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In Ridley Scott’s Alien, there’s a scene in which Tom Skerrit’s character, Dallas, attempts to hunt down the titular creature as it slinks through their spaceship’s duct system (Why would a spaceship have a huge duct system? I don’t know). At the same time, Sigourney Weaver’s, Ripley, monitors the two through a crude GPS, showing Dallas and the Alien as blinking nodes dancing across an illuminated grid.

I couldn’t help but think of this scene while sitting in front of my web browser, watching a tiny, digital delivery truck slowly navigate the spaghetti of streets in Boston towards my house.

This logistical voyeurism is part of a beta program being rolled out by UPS, which gives users the ability to track their driver from fulfillment center to their front stoop in real-time. Imagine Uber’s interface, but when they arrive, the driver absolutely doesn’t want you getting in. It’s certainly cool (in spite of some questionable UI choices), and helps package recipients more efficiently plan out their day if they need to be around to sign for a package. It’s also been something that I’ve been extremely interested in as an application for Field Service. So much so, that I’ve just written a new report about it.

The report shows that organizations employing these sort of customer-facing insights (Along with others, like asset performance and predictive monitoring) see double the number of yearly service contract renewals. This is a dramatic improvement in workforce productivity, and a 5.5x YoY improvement in customer service costs when compared to those service firms without the technology. People want this, people seem to like it, and it saves money on operational costs.

The numbers speak for themselves, and I considered that, certainly, as I stared at the tiny truck avatar and became increasingly frustrated by the route chosen by the driver.

“He’s teetering on the edge of our street!” I whined to my wife, “Now he’s going the other way!”

My rational brain understood that the driver was executing what I’m certain was a meticulously-arranged route, designed to minimize downtime and prioritize commercial deliveries over remittance of whatever trinket I had impulse-bought. My reptilian hindbrain, though, flashing back to the famine and pestilence written into the dark, ancient corners of its DNA, forced me to hit ctrl+f5 over and over again, trying to compensate for the millisecond delay separating the real-time truck from its digital sibling.

This, I concluded, was a problem. Perhaps, yes, it was a problem with me, I’m willing to concede that, but there’s a broader consideration here.

I’ve long written about the importance of lowering the barriers of communication between the customer and the service provider. The technology, in many instances, is already in place through mobile devices, IoT, and GPS. Organizations need simply invest in the software solutions to bridge that gap. The question is: Is it possible to provide the customer with too much information?

That’s not an easy question to answer, especially when it comes to location service. Service deliverers obviously know why it is that they move through a given space in a given way, and vehicles need to do things like refuel, visit a wide array of company sites, and work on jobs of varying complexity.

It’s easy, then, to see an end user perplexed while a service vehicle sits on a map a block away for two hours, presented without any context. So — vehicle location only sort-of works for deliveries, but without context, doesn’t work very well at all for service.

There are a few easy ways to add service value, of course. To help set better expectations, organizations can provide queue position in addition to a map. Or, if you’re looking to protect client privacy by not showing a service vehicle sitting at a client site for several hours, you can limit the use of the map until a user is next in the queue, or eschew the map altogether and simply provide push notifications on status and expected arrival time.

As infuriating as watching the tiny avatar of the truck seemingly spite me as it swerved down my neighbor’s streets, I can see why this is offered to customers: End users want this level of visibility. It tells users that you, the firm, trusts them, values them, and wants you to know where they are. Leveraged inelegantly, though, this technology can be more of a liability than a benefit. It will be up to individual firms to decide how much they want their customers to know.

Read more in IOT and Self-Service: Putting Power in the Hands of Your End-User.

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