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CES Takeways: Support Plays Crucial Role in Innovation

With 150,000 visitors and 3,500 vendors, CES 2015 in Las Vegas was the usual veritable madhouse – cool innovative products, hundreds of interesting conference sessions, great receptions and of course 45-minute waits for taxis. But there is one common thread to all those products being displayed at last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show. Yes, they all need great customer support to be successful.

CES is the world’s largest consumer electronics show, attracting a wildly diverse array of vendors. Established companies like Sony and Panasonic displayed their latest TV technology. Also attending were young upstarts like Blue Maestro, which unveiled its Bluetooth-connected pacifier (designed for parents who want their child’s comfort data sent directly to their smart phones). And let’s not forget drones. Will this be the year of dronies (selfies taken by drones)?
The Internet of Things (IoT) was a popular topic this year, and everywhere we turned we saw opportunities for companies to create and improve customer support experiences.

Connected Home

The connected home was a very visible IoT trend at CES this year. For many early adopters, the connected home is already a reality with connected thermostats, garage door openers, and home security systems.

There were some entirely new products that caught consumers’ attention:

  • A ceramic pot that uses a database of 8,000 plants to dispense the exact amount of water that your plant needs
  • A smart light bulb that changes colors. Sync this product with your sleep tracker and it can wake you up with a simulated sunrise
  • A ceiling fan/light that syncs with your thermostat and uses predictive learning and a motion sensor to create the right temperature and lighting situations for your needs

What is the role of support in driving adoption of new connected home devices? The biggest challenge with connected home products is the initial set-up. Many of these products are now being sold at self-service centers like Costco and Wal-Mart, so consumers are without the aid of an installation tech to get their devices up and running. Support is crucial for making sure the set-up process is successful and the consumer experiences all the benefits of the device.

Wearable Technology

Twenty percent of American adults already own a wearable device and the adoption rate – on par with tablets in 2012 – is quickly expected to rise, according to PwC’s Wearable Future Report. There were plenty of wearable technology options on display at CES. This field is so new that consumers are still exploring their level of comfort with the various types of devices.

Users in the health and fitness segment have already adopted a variety of wearables, and this year there were plenty of new offerings on display from that industry:

  • A fingertip device that provides oxygen saturation data during training
  • Bluetooth-connected socks that provide data about your running form and cadence
  • Headphones that track ground contact time, cadence, and vertical oscillation
  • A Bluetooth-connected watch that can receive notifications from your phone and track activities like running, golf, swimming, and cycling

As adoption continues to scale, what is the role of support in engaging consumers? All of these products provide opportunities for the support industry as companies explore how to transition their customer base from elite athletes to the everyday weekend warrior. Support can help new users learn how to operate the technology, understand how to use the data, and inspire them to continue to use the devices as their needs change.

Companies with these new and innovative products need to make sure their support teams and individual agents are ready to educate, assist, and get valuable feedback from their new customers. Ensuring those customers have the support they need at the beginning of their interaction with the product is the best way to ensure long-term retention.

CES Takeaway

While the products, vendors, and visitors of CES 2015 were incredibly innovative and diverse, one thing they have in common is their need for an effective, efficient, and smart support team enabled by support technology designed and built for the new world of IoT.

As product innovations grow, support must grow in importance right along with them.