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Mobile CRM's Great Big Internet of Things Challenge

Mobile CRM's Great Big Internet of Things Challenge

Service will have to be a main consideration for CRM when the Internet of Things arrives -- and providing rudimentary tech help for the gadgets in question won't be enough. Consumers already think nothing of sending requests for service via Twitter, for example. That attitude will surely spread to the connected refrigerator and other smart appliances that can send and presumably receive messages.

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
01/30/14 5:54 PM PT

Shortly after Google's US$3.2 billion acquisition of Nest was announced, Nest CEO Tony Fadell felt obliged to clarify something for its users: Any changes to the company's privacy policy would be opt-in. Also, Nest would be transparent about those changes to its users, he said.

It's questionable whether Fadell can keep such a promise, unless there's a specific provision in the acquisition contract that supports it.

Still, Fadell's remarks -- and the concerns that prompted them -- point to an important consideration for mobile CRM as it makes its inevitable march into the Internet of Things.

Service, support and even marketing must accommodate this new channel and address the consumers' sensitivities about it.

Privacy Policy Changes

The privacy policy promise Fadell made is a no-brainer. Nest offers a line of smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as thermostats that adjust to household activity in order to increase energy efficiency.

There is rampant speculation on why Google wants this company, ranging from the mere desire to make inroads into the smart and connected home market to the more extravagant advertising scenario of sending a coupon for moisturizer as soon as someone steps out of the shower.

While consumers have, by and large, appeared willing to make the trade-off between Google's services and its targeting, the creep-out factor is looming.

Policies will have to be adjusted as the Internet of Things approaches critical mass.

The Service Issue

Consider service. Although Google and Nest have not specifically raised the issue, it has caught the attention of Dan Pallotta, a blogger for the Harvard Business Review.

Installing Nest products required a service professional, Pallotta noted, relating his own experience.

Nest doesn't have a great service culture, he wrote -- and Google is not up to the task at all.

"Tech support is really important for this product, which is complicated to install, set up and maintain," Pallotta wrote. "Playing middleman between your thermostat, your home electrical system, and your heating and air conditioning system is not for the faint of heart."

Service will have to be a main consideration for CRM when the Internet of Things is prevalent -- and providing rudimentary tech help for the gadgets in question won't be enough. Consumers already think nothing of sending requests for service via Twitter, for example. That attitude will surely spread to the connected refrigerator and other smart appliances that can send and presumably receive messages.

Speaking of refrigerators, the Internet of Things is a channel that will have to be carefully secured, precisely because consumers will feel more sensitive about connected devices. As recent events have shown, malware writers are already eyeing them as a new market to penetrate.

A proof-of-concept bug aimed at home routers, burglar alarms, webcams and a refrigerator made the news earlier this month, based on a Proofpoint report. The devices were sending spam and phishing emails that contained malware aimed at stealing passwords and other data.

Changing Definition of Mobile

If all of this seems far afield from the traditional concept of mobile CRM, well, it is -- but not for long, I expect. Mobile computing is a rapidly changing form factor. It has gone from standard phones to smartphones to tablets in a matter of a decade. The Internet of Things, with its vast potential, surely is not far behind.

Salesforce.com, for one, eagerly embraced its potential with the release last November of Salesforce1, a mobile-first development platform that promises to connect the enterprise to the Internet of Things via its APIs.

Salesforce.com's new approach is to equate things with customers, and deploy systems accordingly. That's fine from a technology Visit the VMware Tech Center perspective -- but as these applications go live, companies will have to accommodate the customers using the devices too.


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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