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Smart Home

Evolution of Self-Service Tools - Tech in the Home

Before the rise of connected devices, the product manual was typically the only resource available for users to solve product problems themselves. With the rise of home internet, self-service evolved to include options such as FAQ pages and support chat bots on product and service websites. Support forums and user-generated or expert-generated video tutorials on YouTube are also commonplace. These resources help users with general issues, but do not diagnose a user’s specific issue. The next generation of self-service tools offer proactive monitoring, user alerts, and guided resolution techniques, among others:

  • Network monitoring solutions provide visibility into the home network operation and performance, along with some level of remote control. With these, service providers and manufacturers can detect connectivity issues and troubleshoot device and network issues more efficiently.
  • Guided resolution is an emerging feature of support service tools, giving end-users specific steps to take to solve the identified issue themselves.
  • Evolving database of issues. Storing the resolutions and diagnostics from self-service support session(s) provides a clearer picture to support staff and consumers alike when subsequent issues occur. The ability to run and track metrics such as device discovery, endpoint monitoring, network tests/reports, and general device alerts will provide a clearer, real-time view of the device(s) on the network.

Smart Support Solutions for Smart Home Brands

Retailers, device manufacturers, broadband service providers, and security software companies also offer a variety of premium support services that build on self-service elements. For those needing additional support, for instance, a support agent may resolve the problem remotely or guide the user through a fix.

Industry Implications: Transform the UX, Transform Operations
Users want to solve problems themselves when possible, and next generation self-service tools can increase product value by improving the user experience:

  • Productize alerts as a feature – monitoring the users’ network and device in order to alert the user of a problem can be productized as an added feature, adding value to overall solution.
  • Build brand loyalty with positive support experiences – proactive monitoring gives the end-user reassurance that the service provider or manufacturer is invested in the user experience. Successfully guiding users through problem resolution on their own is an opportunity to build user loyalty.
  • Educate the end-user — support tools with built-in diagnostics take away the mystery of device functionality. Support tools that can identify specific issues with the network or a connected device helps to educate the end-user, to help them get more out of their product and prepare them to better handle future issues.

Self-service support tools promise multiple operational benefits:

  • Reduce product returns – Smart home devices face high return rates relative to more established product categories. The top reason consumers cite for smart home device returns is that the product does “not working as advertised.” Self-support solutions that help users address technical issues or inform them where a specific problem might lie (for instance, with the network, not the device) may bring down product return rates.
  • Lower support costs – More self-service options aim to resolve issues before they escalate to support agents, freeing up resources for other aspects of the business as well as helping organizations manage rising support requests while facing staffing shortages.
  • Redefine the role of the technician — Comprehensive network and device diagnostic reports offer technicians insight into the precise problem the end-user is experiencing; a history of previous device issues helps point technicians in the right direction. With better monitoring and diagnostic tools, providers reduce service times, improve the efficiency of support operations, and enable support staff to address more complicated issues that end-users cannot resolve on their own.

New Reliance on Self-Support as Device Landscape Grows

The ever-growing number of connected devices in the home and the rise of work-from-home have brought about new challenges around technical support. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with a transforming work environment increased the reliance individuals place on their connected devices and home networks.

Device owners, makers, and broadband providers know all too well the pain points that can be associated with technical support and device failure. Users become frustrated when their devices can’t function as designed, Providers incur extra costs when technicians need to rectify the issues.

Consumers will try to solve issues with their home network and connected devices themselves before seeking professional support. Self-service support options put better tools in the end-user’s hands from the get-go.

An improved support experience means a better overall customer experience, more brand loyalty, and a more efficient support operation.

This is an excerpt from a just published white paper from Parks Associates and RouteThis, Self-Service Support: Improving Home Automation. In this whitepaper, Parks Associates quantifies consumers’ support needs across the connected home at both the network and device level and shares consumer strategies today for addressing technical issues. It maps the evolution of self-service tools and explores the latest generation of proactive network and device monitoring that enables new self-service solutions.

We welcome all feedback and comments on our research. Thank you for your continued support of Parks Associates work.

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