Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is changing the way companies and customers communicate and interact with one another. Connected technology is growing, and allowing for more efficient means of communication.
Let us take smart energy meters, for example. Where power companies once had to send agents to manually check meters, they can now utilize a more efficient method for remotely monitoring their customers’ power usage. Smart meters, as devices connected to a network (provided by a telco, let’s say), and then to energy companies’ systems, are a prime example of the ubiquity of M2M technology.
But, as M2M, a telco-based technology, slowly infiltrates vertical markets globally, there is the risk that the real-world customer experience could fall through the cracks. As M2M growth continues, customer experience management (CEM) solutions will need to evolve to meet the growing demand from new, real-time interactions and, in effect, CEM and M2M solutions will have to converge.
Consider residential customers who are overcharged on their monthly energy bill. They will have to call the energy company, perhaps wait on the phone and traverse a number of automated menus or department transfers, before finally resolving the billing issue. This is poor experience from a customer standpoint, and surely not the most efficient use of the energy company’s resources.
Now, imagine a smart meter that alerts the energy company of a possible error and allows the customer service agent to view the customer’s M2M-sourced information – based on location or phone number – the moment the call connects. Customer satisfaction levels will rise, and companies will experience lowered costs if M2M devices and CEM applications are combined into a converged solution, or at the very least, communicating with each other.
On the other side of the pipeline, a telco might sell the energy company SIM cards or infrastructure equipment that allows the smart meters to connect to networks. Energy companies are not telecommunications equipment experts, so you can imagine the energy company’s frustration when tasked with maintaining its network equipment as well as its own devices. When the energy company experiences problems with smart meters caused by network outages, they must contact the telco, and spend time and money to address the connectivity issue.
If the telco’s infrastructure (antennas, towers, repeaters, etc.) has mechanisms for alerting the telco when problems occur, the telco can effectively and proactively address a network or connectivity problem before it negatively affects their energy company customer.
M2M technology, such as smart meters, is poised to become ubiquitous. Concurrently, CEM practices are evolving and allowing for more proactive and automated responses to customer issues. The problem is that the two industries are evolving along parallel paths. But as consumers have more and more real-time M2M communication channels entering their lives, they will expect real-time responses to their complaints. M2M and CEM need each other, and in order for the technologies to complement one another, their paths must converge.
Tom Lybarger is Assistant Vice President of Engineering at Altran