Last week, we joined Parks Associates for an online event highlighting a hot topic for smart home brands around the world: brand loyalty.
Our panel of experts, including Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates, Christopher Carney of Abode, Desiree Mejia of SkyBell, and RouteThis CEO Jason Moore, gathered to discuss the current state of device returns and how those returns impact both customers and brands—and what this means for overall brand loyalty.
In case you missed the session, here are the key takeaways—and don’t forget to check out the full recording here.
In this post:
- The reasons behind smart home product returns
- How these returns impact the customer experience and smart home brands
- 3 keys to building brand loyalty
Why do so many smart home devices come back?
Product returns are a major concern for smart home brands. They’re time-consuming, they’re expensive to process, and they create a negative perception for customers. And unfortunately, as data from Parks Associates shows, it happens far too often.
Two to four percent of all broadband households are returning a smart home device. And while this number may seem relatively small, it does translate to three to four million households.
Elizabeth Parks, President and CMO, Parks Associates
So why are these devices being returned? According to Parks Associates, most customers will report issues like a defective or broken product, a product that doesn’t work as advertised, or even a misunderstanding of features.
Often, though, the issue isn’t the product—it’s the customer’s WiFi connection. In fact, 51% of issues with smart home devices are because by loss of wireless connectivity. But customers don’t understand this and blame the product to the brand’s detriment.
The impact on customers
No customer buys a product expecting to have to return it. They want it to work, solve a problem for them in their lives, and make things simpler for them. So as Moore explained, the most damaging thing that can happen to a customer’s experience is a WiFi connectivity issue that prevents the device from meeting expectations.
This situation leaves the customer frustrated both with the device and with the brand, because the customer assumes it’s a problem with the device, not their network.
The impact on smart home brands
Unhappy customers have ripple effects on smart home brands in a few ways. As Moore highlighted in his presentation, the damaging effects of WiFi connectivity issues on a customer’s experience will reflect on the brand as well, and even beyond the issues of product returns and churn, may cause issues with future potential customers.
As Parks explained, consumer trends have a huge influence on a brand’s success, and a decent portion of customers who end up having to return devices say they won’t buy from the same brand again. They’re also likely to share their experiences both through word of mouth and through online reviews.
“Smart home device buyers are very active shoppers, and they are seeking information before their purchases,” Parks said. “The brand reputation and the reviews are really of critical importance for that active shopper.”
3 keys to building brand loyalty
As the panel discussed, there’s no one path to perfect brand loyalty every time. But there are some key focus areas that can help smart home brands strengthen their reputation and inspire loyalty among their customer base.
Issue identification and resolution
The panelists agreed that one of the most important things a smart home brand can do to build loyalty is to ensure they can resolve WiFi issues quickly and properly. When agents know exactly what the issue is and can fix it, that prevents the issue from escalating to the point where a customer would request a return.
However, that in itself can present another issue. Figuring out the root cause, as well as one or two steps to resolve the issue, is a major challenge for smart home brands—but the key is visibility into the home network.
As Mejia pointed out, no smart home brand will ever be able to eliminate support calls altogether. And when those calls come in, they present an opportunity for brands to build loyalty. By helping customers troubleshoot issues, Mejia’s team can show customers how issues with one device impact the performance of other devices on the network, which helps them understand that it’s not just one device that gets affected by WiFi.
Though this is hardly a new approach to customer interaction, it’s an important one especially in support settings. When customers call in, it’s because they want to talk about the issue they’re facing with a human being about why their iPhone can connect but the smart device sitting three inches from it can’t.
The key is understanding where the customer is coming from, and tailoring recommendations and advice to help them overcome the issue. This means even customers who aren’t tech-savvy can overcome issues on their own, which helps support teams manage demand.