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July 16, 2012

Can Remote Device Monitoring benefit Field Service organizations

We all at some point of time would have come across "Remote device monitoring" or Machine to Machine Communication as an advanced way to interact with remotely located devices or equipment. Organizations have leveraged this breakthrough technology in various ways to pro-actively monitor the functioning of the devices and to take remedial actions before a major fault occurs. Remote Device Monitoring has seen wide spread usage in industries as diverse as Security management to monitor and control surveillance equipment and alarms, Transportation fleet management, provisioning of utilities such as oil, water or electricity, Production management in Manufacturing.

However, the application of RDM in healthcare was what left me thinking of how close this concept is reaching us i.e. the customers. 

Doctors and hospitals are using this technology to track critical health parameters of their patients such as heart rates, blood pressure and weight. The base technologies for setting up the telephonic transmission of this information to the web interfaces of your family doctor or hospital are available from many vendors. This aids in real-time transmission of data over phone line to web-based system.

This process of receiving data can be scheduled for a remote follow-up or for frequency based checks. This is becoming revolutionary in monitoring pace maker devices and to alert the patient if the device is not functioning properly.

Now coming to my area of Interest i.e. customer service. Today Field Service management apps which are integrated with your CRM application are bringing in Remote Device Monitoring [1] to increase customer delight. 

You have a Product installed at one of your company locations, installed by a vendor X. You are entitled to Warranty for the first one year and subsequent Service Maintenance Contracts. This covers your quarterly Preventive Maintenance check-ups and Emergency Maintenance Services by the vendor. However, imagine a scenario where an un-called for fault occurs and you are not prepared for the downtime. You immediately raise a Work Order with your vendor by calling up on the call center or by using the customer portal and the Field Engineer comes and rectifies the issue based on a pre-defined Service Level agreement.

The Service Provider use Remote device monitoring, setup a Machine to Machine network around your equipment and use a modem to facilitate this communication to their secure servers

There are various operational parameters of your device that the vendor can measure and capture (Taking some broad examples):
- Appropriate Level of consumables such as coolants, solvents, ink etc.
- Inventory levels
- Desired outcome based on electric wave transmissions etc.

I just took some broad un-related examples to drive home a point that the facility to capture data is tremendous. 

Once this is done, any deviation from these defined operational parameters will trigger a timely communication to the Service Providers data base. The CRM system installed at the vendors' location will automatically create a Work Order for an engineer to visit your site and resolve these contingencies, even before the actual problem occurs. Subsequently, remote monitoring can be scheduled, which may replace a manual visit for Preventive Maintenance check-ups.

- Immediate notification of faults and malfunctions before problems escalate
- Automatic recording of consumables
- New or improved service level / service models
- Increased uptime of the equipment
- Reduced labor costs by avoiding multiple visits to the customer location reducing time and material expenses for the engineer
- Can monitor how the customer is using your product for future recommended action

[1] http://www.servicemax.com/about-us/press-releases/ServiceMax-Spring12-release.html

July 13, 2012

Time to give birth to Customer Grievance Management (CGM)

By Richy Yati Mishra

Today (date: 13th July 2012) if we search customer grievance management in Wikipedia then surprisingly there is no page developed for this. My first thought was to assume maybe producers or consumers have not given enough importance, but on further pondering it seems that grievance is treated under a service/post sales service category.

Recently, I was annoyed with one of the leading electronic brand and thought of registering a case in consumer court. I logged to consumer court's online forum. To my surprise, the problem which I am facing is faced by many people earlier. The way feedbacks and experiences are mentioned, for a moment I wondered if this is about the same leading brand. Same repetitive issues and company is doing nothing? Where is the customer service?
This anxiety took me to go through other companies cases and again to my surprise I found similar issues there. Then I realized it's not the issue with single company rather with each and every company. Now companies are defining CRM with their presence in Social Medias but after reading the experience of customers I felt the CRM of many companies have disregarded their customer complaints. This led me to read further and here are few of my analysis:

1. Establish a formal channel: One of the parameter to judge best customer service is by providing more and easier ways for customers to reach the companies when they face any issues. Very minimal proactive measures from companies to reach customers after sales.

2. First customer facing group (customer service representatives) is not empowered for many companies. This is leading to dissatisfaction for many customers in their first call itself.

3. Companies have hired/outsourced their service departments to 3rd party local vendors. Many a times the culture/vision/ethics of the parent company is not passed well to the outsourced company.

