularly in the retail sector are using IVAs as an opportunity for differentiation and a visual extension of their basic web self-service technologies rather than as a key customer engagement channel.

We are still at the nascent state of IVA development. The next step in its development will be to make the customer experience more realistic. This means replacing the requirement for users to type questions with speech recognition.

Speech Recognition
Today, four of the largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon— offer speech recognition software. Apple was the first mover with Siri. Google followed with its own natural language user interface, Google Now, Microsoft came to market with Cortana and most recently Amazon has released its voice-controlled personal assistant, Alexa. So why do we have this sudden interest in voice recognition? The answer lies in both self-service and the internet of things (IoT).

Speech recognition has the potential to transform the self-service user experience, making it a more natural experience and most importantly hands free. Speech recognition can deliver service to users anywhere and in any situation or context. Initially we will see IVA vendors augmenting their solutions with speech recognition capabilities to offer voice driven information search and retrieval such as video on demand. Already retailers have begun to explore the potential of voice driven self-service with for example Domino’s Pizza introducing Dom their virtual voice ordering assistant.

future iot
WSS and the Internet of Things
Self-service will move beyond voice driven information search and retrieval to deliver the ability to trigger and interact with processes using speech.

Mistakenly many view the IoT in terms of smart devices; in terms of smart thermostats, kettles, fridges and wearables. However the real power in IoT is in the data created by the sensors themselves. Organizations that can utilize this data and deliver services based on this data will dominate the IoT market. Already some of the most successful commercial IoT solutions are providing services rather than simply devices to consumers. In-car telematics is now widely used in the insurance industry today to monitor driver performance and to adjust insurance premiums accordingly. In medicine, heart implants are being used that send data to physicians that can be analyzed to identify any slowing of heart rhythm or rapid heartbeats. In the public realm, IoT will be used within Smart Cities to provide services to constituents that will, for example, reduce congestion, optimize energy use and support public safety. The common theme in all of these examples is that the IoT is being used to provide services with little or no input required by the individual. The IoT and the devices themselves are for the most part invisible.

As humans we do not have the capacity to engage with huge numbers of IoT devices. Do we really want to be alerted and prompted on a regular basis by multiple frivolous IoT devices all competing for our attention? As a result the IoT will be almost invisible, delivering services for us in the background to our lives and interrupting us only when a decision is required or a result has been achieved. Successful IoT solutions will remove complexity from our lives rather than add to it.

The trigger and interaction method for all of these IoT services will be speech. With so many potential IoT devices and services, voice control provides a simpler, quicker and more convenient method of interaction rather than an app and a UI.

The Personal Virtual Assistant
Self-service will eventually break free of the enterprise and become a key part of our personal lives. Mobile phone vendors have been working on personal assistants since almost the development of the first app. Your iPhone comes preinstalled with apps such as Apple pay, calendar, reminder, notes and a ticket and boarding pass wallet. In addition Android devices arrive with a password manager, family location services and account status apps. Despite the fact that there are millions of apps available the majority of us use only a few apps daily. It appears that app fatigue is starting to set in. Siri, Google Now and Cortana will be the catalyst for turning these apps, many seldom used and sometimes referred to derogatively as bloatwear, into something more useful and easier to use.

The personal virtual assistant will be the ultimate self-service technology that brings together multiple technologies including speech recognition, knowledge management, wearables, IoT, complex event processing and artificial intelligence. This is imminent. Today for example Microsoft Cortana, if approved by the user, can scan your email to see if you have a flight coming up, then use the information to alert you when it’s time to leave for the airport.

Service scheduling, booking a restaurant or flight, insurance renewals, ensuring your finance products are on the best rate of interest, price comparisons, personal security and health monitoring — all of these are important yet mundane processes we perform on a daily basis that most of us would be happy to outsource to a personal assistant. In effect the personal assistant starts to act as an airbag for our lives, ready to step in when we need it, not constantly competing for our attention.

Conclusion
Self-service is the future of customer service and its evolution is inextricably linked to developments in speech analytics and the IoT. In the IoT world speech will be the most convenient gateway to access information and services. Self-service will go beyond the simple search and delivery of information to the delivery of more complex customer service processes.

