Jonathan Wilkinson, Head of Internet of Things at Ideal Boilers, explains how technology is helping businesses to provide better customer service and build lasting loyalty.

The customer is always right is a motto that was popularised by late 19th Century retail magnates, including one Harry Gordon Selfridge. Today, the internet has given the customer a louder voice and more power, and now every business needs to make great customer service a top priority.

We all know that unhappy customers are much more likely to shout about their experience than happy ones, unfortunately. If customers reach out to get help and can’t find a quick and easy solution, they can make their thoughts known in a matter of seconds online.

Up until now, businesses have mostly only been able to react to customer issues. The IoT promises to revolutionise how customer service is delivered, by enabling proactive resolution of problems, even before the customer is aware of them.

In the case of the heating sector, we are increasingly seeing boilers and thermostats connected to the internet and controlled remotely by an app, and this offers both installers and their customers a host of benefits.

Smart choice

Traditionally, thermostats have been quite hard to use, with many consumers not using timers effectively and reaching for the override switch all too often. This is clearly an inefficient way to control your heating with the home being too cold or too hot at the wrong times.

A smart thermostat and connected app make it much easier to create a comfortable temperature in the home, by allowing control remotely via a simple and intuitive user interface or through geolocation. Being able to set zones or turn the heating on or off from work or elsewhere is very handy, especially if you don’t have a fixed routine.

With geolocation enabled, residents can completely forget about the heating, as it will only switch itself on when they are within a certain radius of home. Naturally, if nobody is at home, the system will turn itself off.

Using the heating this way has the twin benefits of greater comfort and better energy efficiency. If the home is heated more efficiently, installers are more likely to have happy customers who don’t need to get in touch after installation, except to book in their annual service. This leads us onto another benefit.

If a boiler is connected to the internet and an app, communication is a two-way street. This means that the boiler can send its owner’s phone a notification that a service is due. Hopefully, this should ensure that far more householders remember to get their boiler serviced and avoid preventable issues.

As last winter proved, there’s nothing like sub-freezing temperatures to make the installer’s phone ring off the hook. It would be much better if people were able to know that their boiler has developed a fault before everything goes wrong at once.

Happily, that technology is now here. Many leading boilers can now notify a customer as soon as a fault arises, enabling them to contact the installer immediately, rather than when it’s -5°c and there’s a foot of snow outside. We believe these pro-active notifications, and resulting preventative maintenance, will spearhead a new era of customer service, helping installers to fix problems faster and minimising their impact on customers.

Easy access

The internet and smartphones are also transforming how installers receive support from manufacturers. For instance, the Ideal Installer Connect App features a fault finding tool and direct technical support call/email functionality if instant help is needed, along with boiler registration and loyalty scheme features.

Installers can also make use of social media or live chat functions on many manufacturer websites, including Ideal, if they have a quick query. Our customer service team can even log into a customer’s device to see exactly what they are seeing, if there is a problem with the app.

We hear a lot of horror stories about the internet and modern technology, but great customer service is about finding answers fast, and the internet now offers manufacturers the means to remedy issues quickly.