How Do We Improve Customer Support For Smart Devices?

The world is full of smart devices today. Have you ever stopped to think about just how many devices you now own that are already online? 

Consider it for a minute. Your laptop of course. Your phone, that’s simple. But what about your TV, your security cameras, your baby monitor, your printer, your Kindle, your smart watch, your car, your multiple Alexa devices, your smart lights.

The list could go on. Most homes now have many different devices that are smart and online – if you have kids then you can add most modern toys as well. Many people are surprised to hear that their car is online, but this is increasingly normal. Your vehicle can be diagnosing issues overnight in the garage by talking to the manufacturer.

But what happens when things go wrong?

All these devices are pretty complex. They all need to connect to the Internet. They all need some kind of security setting. They all need to update their own internal software now and then. Sometimes these devices are just not easy to set up.

The gold standard for devices is probably Apple. Almost all their devices have a single very clear and obvious power button. When you buy a new device and switch it on there is a step-by-step guide to setting up the device. It almost always works and their online support is very good during the onboarding process.

But not every company makes devices that are as intuitive as Apple and not everyone has the same kind of support operation. A friend I know bought a bird feeder that uses Artificial Intelligence to inform the owner about all the different types of bird that come and visit. It sounds great, but he told me that it was so difficult to set up that he gave up twice and couldn’t find anything in the documentation about how to get support.

Amazon gave a good example of what should be possible when they launched their Fire tablets a few years ago. The Fire was one of the products that didn’t work out and was quickly retired by Amazon, but the customer support process was excellent and deserves a mention. Each tablet had a ‘MAYDAY’ button. Click the button and the user immediately sees an Amazon agent on a video screen – ready to help solve any problem.

Some customer service managers of hi-tech device suppliers might be thinking, how do we compete with the approach that Amazon or Apple can take? They have the resources to make the customer experience fantastic every time. What can I do?

I would advise thinking again. The critical period for any device is the installation and set up. Once it is set up it can usually then just stay in place for years – who changes the settings on their devices every week, month, or even year? It is this setup process that is absolutely critical. This is where the initial experience of the device is created.

This is what I call doing the basics brilliantly. This is the most critical point of interaction between your product and a new customer. This is a very basic interaction, because the setup is essential, but it must also be handled brilliantly. You don’t want to be in a position where the customer is giving up and saying, I’ll try that device next weekend because I just can’t spend any more time on it now.

Customer support for these devices needs to exist for the lifetime of the device, but the point at which it must be brilliant is the onboarding and setup. This is where you can make or break the connection with the customer. Focus your attention on being brilliant at this point in the relationship and you can be close to the customer for years.

Let me know what you think. How can we improve the support of smart hi-tech devices? Get in touch via my LinkedIn, or drop my Marketing colleagues a note via

CC Photo by Solen Feyissa

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