Service Your Products Better with a Connected Strategy

Written by: Lora Estey

Read Time: 3 min

What are smart connected products?

A Smart Connected Product (SCP) is any device that is connected to the internet to share data about itself and its environment. This data may include real-time performance metrics, status and health information about the device itself, comparative information relative to similar or related devices, and even predictive information used to prevent potential future problems. To be a considered a true SCP, a device must include physical, smart, and (actively) connected components. While a product’s tangible materials, like mechanical and electrical parts, comprise the physical components, smart components are made up of sensors, controls, and software. These two aspects work together to allow for the connectivity component, which enables the product to connect to its environment and outside systems.

If you are just starting your SCP journey, this all may sound daunting, however, PTC’s Smart Connected Products Accelerator (SCPa) enables rapid implementation of integral remote service use cases and provides significantly faster time-to-value. While they are not holistic solutions, accelerators are an advanced set of capabilities that can deliver a 40% lower total cost of ownership by using templates that allow you to choose your own digital configuration and which properties users will be able to see. This means that you don’t have to start from scratch. The accelerators will get you up and running quickly – even allowing non-IT members to manage the system.

What is the need for smart and connected products?

Once industrial equipment leaves their hands, suppliers are often left with plenty of uncertainty. They might have questions regarding equipment performance and uptime, but they don’t have a concrete way to answer them. There may be excellent opportunities to provide additional services, data utilization, or improve customer satisfaction—but all of those opportunities are walled off from the supplier. SCPs can replace this unpredictability with secure visibility — revealing valuable monetization strategies. With real time performance data, Connected Products unlock increased profitability, escalated customer loyalty, and an emphasis on data-driven decision-making.

How do smart connected products provide a competitive advantage?

SCPs are designed with internet connectivity and advanced sensors that can collect and transmit data in real time. The insights that can be gleaned from this data include consumer behavior, preferences, and trends, the ways customers use products, areas where improvements can be made, or even the creation of entirely new revenue streams. Companies can also use this data to offer new services and stay a step ahead of the competition by leveraging new insights to make data-driven decisions and increase operational efficiency.

Why a connected product strategy?

Before you implement any software solution, you need a strategy, and SCPa is no different. Connected products offer functionality far beyond typical products. For most industrial users, the greatest draw toward SCPs is in reducing risks, ranging from lagging in the digital transformation journey to servicing products remotely. Building a connected product strategy will help you identify the greatest opportunities for growth, including reducing waste and costs, and generating additional revenue.

Some of the benefits of implementing a Connected Product Strategy include: 

  • Lowering service costs by minimizing onsite fixes
  • Increasing First Time Fix Rates
  • Allowing for remote diagnostics and remote fixes
  • Optimizing product performance
  • Improving customer retention and satisfaction 

Companies just beginning to implement SCPs must have a long-term vision and strategy to ensure they will see a return on their investments. Once an organization’s goals, needs, and capabilities are identified, it can begin to define what its strategy and process will look like.

What are the benefits of a connected product strategy?

Lowering service costs by minimizing onsite fixes

A connected product strategy can help businesses save money on service costs by minimizing onsite fixes. Remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, firmware updates, and efficient resource allocation are just a few of the ways that a connected product strategy can help businesses reduce service costs and improve their bottom line.

Connected products can also help businesses implement predictive maintenance strategies. By analyzing the data collected, businesses can predict and schedule maintenance before an issue occurs. This kind of proactive approach to maintenance can help prevent downtime.

Another way that a connected product strategy can help lower service costs is by allowing businesses to update firmware remotely to address bugs and security vulnerabilities, save money on service costs, and improve overall efficiency by ensuring that products continue to perform optimally.

Increasing first-time fix rates (FTFR)

One of the benefits of a connected product strategy is that it can increase first-time fix rates (FTFR) for products. FTFR refers to the ability of a technician to fix a problem with a product on the first visit. Connected products give technicians valuable real-time data to help diagnose and solve problems quickly.

The product manufacturer can then analyze the data and provide technicians with detailed diagnoses of problems, along with instructions to fix them. This kind of real-time support can significantly improve FTFR and reduce the need for repeat service visits, saving time and money for both the manufacturer and the customer.