4. With increase in customer base it's difficult to track and satisfy all. Sometimes company is not ready and there is already a high demand for their product. And in turn company is not ready for post sales service.

These are the few points which immediately came to mind while reading the experience of customers in consumer court forum. And this is making me to believe that this is not an easy thing to solve and we need to build some process/ redefine few processes.

For example: Many customers in consumer forum are complaining after purchasing the product company people are not coming for demo or installation in time (problem).

Probable Reason:  Products are sold from 3rd party vendors and might be tracking system for the installation/demo user is not efficient. Or lots of request and staffing is not correct.

Solution: we can develop a mechanism where once a product is sold; retailor (including 3rd party) will inform the customer service team (via e-mail or text message) of that company. After this a dedicated team will follow up with the customers and the service providers.
Definitely as mentioned here it's not that easy but definitely we need to develop some process to handle this. Similarly coming to IT after every release/solution we provide a support of 2 to 4 weeks. Can we start interacting with the end user during this period? Can proactively we catch their issues? Can we create some mechanism to collect the end user issues and rather going through lengthy project management cycle can we solve that immediately? Can we create some process for this?

With this I am leaving a thought to think is this the time for Customer Grievance Management (CGM) to take birth?


About the Author: Richy Yati Mishra is a Senior Associate Consultant working for CRM domain; focus on go-to-market CRM solutions. He has more than 3 years of experience in IT industry.

July 2, 2012

Future of Business & Commerce in next decade: Part 1

Origin of business and commerce dates back to circa 150,000 years back(1) when prehistoric people started using trading to get things they needed. As it is assumed that it must have started by offering whatever one person has in exchange for some other thing which he wants. It established three basic elements of business; Buyer, Seller and Transaction. With progress in civilization, Business & commerce has evolved a lot and would continue to change in future too.  However, I believe, fundamentals of business has always been remain same and in coming future too, they would remain valid i.e. customer on realizing need for some product (buyers) would approach sellers of the product (organization) and make payment to get the product (transaction).  What is going to change in future is the way customer's need is recognized by customer herself and by organizations, the way alternatives are searched and information is processed by customers and organizations, and the way purchasing decisions are made by customers. In this series of blog, I am going to analyze changing dynamics in business environment and what can be expected in coming few years from it. In this series of blog, I would focus on three primary elements of business; Customers, Organizations and Transaction. There might be some other players too (e.g. suppliers, government, law agencies etc.), however, I think, they can be categorized either as internal/external customers or guided by changes in business environment.

Starting with customer, can we think how they would make purchase decisions in future? There are few clues for it:

(1)    Around 2.26 billion people (around 32% of entire population on earth) in world uses internet today, 528% growth from Year 2000(2)
(2)    Mobile phone penetration is reaching to saturation in most of the developed/developing countries, smart phone penetration is on rise in all countries (Australia, Sweden, UK, Norway, UAE etc. has more than 50% smartphone penetration)(3)
(3)    Social media website has gone viral (800 million active users for Facebook, 400 million users on twitter)(4)

With fast adoption of internet, mobile, computers as a mean for searching information, interacting with world around, making decisions and doing transactions, there is an introduction of new customer segment based on their affinity for internet/mobile/social media usage. This tech-savvy segment have found a platform to search for any products and services, seek feedback from other users, see all information available about products and take a decision, all in few clicks. When a customer talks about any products/services, it can be seen by millions of users instantaneously and other users can make an opinion based on that. This segment is growing fast and has capability to force organizations to look at their current processes and make a shift. In coming years, organizations would witness this new customer segment growing in size making traditional campaign, lead, sales and support process redundant. Also, once customers would find many choices available for their need, they would focus more on personalization. It would again throw another challenge for an organization to deal with.

While saying that these tech savvy consumers are going to make a big impact on business environment, it is assumed that technology progress would make the transition a seamless process with secure, reliable and hassle free system. Without any location or device constraint, customers would be able to participate in all levels of sales process.  In response to this change, organizations would also be forced to change and they would adopt new things. In my next blog, I would discuss how changing customers' behavior is going to impact organizations processes.

(1)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerce
(2)    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm
(3)    http://www.electronicsweekly.com/blogs/eyes-on-android-updates/2012/05/smartphone-adoption-goes-global--google-mobile-planet-2012-data.html
(4)    http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-active-total-users_b17655
(5)    http://www.infosys.com/building-tomorrows-enterprise/digital-consumers/Pages/index.aspx