A Smart Approach to Smart Home Services

Jan. 21, 2015
As the connected home and Internet of Things becomes more of a reality and the number of devices and their applications grows from ...
As the connected home and Internet of Things becomes more of a reality and the number of devices and their applications grows from entertainment to security and energy efficiency and beyond, consumers will look for one source they can call for installation and technical assistance. Cable operators are well-positioned to fill this need.

"We don't believe the Internet of Things can fulfill its potential without the Internet of Services," said Paul Weichselbaum, EVP of PlumChoice. "MSOs have a strong right to win in the connected home space. They have a continuous connection with consumers."

Even as more devices are available through retail outlets, it is unlikely a consumer will go to a big box store and plop down $1,000 for multiple devices at one time. "They might buy a thermostat and (return) for a light switch," Weichselbaum said. "The ecosystem will be built over time. A continuous service management environment becomes a requirement."

In other words, the retailers don't have the existing customer relationships, and neither do the device vendors, Weichselbaum said. The "thing makers dilemma," as he called it, is that manufacturers generally make something and then hope they don't hear from the consumer again. Success means a product that doesn't need tinkering. "They don't think in terms of continuous service management. (However,) as you add more devices, an (individual unit) may work fine, but not in the ecosystem."

The user won't know if it is a problem with the smartphone, Zigbee or the connected device. "This is the opportunity for the MSO to be the trusted third party," Weichselbaum said. "Customer and brand loyalty comes into play."

While 80% of requests that will come in are standard and can be handled by a call center, 20% of the situations are more complex. Since devices and ecosystems are still emerging, as soon as one service use case becomes routine, new ones will emerge. "MSOs need to think through how to manage that kind of environment. They are used to managing products where they define the scope. Now it is a user-defined scope ... to really own the customer will require a multifaceted service approach," said Weichselbaum, whose company provides white-labeled technical support solutions.

It also will require a change in thinking. "When the service calls come in, if (MSOs) view it as tech support, that is a missed opportunity. Tech support calls are a cost obligation - a necessary evil," Weichselbaum said.

Instead, MSOs should think about it as a brand opportunity to expand customer lifespan and further the relationship. Other benefits include increased revenue, share of wallet, and lifetime ARPU. On the other hand, there is a risk of not taking action to be a provider of services in this new ecosystem. "There are a lot of big players moving into this space," Weichselbaum said. "There is still a first mover opportunity."