Many modern consumers take ubiquitous connectivity for granted. The average U.S. household now has a total of 22 connected devices. Yet nearly a third of smart home device users report these devices already add too much complexity to their lives — and despite conventional wisdom, introducing new technology does not always make things simpler.
Even as smart home consumers continue to adopt devices designed to work with the Internet of Things (IoT), new technologies and standards further complicate home network connectivity, leading to frustrated or disgruntled customers. So, what can device makers do to avoid a poor customer experience?
At Home with IoT
With rising demand for home automation, growing awareness of energy efficiency, and advancements in home security, the smart home is one of the most popular applications for IoT technology today. Rightly so, because the ability to remotely monitor and manage connected devices throughout the home is a game-changer in simplifying our daily lives.
Not only can this connectivity save time and money through greater automation and energy efficiency but it also allows IoT-connected devices to manage themselves reduces a considerable amount of day-to-day stress…at least that’s the theory.
Unfortunately, as we all know, IoT devices don’t always work as planned. In some cases, the problem might be with the device itself; however, in many cases, it’s a lack of connectivity. Yet, the result is the same: the customer experience fails when the smart home device doesn’t work as expected.
When this happens, consumers typically believe the smart home device is at fault. For the IoT device manufacturer, this situation can quickly lead to excessive product returns, increased support costs, brand devaluation, and lost revenue.
In fact, after more than one bad experience, around 80 percent of consumers say they would instead do business with a competitor.
Matters of Connectivity
As new WiFi technologies and standards like Matter and WiFi 7 are rolled out, the hope is that these industry advancements will further streamline device connectivity. But too often, new technologies increase the connectivity challenges faced by the average smart home device user.
For example, internet routers that support WiFi 7 are already on the market. Yet, this new standard is not supported by Windows 10, which is still the most used operating system at a market share of approximately 72 percent.
Likewise, the Matter 1.0 standard, launched last year with the promise to “simply, securely, and seamlessly” connect the world, is not compatible with the connectivity capabilities of every device.
That’s because Matter allows a controller — such as Apple HomePod, Amazon Alexa, Google Nest Hub, or Samsung SmartThings — to take over the network commissioning process for new IoT devices, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to manage WiFi communications collectively for the smart home ecosystem.
These intelligent controllers generally employ automated band steering to direct IoT devices to use a particular frequency in the home WiFi network. Frequently, the controller will steer wireless devices to prioritize the 5 GHz frequency band over the 2.4 GHz band to alleviate network congestion.
The problem with this scenario is that most smart home devices still support the 2.4 GHz frequency band exclusively, resulting in a lack of connectivity should the customer try to connect these devices to the 5 GHz band. Furthermore, because automated band steering is not covered in the WiFi standard, each manufacturer has its own approach, complicating troubleshooting.
The challenge for IoT device manufacturers is that preventing these connectivity issues from a hardware perspective is virtually impossible. On the other hand, it is possible to mitigate the risk of a poor experience with customer education and troubleshooting support.
Navigating IoT Issues
Connectivity issues in the home network can occur at initial set-up if the customer cannot correctly connect the IoT device, or device connectivity may become chronically intermittent over time.
These issues may be related to the WiFi operating frequency, the device chipset, network configuration, the customer’s home layout and building materials, or all of the above. Of course, any of these can be a factor when troubleshooting connection issues.
In the dynamic home WiFi environment, different types of smart home products present varying levels of complexity. For example, security surveillance cameras require consistent, high-bandwidth connections to maintain performance, whereas IoT sensors for water or gas leak detection require less data.
Locomotive or portable devices, such as intelligent vacuums or voice-activated music players, may work well in some home parts but lose WiFi signal elsewhere. A connected thermostat or smart oven might experience intermittent connectivity issues if it is too far from the wireless router.
Resolution of these issues requires the ability to fully understand what is happening with the customer’s home network at all times. In most cases, however, neither the consumer nor the support agent has this level of visibility, resulting in lengthy resolution times, customer frustration, product returns, and lost profits.
To achieve fast, first-contact resolution, technical support agents require end-to-end network visibility and troubleshooting tools, enabling them to identify and resolve connectivity issues quickly and accurately. Implementing and maintaining WiFi support software throughout the IoT device lifecycle can empower support teams with the real-time insights they need to solve issues faster and keep customers happy.
Moreover, device manufacturers can eliminate the need for support calls by offering a self-help application. Sixty-nine percent of consumers try to resolve their issues independently, but fewer than one-third of companies offer self-service options such as a knowledge base.
With access to real-time network diagnostics, guided troubleshooting, automated support, and online resources, customers can resolve most connectivity issues themselves. This not only prevents the initial support call but also minimizes the need for future calls by up to 50 percent, significantly reducing support costs.
A Smarter Smart Home Experience
Analysts predict that the number of connected homes will exceed 30 billion worldwide in 2025 as the IoT smart home market continues to grow at nearly 32 percent annually from 2022 through 2030. Among the fastest-developing applications is the smart home security and monitoring segment, which is expected to see an uptake of 24 percent per year due to the increasing awareness of home security automation.
Whether these smart home consumers are using an IoT device that offers convenience to simplify daily life or relying on the critical peace of mind of a home security camera, baby monitor, or a smart lock, WiFi connectivity issues can significantly disrupt the customer experience.
With the right support tools before network connectivity issues occur, IoT device manufacturers can ensure outstanding customer support for an exceptional and more innovative smart home experience.