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iQor study finds consumer frustration, fear around “smart home” tech products

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg, FL headquartered iQor has a unique perspective on both smart devices and customer service. With a bifurcated service approach, iQor is not only one of the world’s largest remanufacturing/refurbishing companies, but also one of the largest customer service teams. As such, iQor is uniquely positioned as key holder to both the voice of the consumer, and the technical acumen and access to products. Or, as they put it, “the only global managed services provider embedded in the flow between product, people and services.”

iQor recently commissioned a survey of over 1000 US adults, living in a “smart household” environment, between Nov. 9 – Nov. 17, 2017. This survey, known as The Customer and Product Experience (CPX) 360 Survey gauged “customer experience and customer service expectations of buyers of consumer technology in today’s digital age.” The results of the survey are being released in three parts, and the first two are available now.

Their findings? First, consumer frustration with “smart” products.

Connected “smart home” and “smart devices” are frustrating early-adopting consumers (likely more technologically-advanced than mainstream adopters), leading them to waste hours of time. Customers are encountering dead-ends in service, and sometimes returning completely functional products because they were unable to resolve a set-up issue. The survey found that consumers report having to take more than eight steps to resolve a technical problem or issue with a smart device.

Lax refund policies may help make these returns feel seamless for the customer, but at what cost?

$260 Billion a year, according to CNBC. According to a study by Deloitte, many technology brands spend 9-15 percent of their revenue handling returns.

These findings are proof positive that the failure to provide a cohesive experience across customer support negatively affects revenue, and may create mass frustration and confusion for customers, despite functional and highly useful products. Based on the findings of the survey, consumers dealt with an average of 2.1 companies, over 2.7 sessions and with 3.1 different people as they attempted to install and engage with new connected technology in their home. For seventeen percent of respondents, the challenge was even greater and involved dealing with five or more people when trying to resolve an issue.

The inconvenience of interacting with multiple people and companies in the resolution process is frustrating in itself, and that frustration is multiplied by the fact that only about one in three of those surveyed say their information was always retained between customer service steps. Among those whose information was not retained, 81 percent indicated this delayed their resolution and 85 percent found it to be somewhat or extremely annoying. According to CEO of iQor, Harmut Liebel, “The average customer experience is more painful than listening to a crying baby on an airplane.”

But companies are not powerless to change, and they must do so quickly, says Autumn Braswell, COO of iQor, “It is crucial that organizations streamline and improve the support process now to reduce the number of steps, people and brands required to unlock the intended value of the connected device and ensure that the customer service challenges are addressed before mass adoption.”

Consumer frustration with connectivity and set-up is not the only problem. Cyber security from hackers and privacy from technology brands themselves are also major consumer concerns.

In an age where cyber security is top of mind and companies of all kinds are subject to the threats of hacking on a daily basis, individual consumers are more concerned than ever about their own security. The CPX 360 survey reports that more than two-thirds (70 percent) of consumers are concerned about the lack of security from hackers who might hack into smart devices in the home; these apprehensions escalate among older generations, as nearly four out of five baby boomers (79 percent) are fearful of hackers breaching a smart connected device in their home.

This fear extends beyond hackers to device manufacturers and technology brands themselves. Have you ever spoken about a product in conversation and later found it in your Facebook ad feed or in Amazon ads in your browser? You’re not alone. With smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri constantly listening, more than half of US adults (58 percent) fear lack of privacy from device manufacturers who have access to data, real-time conversations, voice patterns and search history.

“The smart home and connected ecosystem is designed to transform consumers’ lives by simplifying tasks and providing an added layer of intelligence to devices with actionable insights for the consumer,” said Hartmut Liebel, CEO of iQor. “Brands need to expand proactive engagement efforts and simplify products to minimize set-up frustration and directly address consumer concerns around privacy and security.”

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