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Top 10 Worst Mistakes to Avoid When Supporting Smart Home Customers

By Special Guest
Lee Gruenfeld, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Support.com
October 18, 2016

Part One of Three: Lacking Context

In the new interconnected world, the way we have traditionally provided tech support doesn’t work anymore. Yet many companies trying to provide world-class assistance to their smart home customers are still using outmoded processes, sub-optimal methods of interaction, and obsolete KPIs. How to do things better is the subject of much study and commentary, but a good deal of what you need to know can be boiled down to avoiding the 10 most common mistakes made by support providers in this brave new domain. Here are the first three. (We’ll cover the others in the next two article installments.)


1. Sitting by the phone (break-fix mentality) – Traditional tech support consists of a) waiting for the phone to ring when something breaks, and b) fixing it. There are a number of reasons why this time-honored paradigm can hurt your business rather than help it, and they’re all related to two basic problems plaguing the consumer Internet of Things: Connected devices are often too hard to set up and use, and the return on the effort isn’t always clear (and sometimes isn’t perceived at all). Consumers will go through all kinds of pain and burden to get a computer or smartphone to work because they’re almost impossible to live without these days and the value prop is obvious. But a connected tray that warns you when you’re running out of eggs or a fork that tells you when you’ve eaten too much are of dubious value, and they’re going to wind up in the trash compactor if they take more than a few minutes to set up.

It’s a mistake to stick to a break-fix mentality when what you really need to do is help your customers realize substantive value from the product, and you need to get to them before they frustrate themselves. This kind of “We’ll show you how right from the get-go” will pay enormous dividends in product retention, brand loyalty and future sales.

2. Playing ACD roulette (silo-ing your best agents) – During a recent assessment of the state of the art in supporting IoT consumers, some colleagues and I bought half a dozen of the most popular home automation starter kits. We drew up scripted support questions to see how they’d be handled. Turns out that this wasn’t necessary; it took me 14 phone calls over the course of two weeks to get my system up and running. The fourteenth call is when I finally found some hotshot in the call center who was able to figure out what was wrong and walk me through the solution.

Some weeks later I relayed this story to the manager of that center and his response was (I’m not kidding here), “Isn’t it great that we had someone who could solve your problem?” When I regained the power of speech, I asked him if he was serious. “Do you mean to tell me,” I asked, “that the entire time I was tearing my hair out, there was someone right there in your shop who could have fixed it?”

We’ve all played ACD roulette. You call for help, end up talking to someone who hasn’t a clue or is just reading from a script, then hang up and dial back in, hoping to get someone better. There’s no need for that in this day and age. There are now systems that help make sure that all the knowledge that exists in the contact center, whether written down or in people’s heads, is available to every support rep, so that each one can look like your best one. Speaking of which…

3. Playing dice (leaving support to chance) – We all want to express our individuality and let our personalities blossom in whatever we do. But do you really want to subject your customers to the vagaries of the personalities that reside in your support organization?

If you’ve been at this for a while, you’ve got a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn’t. You also know that turnover among support agents is notoriously high, which means you don’t have nearly as many veterans doing things the way you’d like. Your best option to ensure that every customer gets the full benefit of the experience and wisdom you’ve poured into your processes is to enforce compliance with those best practices. And the best way to do that is to use automated tools that incorporate knowledge into guided workflows, stepping them through the details of the methods you worked so hard to create.

Will you be killing the creativity of your people? Sometimes, yes, but who wants people spontaneously inventing new techniques and testing them out in live production using customers as guinea pigs? If somebody creative comes to you and says, “I think I’ve got a better way,” it’s easy to test whether it’s really better, so long as you’ve got the right tools. 

Click here to read the second installment in this three-part article series. 



Edited by Alicia Young


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