WeMakeIoT

The Internet of Things, Customer Expectations and Service Agreements

The Internet of Things (IoT) and IoT-connected devices include everything from smartphones and smart factories to aeroplane engines and smart nursing stations. There are hundreds of  IoT service providers across the globe offering Internet of Things devices and services, and it is challenging for customers to choose the right supplier or IoT partners for their projects. Service Level Agreements (SLA) play a key role in providing project delivery, and its support and maintenance. Service Level Agreements in IoT projects are used to ensure that an IoT service provider meets the project expectations of the customer.  It is documentation that forms part of the contract agreement between Internet of Things providers and the buyer or customer.

SLAs for IoT include the mutually agreed service outcomes related to devices, networks and data. Three important measurement parameters are availability, performance and zero downtime assurance. It will cover the expectations of a customer. It is all about sensors that are built inside the devices, connected to an Internet of Things platform base that will integrate the data coming from different devices. The data will be displayed in an IoT dashboard to share valuable information with applications built to address specific needs.

The challenge:

Customers should be realistic about IoT SLAs and shouldn’t waste time on areas that are highly unlikely, if not impossible, in executing that support. IoT providers are offering multiple tiers of support, with basic support included in the project description. The products are typically designed to fit most use cases. However, customisation areas need special attention, since the devices and software are made only for the particular process and expectation of the customer.

Statistics says many of today’s leading IoT suppliers offer 99.5% to 99.9% uptime. Some customers feel suppliers do not maintain these promises in the actual delivery and this poses a major challenge.

Solution:

If something does go wrong, it’s usually due to slow performance rather than unavailability. This issue has to be communicated to the supplier. However, there are incidents where end-users need to prove that it is the supplier’s fault, and not basic issues such as internet connection. For mission-critical applications,  even a second of downtime can be serious if it terminates ‘in-progress’ customer sessions and causes data loss. However, a minute’s delay with recovery may only be a minor issue and not an SLA violation for another application.

So the focus areas in Service Level Agreements are as follows;

  • A detailed description of the total service provided by the IOT partner. The document should cover maintenance and support areas such as network connectivity, domain-name-servers, and dynamic-host protocol servers.
  • Reliability support – Zero Down Time
  • Responsiveness support – On-time delivery of services
  • Reporting mechanisms and levels of escalation
  • The payment as per consequences for not meeting service agreements.
  • Reimbursement to customers
  • Assumptions, escape clauses or constraints

To build relationships and long-term value, suppliers provide support staff dedicated to the application. Apart from people support, large systems provided with knowledge bases as any time reckoners, online helpline manuals & bots that answer basic Q & A, play a supportive role in providing customers with the answers they need immediately.

It is the support system that makes a relationship long-term. To  ‘wow’ your customers, offer a few extra things that won’t affect your costs and provide excellent customer experiences. This will result in an established trust-based relationship with the customer and have already shown your value.