Smart Home

How Top Smart Home Companies Solve WiFi Connectivity Issues

At RouteThis, all we do is WiFi connectivity diagnostics, and we get the benefit of brushing shoulders with many of the companies that provide the best support experiences in the Smart Home industry. Through this, we’ve gained a lot of insight into how the best run support teams handle their calls with WiFi/connectivity issues, and wanted to share our findings.

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via SmartHomeGuide.ie

Great support calls are all about getting the right information, right away from the customer with as little back and forth as possible. That way, your agents know exactly what problem they’re solving, and can begin to fix it in a timely manner.

If you have all the information and understand the problem’s root cause, helping the customer is easy. But how do you know what information to collect and how to effectively get it?

We wanted to share with you the strategies top Smart Home companies use to make sure each of their agents get the correct information on every support call.

1. Ask the Customer Their Router’s Make & Model:

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For most customers the router is a magical box that works in the background to keep them online. They don’t understand how it works, they just know that it usually does. It’s not surprising then, that some of the main issues with WiFi/connectivity centres around that mysterious box that connects your device to the network.

Detailed below are the two most common issues we see with the router itself.

Incompatible Routers:

Your product team is doing all it can to try different test environments but there are only so many hours in a day. With thousands of routers on the market, it would be impractical to test your device against each router make and model to ensure seamless connectivity for every single consumer. Yet old routers, or routers that have a spec that’s incompatible with your product could mean that your customer may not even be able to set their device up.

Top companies like Sonos, Chromecast, and Nest know exactly which routers will cause problems with their devices. But what if you don’t have a list of your own?

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to start now! Simply begin documenting the router makes and models that your support team see coming in with problems. You can use something as simple as a Google or Excel Spreadsheet to keep track.

Then, once a month go out and buy a few or all of the problematic routers and begin testing them in your office and documenting them on your website. Before you know it, you’ll have a list of routers you know cause problems with your device, making for an easy solve when those calls come in to support.

Default Settings:

Most of your customers don’t know the make and model of their router, so you can bet they also don’t know that there are settings you can change on the router. Sometimes your company’s device will not connect simply because that router ships with a default configuration that is incompatible with your device. This can be a particularly frustrating issue because it is means that all customers with that make and model of router will also have issues.

But there is a small silver lining!

One benefit of default settings being your issue is that once you identify routers with default settings that cause problems, all subsequent calls with users that use that router are an easy fix.

Similar to the fix for incompatible routers, many companies will begin connectivity calls by asking the customer what router make and model they are using, and cross-reference with similar problems other agents have seen. You can then walk the customer through changing the setting on the router, and your customer can finally begin enjoying your product!

2. Ensure the Customer has the Right WiFi Password

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We now have a password for everything we do online, so an incorrect password may seem like an issue your customer would catch before calling in. But the reality is, many customers only enter their WiFi password into a device a few times a year (at most), and forget the password for their home network, or get it confused with another password.

This is a frustrating issue because some customers are adamant that they have the correct password, and instead will blame your device for not connecting to the network.
Luckily, this is also one of the easier issues to fix.

To figure out if this is the customer’s issue, have them forget the WiFi network on their phone (or another device that automatically connects), and try to reconnect.

If they have indeed forgotten the password, simply take them through the reset password process so they can be sure they know the proper password — and maybe have them write the new password down somewhere.

3. Other Devices Consuming Too Much Bandwidth

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These days, every man, woman, and child alive owns a laptop, tablet, and/or smartphone and they’re all connected to the same WiFi network. It may be convenient, but when all those devices are being used at the same time to download, stream and more, the network can become extremely congested.

The home network is essentially a highway which data streams through. When only a few people are using it, traffic flows through smoothly. However, when too many devices are in use at once, all of that data still has to move down the highway. This makes internet speeds slower — much like a highway during rush hour.

What that also means is that adding your device into the mix makes the network even more congested, causing buffering video or sound, which frustrates customers — sometimes so much that they return your product.

Often, a busy network manifests itself as your device dropping on and off the network, or buffering during use. If you think this may be your customer’s issue, have them run a speed test at various times of the day — when no one is using the network and when many people are using the network — then compare the results. Unfortunately this generally involves a follow up call to determine the results.

4. Interference from Surrounding WiFi Networks

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via GIPHY

How many of your customers change the channel they use on their router? How many even know that changing WiFi channels is an option? There are only so many channels on a router that you can use. So what happens when your customer is trying to use your device on a WiFi channel that a dozen or more people are also fighting for space on? Slow internet speeds, poor connectivity, and unhappy customers.

This happens most often in densely populated neighbourhoods, apartments, or condo buildings — places where a ton of people are on the internet at the same time (after work hours, weekends, etc).

Identifying whether a customer lives in a densely populated area can help determine if interference from surrounding networks is the problem, or if you should keep looking for another cause.

If buffering sound or video is the issue, try having the customer test your device during a time that typically sees fewer people using the network, like during work hours. If your device works, then it may be that the channel they are on is just busy during peak times. Prompt the customer to switch WiFi channels and be sure to test different ones to see if another channel is less populated. This generally involves some hand holding to go through the process, but we find customers are very appreciative of the extra effort to fix their problem.

5. Special Characters in the Network Name (SSID)

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WiFi network names, or SSIDs allow customers to show off creativity and easily identify their network when they go to connect their devices. They’re also thought to make you look more technically savvy and thus less of a target for hackers. However, people can sometimes get too creative, not realizing that some special characters can’t be identified by some devices. If your device falls into that category, the entire network becomes undiscoverable when special characters are involved and your customers won’t be able to connect your smart device to their home networks.

This is another easy fix once you know the problem — the customer just needs to change their SSID. However figuring out that the problem involves a special character in the network name usually involves a ton of back and forth with the customer over the phone which can quickly increase the time spent on a call.

When helping a customer rename their SSID, ensure that their network name does not give any personal information away; whether that is a family name (i.e Smith Family 007), or hobby (i.e Jays Fan 1993). It should be simple and inconspicuous, without giving people who can discover your network any window into your life.

Make sure the customer is changing their SSID to something that is no longer than 32 characters, and doesn’t have special characters like accents (ä, ü, etc), vertical lines (|), or bracket types (<>,[],{}).

Bttn has a good list of characters that are supported, as well as unsupported, and may be a good reference to share with your customers.

Some final thoughts

WiFi has made the internet available on almost every device, however reliable diagnostics have always been a major blind spot for Smart Home companies. RouteThis is looking to change this, by providing your customer support team with diagnostics that will eliminate the lengthy back and forth with a customer. Our partners have seen their support process become up to 60% more efficient — allowing your customers to get back to enjoying your product the way it was meant to be enjoyed!

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About Conor Skipper

Conor is an Account Executive at RouteThis. When not working, Conor enjoys watching the LA Dodgers, staying active, and spending time at cottages with friends.