The B2B customer experience can make a big difference in the success of new IoT business models. Customer needs and their confidence in connected tech will be key for future adoption.
Since connected projects are still in early stages, there’s no single blueprint for every customer to follow. Certain data or features can seem valuable during planning phases. However, these may not reveal the real value that will help customers when they launch their solutions. Each part of the chain has important parts to play in order to guide customers forward. We spoke to several IoT experts who shared the ways they fine-tuned their roles in helping customers make the most of IoT. Understand the customer journey Customers have varying approaches and levels of comfort with IoT. Some are already well on their way to defining new business models or monetizing data from IoT solutions. On the other hand, there are customers that wonder, “Where do we start?” PTC’s former Senior Advisor Kent Eriksson has advised customers at several different stages of their digital transformations and IoT journeys: “...Some customers, we are working on: what’s their roadmap, what is our product roadmap, and what is our roadmap together in order to make them the top of the top.” Some customers are unsure of where to start using IoT in their day-to-day business, while others have tried do-it-yourself solutions but didn’t quite accomplish their goals. Another category of customers has achieved digital transformation, but want to do more, faster. The last set of customers Eriksson has heard from have a better idea of their future vision, and they know the best way to forecast the future is to actually write it themselves. Staffan Dahlstrom, CEO and co-founder of HMS (Hardware Meets Software) emphasizes how critical it is to understand customer needs before giving them the solution that will allow them to achieve their goals: “It's not a revolution. It's an evolution that they need to adopt in making sure that existing systems work well, and they can upgrade to newer technology over time.” Customers are cautious in that they want to use great technology, but they will more likely look to mature technology over the latest solution to ensure the evolution will move forward smoothly and stand the test of time. He’s also witnessed customers spend many cycles and meetings to discuss strategies, business models and technology year after year. “It’s about seeing what the value is for the customer,” Dahlstrom advises, since everyone’s learning in a new market, and not all end-users really know what value is possible. “Let’s make a proof of concept, let’s make a minimum viable application,” his team encourages customers, “Because I think it’s about learning.” Make technology easy for the customer Customers don’t want overly complicated troubleshooting or technical setup, even as IoT tech proliferates their phones, cars and devices. The same goes for workers using IoT for the first time to make smarter cities or automated manufacturing. “We need to stop teaching technology to people; we need to start teaching people to technology,” said Ivo Rook, senior vice president of IoT at Sprint. Depending on where IoT solutions fall in the value chain can inform new roles for the business and the steps it needs to take to innovate. Grundfos’ former Vice President and Head of Digital Transformation Fredrik Östbye discussed the cycle of value creation and how more data begets more customers. “We can use [data] to create even better products by understanding how our customers are using them… what is functioning and what is not functioning – and that can help us to [create] even better products, which leads to even more customers, hopefully.” Organizations are also recognizing that IoT rollouts have various levels of stakeholders for adoption. In Audi’s case, the workers on the factory floor are the key subjects or “customers” for adopting new technology. Dr. Henning Löser, head of Audi’s production lab, acknowledges that ease of use is crucial for ensuring the factory workers will want to use technology in the future by seeking feedback like, “Does this actually help you in your daily work? How would you want to use this? And the point we’re making is – our customers from technology development – are our colleagues, are the workers in our factories. So, it’s concentrating on our customers there, as well.” Partner with the right expertise for the market Helping customers means much more than knowing your own product; sometimes, it means knowing about a customer’s business and product for the complete life cycle. “How do they sell it? How do they support it?” posed Marie Sandå, head of commercial product management for IoT connectivity at Telia. “And where can we be a part of that chain to be a good partner? And that is different from different customers, and different industries,” added Sandå. For an operator or other organization that is not as specialized in public transport, smart cities or other types of verticals, customers will value the expertise from other partners that their IoT guides can connect. Telia’s Head of Data Insights for Division X Kristofer Ågren discusses how this works further: “If we are not able to provide the answer, then we need to… bring someone who actually has the vertical expertise to formulate what is the business problem, what is this vertical, what is [the] relevance... in this vertical.” Part of the uncertainty of IoT is the untapped opportunity that has yet to be visualized, and the promise it has for new, creative applications. IoT experts that chart the path for customers will need to understand their respective markets, challenges and the value they can realize from solutions in the wild. When the IoT concepts will address specific industry challenges or sophisticated markets, the additional self-awareness for businesses to convey the value or bring in specialized partners will help customers feel confident in moving forward on a proof of concept. “We need to realize that overall, people are very happy. When people are happy, they are not looking for products…” advised Sprint’s Rook. “So, you need to be able to articulate whatever it is that you do to people in a way that makes them even happier.” Listen to these IoT leaders and others about the challenges they face, how they work with B2B customer experience and how they achieved IoT success in our IoT podcast series, “Talking IoT with Ericsson.”