A connected product strategy can even improve customer satisfaction by resolving issued quickly and efficiently. The valuable data manufacturers gather about how customers use their products can also be used to improve product design and in the development of new products.

Allowing for remote diagnostics and remote fixes

Connected products include smart home thermostats, wearable fitness trackers, and cars like the Tesla. One of the biggest benefits of connected products is the ability to remotely diagnose issues. When a connected product has an issue, it can send diagnostic data back to the manufacturer to identify the problem and develop a fix.

This fix can be delivered remotely, without needing the product to be physically brought in for repair, saving both the manufacturer and the consumer time and money. In fact, remote diagnostics and fixes offer a range of benefits to consumers and manufacturers.

For consumers, it means that the products they’ve purchased can be fixed quickly and easily, without having to take time to bring the product to a physical location for repair. For manufacturers, it means that they can identify and fix issues quickly, remotely, eliminating the need to recall products.

Optimizing product performance

A connected product strategy can optimize product performance from real-time data collection and analysis to improved user experience and remote monitoring and control. Connectivity empowers manufacturers to create more useful and efficient products to increase their profitability.

Integrating internet connectivity and technology enhances the performance and functionality of products. This strategy provides businesses with valuable data as to how customers use their products and how products are performing, which informs businesses in their decision-making about product improvements.

Optimal product performance can even lead to the creation of new revenue streams for manufacturers such as offering customers a subscription service with ongoing monitoring and maintenance for a connected product. This can be a win-win for both customers, who have the peace of mind of knowing their product is being monitored and maintained, and manufacturers get a steady stream of income.

Improving customer retention and satisfaction

Connected products provide customers with a more personalized experience. By collecting, Businesses can tailor their products to better meet customer needs with collected data on their behavior and preferences. This level of personalization can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The enhanced functionality of connected products can make them more valuable to the customer so they will use them regularly. Many people rely on connected fitness trackers, for instance, to monitor their heart rate, track their steps, and even provide personalized workout recommendations.

Providing customers with access to their product usage data can also increase customer engagement with a brand, and businesses can encourage customers to use their products more frequently. Customers are more likely to recommend products that they use regularly and enjoy to family, friends, and colleagues, leading to increased business and brand loyalty.

How can a connected product strategy reshape the workforce?

Data is the largest driver behind a connected product strategy’s effect on workforce transformation. Today, the plethora of data collected through surveys, research, and other traditional sources is being supplemented by the product itself. Real-time data derived straight from the product can reveal a treasure trove of insights, such as asset location, pending service needs, warranty, and performance.

By using this insightful data, manufacturers and service teams can predict when a product will need service and catch red flags which can prevent equipment failures down the line. When issues like these are caught in advance, costly and unexpected repairs can be avoided. This not only lowers service costs, but also improves customer satisfaction. Organizations using a Connected Product Strategy can monitor assets, optimize service, enable predictive analytics – and ultimately create a heightened trust with their customers.

How to develop an effective connected product strategy

To develop a strong connected product strategy, it’s important to start small and focused. It can be tempting to attempt to solve every challenge from the get-go, but it is easy to get stuck dreaming of everything you can do. Rather than looking at a wide breadth of issues, it is better to focus on depth – unlocking value comes seamlessly when it is centered on a specific goal. Smart Connected Product strategies grow with your company; learn which SCP efforts will provide the most value, and build outward from there.

Learn About Smart Connected Products

Check out Episode 13 of our Speaking of Service podcast series to learn more about how implementing a Connected Product Strategy can bring about faster time-to-value while saving your organization money. Listen Now
Tags: Connected Devices Industrial Internet of Things Remote Service Thingworx

About the Author

Lora Estey

Lora focuses on the solutions for Smart Connected Products within the IIoT ThingWorx Platform. She previously worked at the PTC Center of Excellence for IIOT where she collaborated closely with customers using the ThingWorx Platform for their own Smart Connected Product applications. Before PTC, Lora worked as a Release Engineer, Development Tools Lead, and DevOps Engineer for various enterprise systems.

She holds a Bachelor of Science of Engineering with an Electrical Emphasis from Grand Valley State University.