Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Digging down into Remote Management Systems

Hooboy ... can you think of a more stimulating discussion on this Mardis Gras than one about the remote management needs for service providers? Although it seems like a less-than-stimulating discussion, we've spent some time in the last weeks interviewing companies implementing remote management system solutions to better understand the needs of service providers and the role of RMS in helping reduce customer service costs.

The issue of how service providers are going to support all of the products and services in their bundled services and home network strategies is critical, since early estimates indicate that call volumes and call times to customer service representatives (CSRs) tend to double with the installation of a home network. No service provider in its right mind would want to bear the added cost of taking all of those phone calls when their pricing is pretty tight as it is.

Enter RMS. This is basically a fancy term for holistic solutions that provide service providers with four key benefits in four main areas:

  • Service activation. This can include the provisioning of a broadband connection and activation of the requisite equipment (modem or residential gateway) in a self-installed fashion.
  • Deploying new value-added services. Many customers sign up intitially for a few basic services - perhaps just a broadband connection at first. However, as service providers roll out new services (voice-over-IP, IPTV, Web camera monitoring, etc.), they'll not only want to activate the accompanying hardware required, but also make sure that back-end systems (billing) are notified that the customer has activitated Service X and should be billed accordingly.
  • Proactive maintenance. RMS sytems can be set up to receive automatic diagnostic information and resolve conflicts before they result in a phone call. Some of these solutions could include resolving TCP/IP or port settings that may have gotten out of whack.
  • Remote diagnostics and troubleshooting. RMS is being used to allow customer service representatives to handle troubleshooting phone calls with greater efficiency. Some RMS vendors indicate that one big problem that they are currently solving is avoiding the "Annoying 20 Questions," where a CSR agent has to painfully go through a list of standard questions ("What is your modem brand, what kind of operating system do you have, etc.). Instead, much of this information is presented automatically to the CSR agent, and he or she can instead focus on fixing the problem.

We're following this space closely, as we're anticipating that this year and next will be significant in the development and deployment of additional RMS features. Today, the RMS benefits argument is pretty much all about saving costs on the customer care side of the service provider's business. In the future, however, we're likely looking at an environment in which dynamic reporting, data collection, and automatic troubleshooting are integrated into even more holistic customer care packages and solutions that we like to call "Trusted Digital Advisor" services. We wrote about this opportunity in a recent white paper titled Business Models for Managing the Digital Home.

Non-technical thought of the day: In addition to being Mardis Gras, today is also known as "Shrove Tuesday." It has also been called "Pancake Day." In honor of today, IHOP is giving away a free short-stack of buttermilk pancakes! Our advice? Take advantage of this offer!

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