Products becoming a service, but not in the way we intended

Published by Samantha Wheatley May 01, 2019

Our CEO, Rob Conant, is speaking at Parks Associates’ Connections event in the Bay Area next month on a panel about smart home installation and support. It got me thinking about the various installation experiences and the complications that arise.

From speaking with retailers, Internet Services Providers (ISPs) and hundreds of companies making connected products, we’ve seen a healthy mix of products that call for professional installation and DIY by the end customer.

Almost any product that you buy at the store and take home the same day can be set up by the consumers themselves (at least in theory) -- thermostats, Wi-Fi cameras, speakers, Smart TVs, et al. We’ve talked a lot about the problem with most products’ Wi-Fi onboarding process - it can be complicated and annoying.

Source: Analysis of 276,000 online reviews, Argus Insights

If you peruse a few connected products on Amazon, Best Buy or Walmart, you’ll see review after review of customers complaining about Wi-Fi setup. Customers who can’t get their product connected will reach out to support (either the product company, their ISP, or both) but often just return the product. In the age of free, easy returns, why would a consumer futz around with a connected product that they can’t get connected?

Cleverly, some retailers have capitalized on the difficulty of installation and provide enhanced services to their customers to make sure their products are not only hung on the wall properly but also connected to their home network. Obviously, this adds to the cost to the consumer.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 9.44.40 AMExample: A $48.89 connected printer has an add-on installation service option for $62.99.

More complex or just physically large connected products that require delivery and / or installation, including home appliances and smart home security systems will generally have a technician or installer do the Wi-Fi onboarding as well.

This process can actually be fairly complicated for installers. If an installer who has been delivering and setting up traditional appliances is called to start connecting a washing machine to Wi-Fi, it requires training and more time in a customer’s home. This reduces the number of installations that he or she can do per day.

And, because the technician is onboarding the appliance, the end customer is generally not paying attention to what he does and may not download the product app. And if the washing machine then falls offline because the customer received a new router from their ISP, what is she to do?

In a better world, consumers would be able to onboard all their connected products themselves. Even if a product requires professional installation and a product manufacturer prefers a technician to connect the product, a customer should have some understanding of what to do and how to troubleshoot should a connectivity issue arise.

In an ideal world, neither a professional installer nor a consumer will have to do anything at all to connect a product to the home network. The product gets delivered or powered on and it connects automatically. This is the future that Cirrent is working towards. Not only is the consumer’s experience vastly improved, but product manufacturers and internet service providers also benefit.

If you’re in the Bay Area or interested in flying out, Parks Associates’ Connections is a great event where you can hear experts in the industry debate this topic and more. Drop us a line and we would be happy to meet at the show.  

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