Ultimately we are looking at a post app world where information and data from multiple sources including devices is combined to deliver services. Then when you need information or a service you’ll just ask for it.

Press Once for Process

It looks like our homes could soon be invaded by a swarm of buttons. Earlier this year (2015) we had the launch of Amazon dash and now we have flic. Flic takes dash a step further and is a wireless smart button that can be quickly programmed to let you play music, make calls or even order a pizza, all at the press of a button. What dash and flick have in common is that with the press of a button the user is triggering or starting a process. With dash it is the process of placing and executing an order for a consumable product from the Amazon store or in the case of flic trigger a food delivery process.

Press Once for Process

There are other companies out there such as IFTTT looking to simplify how we execute day to day processes and optimize how we interact with mobile applications. In fact it is possible to connect Flic to IFTTT and at the press of a flic button post a Facebook or twitter update. Both dash and flic are obviously Internet of Things (IoT) devices. What they begin to illustrate is the critical relationship between the IoT and process. There is no point in smart devices collecting data and monitoring your environment if we cannot rapidly take action on insights obtained.

Yet dash and flic don’t have a long term future. Why do we need buttons to place orders or trigger processes when we could use our voice? Today, three of largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google and Microsoft — offer voice recognition software. Apple was the first mover with Siri. Google followed with its own natural language user interface, Google Now, and finally Microsoft came to market with Cortana. Why do we have this sudden interest in voice recognition? The answer is the IoT.

With the iOS 8 operating system, Siri became completely hands free, with the “Hey Siri” command replacing initiation of Siri via the home button. In addition, Siri began to integrate with the Apple IoT HomeKit features. At iOS 9 Apple have taken Siri capabilities further putting new functionality into the HomeKit, including smarter Siri controls and support for new device types. Siri and thus voice recognition is a key part of the Apple IoT strategy with voice commands being used to trigger simple processes such as dimming the lights or adjusting the thermostat. It does not take a great leap of the imagination to expect that we will soon be able to ask Siri to book a flight, a meal at a restaurant or to transfer money into a bank account, all hands free and without accessing an app or pressing a button.

So while flic and the Amazon Dash button may have a limited shelf life they do point towards emerging methods of process initiation that will eventually coalesce around voice. In fact Amazon, as well as having the Dash Button, also offer a Wand device that uses voice recognition to place order requests. With so many potential IoT devices, sensors and services, voice control provides a simpler, quicker and more convenient method of interaction with the IoT rather than an app, a UI or a button.

BPM Everywhere

If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll be aware that I believe that Business Process Management (BPM) technologies will have a crucial role to play in the emerging Internet of Things market. Future BPME-frontcoverStrategies have now published a book on this subject entitled BPM Everywhere and it includes a chapter by myself “The Internet of Things Will Be Invisible”.

This chapter builds on some of my recent blog articles that propose that the IoT will be for the most part an invisible part of or daily lives and that two technologies BPM and Voice recognition will be key to make this happen.

Amazon Dash – A Gimmick but an Important Step in the Evolution of the Internet of Things

To be perfectly honest when I saw the announcement I, like many others, thought it was an April fool. No one shops for groceries on an individual basis. The implications for the environment would be horrendous if we did. Most of us on a budget also like to know the price of things before we decide to buy. Then there’s the issue of Wi-Fi reliability and battery life.

Despite these drawbacks Amazon Dash however represents an important step in the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT). Here we have a smart device linked to business processes. A push of a button triggers automatic payment and logistics processes that ultimately lead to the delivery of an item to your door.

At the moment, discussion of the commercial IoT has focused on the devices or things themselves rather than the services that can be triggered by connecting sensors and devices to the Internet. Many of the commercial and smart home technologies we see today are really just gimmicks as already available sensor and Wi-Fi technology wait on other essential components of the IoT ecosystem to catch up. When we start thinking of the commercial IoT not in terms of devices, but instead in terms of services that could be triggered through connection to the Internet, more compelling use cases start to emerge.
Amazon dash is different. It is focused on delivering an IoT service not an IoT device.

Press for Service

Press for Service