Earlier this week, we hosted an exclusive online event with Parks Associates to talk about current trends in smart home devices, WiFi, and ISP support. Our panel of experts, including Jennifer Kent of Parks Associates, Simon Swanepoel of RocketNet, and our own Jason Moore, gathered to go over the data and see exactly what ISPs and smart home brands are facing.
In case you missed the event, here’s a quick recap of the top 10 trends every ISP and smart home brand needs to know about—and don’t forget to check out the full recording.
Trend 1: Homes are increasingly connected.
According to the data Kent shared in the session, 89% of U.S. homes are connected. And it’s not just a device or two; the average per household is 14 devices. That number increases with more people in the home, too.
So what kinds of devices are people connecting? The majority of them are computing, entertainment, and the like—but the types are quickly diversifying.
Trend 2: Smart home device ownership is growing rapidly.
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen people adapting their households to their new reality. As Kent explained, this has translated into higher investment in the home, including smart home devices.
In fact, according to Parks Associates, 36% of all broadband households have at least one core smart home device. These devices can cover a wide array, from appliances and thermostats to locks, cameras, even sprinkler systems.
The data also shows that people often won’t just own one smart home device anymore; the majority of homes own three or more devices.
Trend 3: People are putting more stress on their WiFi networks.
Naturally, higher numbers of devices are going to cause an increase in overall internet usage, but it’s not just devices creating demand. People are engaging in higher-demand activities like virtual meetings, webinars, even streaming online games—and this likely won’t change after the pandemic ends.
This coincides with a trend that Kent pointed out: Rather than relying on wired connections, more than 90% of homes with broadband primarily use WiFi at home. Because of this, home networks are facing unprecedented stress levels caused by overall usage.
Trend 4: High demand is causing more problems with WiFi.
More stress on networks, combined with increased usage of WiFi over wired connections, opens the door for more technical problems. As Kent explained, the industry has seen a big jump in the past year of consumers reporting technical problems with home networks.
In fact, 56% of consumers reported having at least one issue with their home network in the past year for a variety of reasons, ranging from slow speeds to lost connections, coverage gaps, and more.
Trend 5: We’re also seeing more issues with smart devices.
In the last year, 38% of smart home device users reported experiencing two or more issues with their devices, which is a major leap from last year’s numbers. Kent theorized that what may be happening is that as devices expand beyond their typical audience of early adopters and reach more consumers, they’re reaching a less tech-savvy audience that needs more support with devices.
Though these users experienced a wide range of issues, from technical issues to setup difficulties, the one that topped the chart at 51% was loss of wireless connectivity.
Trend 6: More consumers are trying to self-resolve.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Customers want fast, reliable support. And as Moore pointed out, in an ideal world, that wouldn’t require a customer to call into a support team. Consumers want to self-resolve WiFi connectivity issues, and will often try multiple approaches before calling, including product manuals, online forums, and manufacturer-provided resources.
In fact, as Kent explained, about two-thirds of consumers like when support options can help them resolve on their own. One particularly interesting result was an increase in the use of apps to self-resolve, which jumped from 12% to 28% in a relatively short time.
Trend 7: ISPs are seeing higher call volumes for WiFi issues.
One of the biggest issues that ISPs in general face is that consumers don’t understand their WiFi networks. As Swanepoel quipped, about 90% of the subscribers his team works with will put one router in one room and expect that to cover their entire house. And as we all know, the misconceptions don’t end there.
He went on to explain that because of this, about 80% of the calls his team sees are WiFi-related—and too often, involve issues like interference from building materials.
Trend 8: Smart home devices are actually increasing call volumes for ISPs.
Though you might assume smart home device issues would increase call volume for smart home support teams, they’re actually increasing call volumes for ISP support teams. And as Swanepoel explained, a lot of that has to do with how devices are marketed to consumers.
For example, smart devices often won’t specify network details that consumers would need to know for setup, like the type of WiFi it needs, the type of router it needs, or even where the device needs to be in relation to the router. And because of this, consumers will assume the device can’t connect because of their internet.
We’re getting consumers calling us asking for help setting up smart home devices on their network. So we’re supporting not only the routers, but the smart devices now too.
Simon Swanepoel, Founder and CEO, RocketNet
Trend 9: Smarter solutions are helping ISPs manage caseloads.
ISPs have been trying to find ways to manage their increasing call volumes. As Swanepoel pointed out, when teams adopt smarter solutions like RouteThis, those solutions do a lot of the work.
The diagnosis we’re getting back from RouteThis is very detailed; it could eliminate up to an hour’s worth of time for an agent on the phone.
Simon Swanepoel, Founder and CEO, RocketNet
Trend 10: Customers expect resolutions to be simple.
As Moore explained in his presentation, network resolutions can be tricky—but consumers don’t want them to be. Even if a support team has the most detailed list of FAQs or self-service articles available, consumers will rarely go beyond the first step or two before calling in for help from an agent.
Support teams should consider what they can do to make resolutions simpler for consumers, even when they’re resolving on their own. Instead of walking the customer through which frequency they’re connected to, trying to discover what other devices might be in the same area, or figuring out what could be blocking the signal, think about it this way:
What’s the one or two things a customer can do to fix buffering Netflix?
Jason Moore, Co-founder and CEO, RouteThis
The key here is to focus on providing steps directly, rather than providing diagnostics and expecting them to draw conclusions. As Moore explained, subscribers don’t need diagnostics—and often won’t know what to do with them.