During the three-people-in-a-room early days of running Power2Switch, we made a decision to take every customer call we received. It was easy in those early days, the calls came directly to my phone! As we grew and launched in several US states we maintained this culture but had only one person taking the calls. As you can imagine, it became stressful for Victoria H (our all-around amazing operations person) as we hit tens of thousands of residential and small business customers. So we went back to everyone on the team taking a call and it was great. Great because it kept everyone on the team fully aware of what was going on with our customers.
Most of our customers did not understand their electricity bill and we got a lot of calls asking what things meant on the bills. One day, a customer called in and it routed to my phone. The customer called in because he’d received a ‘smart meter installation’ notification from his utility and he wanted to know how a smart meter benefited him. I gave him the typical response that the meter helped the utility get better data on his usage and it would lead to better customer service from his utility. He laughed and said (and I’m paraphrasing here)
“the utility has never done anything for me, I’m certain this smart meter thing is actually to benefit them as always”
That customer was right. And he hit at the core of the issues with deploying smart products that provides more value to the company deploying than to the customer receiving the product. It’s a trap that many IoT/IIoT (PDF) devices fall into. And it will be a huge issue as Gartner predicts that by 2020 95% of new product designed and released into the market will be IoT devices.
An impressive 7M customers in Texas have smart meters. Smart meter deployments have been completed in 271 of 488 zip codes in the coverage area for Comed in Illinois. What have these customers, who for the most part do not care about these smart meters, found out about the benefits?
Suffice to say, the only metric on which these smart meter deployments could be considered as successful would be number of meters deployed. And this is only because they were essentially mandated.
What are companies deploying IoT devices, which is what the smart meters were, able to take from what can be considered a failed attempt to engage with customers? While the deployments have gone well, due to mandated adoptions, there are lessons drawn from questions for (these same utilities and) any company deploying hardware into a customers home. The questions are not exhaustive, just some questions that require deep thought and clarity over the long-term. Questions I should have answered before I failed at my own water IoT device startup::
What other considerations should a product developer/IoT company or deployer bear in mind?
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