While individual products bask in the praise of tech writers and reviewers—just this morning, Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times praised the Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled household assistant, as the next must-have tech device—smart tech still has some growing pains to overcome before going mainstream. That’s the conclusion of a consumer survey conducted by Support.com that found user experience design lacking in the smart home space. While the perceived value of these devices, in terms of energy efficiency and simplifying daily routines, may be clear, the actual financial value of this technology needs to be more clearly communicated to entice future buyers.
Titled “The Smart Home Customer Experience: Repairing a Broken Promise,” the survey asked 3,000 consumers about the current state of technology in their homes, and what, if any, barriers are preventing wider adoption. Of those with smart home technology, most have installed devices for entertainment (74 percent) and safety (46 percent) purposes, while potential buyers are eyeing devices for energy efficiency (58 percent) and convenience (47 percent).
The main issue facing both current owners and potential buyers, not surprisingly, is cost, both in terms of money and time. A good number of owners (42 percent) said that the price of installation and maintenance was their greatest frustration, and a sizable number of potential owners (79 percent) found the cost of purchase, setup, and maintenance to be a turn-off. The problems don’t end after installation. Nearly a third (31 percent) said setup, configuration, and support issues cause ongoing frustration.
The results suggest a disconnect between performance and complexity. Nearly half of potential buyers (49 percent) would like to purchase devices through a single service provider, who would sell and install all devices. While platforms and interoperability are still being sorted out for this emerging and evolving technology, consumers seem to be hesitating, waiting for simplicity and plug-and-play to become the standard.
Dissatisfaction is coming from four key areas, according to the report:
Complexity: The complexity of installing and configuring smart home systems is already frustrating users and causing hesitation in potential buyers.
Cost: Despite the enhanced value to a home, the perceived cost of smart home systems is a deterrent for many consumers.
Self-Service: Smart home owners and potential buyers want to be able to install and fix smart home devices and systems themselves, but potential buyers — who may be less technology-adept — still perceive the systems as too complex, and are concerned that they won’t be able to fix issues on their own.
Support: Because of the disparate nature of smart home devices available from multiple manufacturers and service providers, both owners and potential buyers are unsure where to turn for service and support.