Sunday, January 27, 2013

Service Bus Notification Hubs–Part 2 Improving Customer Engagement


In my previous post I introduced Service Bus Notifications and explained why you may want to use it when sending Notifications to mobile devices.  In this post I want to explore its use in a corporate environment and how introducing this technology can improve customer engagement as well as employee engagement.

Use Case

Back in the Summer of 2012, I wrote a couple blog posts on BizTalk and SignalR.  The idea was that BizTalk could provide real time notifications to on premise users.  The notifications provided the current  state of particular events that were flowing through BizTalk. In this post there is a similar theme but this time we will extend the experience onto customers and mobile field workers.

The scenario that we are going dive into is a typical Customer Power Outage scenario.  We have all been there, we get home from work (or wherever) and discover that our power is out.  If you have never worked in the utility sector, you probably have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.  I have worked in the sector for close to 7 years and I can assure you that these scenarios are taken seriously.  At least the places that I have worked have treated them that way.

Each utility will vary greatly when it comes to dealing with Power Outage scenarios.  Some utilities will have very sophisticated SCADA and Outage Management Systems (OMS) others may simply rely upon customers calling their utility to notify them that their power is out.  Sometimes the power outage may be widespread other times it may be only you.  Much like any other company, or industry, the utility companies are looking for ways to provide Self Service capabilities to customers.  Just like you can check your bank account online, why can’t you see your power consumption or inform your power company that your power is off via a mobile application?

In the diagram below, you will see many different key data flows:

  • Notifying the OMS system of devices that have failed via SCADA interfaces
  • Customers calling and talking to a Contact Centre agent.  The Contact Centre agent in turn will leverage a Customer Information System (CIS) to log a ticket.
  • Customers who use an Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) service when live agents are currently servicing other customers
  • Self Service inputs such as mobile applications and  Websites

If an organization is using a Middleware product, such as BizTalk to bridge all of these different inputs with the Outage Management System then BizTalk has access to a lot of relevant, event driven information.

Another interesting fact is when orders are created and dispatched to Field workers aka Power Line Technicians (PLTS) information is often passed back to an ERP system.  This information is often used for Financial or Reporting purposes.  For instance if there is a power outage, then resources will be used to address the power outage.  This will include Employee time and materials such as replacement parts and equipment used such as vehicles to fix the problem. This information is usually passed back once the outage has been completed or maybe as the outage is being resolved in the form of updates. Since ERP systems are usually not part of Outage Management Systems, this information needs to be moved via  Middleware platform such as BizTalk.


Hopefully it has become apparent that BizTalk has access to a lot of important event driven information that is passing through it that may be of interest to other parties such as customers.  For instance if your power was out, would you like to know when the Estimated Time to Restore (ETR) is?  Or if you were the owner of a small business, who relied upon power to run its business, would you like to be notified the minute the outage is over? I am pretty sure you would.  The interesting part is that any decent Outage Management System will have this information.  The problem is that utilities just do not have the people resources to start calling people to let them know. Here is where the opportunity lies to use Service Bus Notification Hubs.

The Solution

Enter Service Bus Notification Hubs.  I think this is a great complimentary technology to BizTalk.  In this case BizTalk is performing traditional On-Premise integration and can easily hook into a progressive service like Service Bus Notification Hubs to deliver better customer engagement with very little effort.

I have built out a fairly comprehensive solution that dives deeper into this problem.  I will be breaking down this problem into a series of different posts.  But, as a bit of a teaser you can see part of the solution in the screen shot below.




%CyberDef said...

Could you clarify the use case versus posting to twitter ?

Thanks, Chris

Kent Weare said...

Not exactly sure what context you are using here(forgive me if I am wrong :-) ) but if you are saying why doesn't a user follow a twitter feed instead, I would argue they are two different things. The user would be pulling from twitter as opposed to receiving a push notification.

Another angle, which I haven't explained yet, is that these notifications can published to an individual user and therefore not in a public space like twitter.