EDITORS CHOICE 04.09.15

Tech Support: How AV Pros Can Meet IoT Demands

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Growth in broadband speeds, mobile control, and cloud services alongside falling price points for popular connected devices are driving intense market growth for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The net result of these drivers is a dramatic increase in the number of devices in the home and significantly higher industry expectations for future IoT growth. However, this growth and the added complexity of devices are challenging brands’ ability to provide support to customers. Rising adoption of smart home devices is prompting a parallel increase in support requests. Parks Associates research shows over 50% of smart home device owners in the U.S. experience problems with at least one of their devices. Smart home devices will prompt over seven million support requests in 2015 and nearly 11 million by 2019.

Connected devices are tackling many new use cases, including home security, healthcare, and controls alongside entertainment, creating a new role in the Internet of Things for companies that can ensure seamless connectivity while preserving security. Parks Associates’ consumer data shows 60% of U.S. broadband households have concerns over device and data security when using connected devices. The smart home won’t succeed without consumer confidence, and support services go a long way to providing that confidence. Effective support services can minimise current and anticipated challenges of IoT growth and promote adoption across various device categories.

However, for consumer technology brands and other support providers, meeting consumer demands generated by the IoT may require adjustments to backend support infrastructure as well as front-end service strategies. To remain competitive alongside the growth of the IoT, support providers should identify and address problems proactively, before they negatively impact the customer experience. This can be achieved in a myriad of ways:
  • Utilise the data generated by connected products – Companies have already begun to leverage the data generated by connected products to refine decision-making in business processes as well as to improve products and services.  Leveraging a smart product’s connection also allows manufacturers to fully understand important issues and quickly develop countermeasures and fixes.
  • Increase direct investments in new support tools and services – New devices mean new tools and new knowledge, requiring additional support resources, and the brands that can provide these upfront will minimise the overall burden to both their brand and the consumer.
  • Leverage business analytics to guide support changes – The support activities of call centers can generate important data. However, to be useful, this data needs to be transformed into actionable insight that helps the call center identify opportunities to improve support efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Leverage self-help tools for education-based support – Enablement and educational support services are critically important, due to lack of consumer familiarity with new devices and the growing complexity of broadband households. Self-help tools, traditionally a costly necessity for consumer technology brands, are a promising resource to help brands reduce costs that address the increasing demands generated by IoT.
  • Communicate connected device and service security – Once brands have built robust security measures into their connected products, they must also communicate their efforts to consumers in order to minimise perceived risks. Marketing messages regarding the security of consumer devices and data are just as important as information regarding the features and functionality of the device.
Consumer education can go a long way in addressing potential issues before they become problematic. Not only does greater consumer education promote product adoption, but it also minimises “no fault found” returns. In the smart home market, channels that utilise a more consultative selling approach have been the most successful to date. Security service providers have consistently used this approach and now lead in the market for smart home services. The smart home is the next major opportunity for premium support. As consumers acquire more devices to enable smart home services, the likelihood that they will acquire a premium technical support service increases. The brands that can innovate and adapt in order to deliver the necessary support—for both device functionality and security—will ultimately emerge as IoT market leaders.

Patrice Samuels is a Research Analyst with Parks Associates