My wife gave me a smartwatch for my birthday. It does all kinds of cool things: it displays text messages, tracks my steps and lets me hail an Uber. The watch I usually wear, a “dumb” watch, costs 10x more and doesn’t do much. In fact, it doesn’t even have a battery and stops working if its not worn for a couple days.
A fancy watch can be made by a watchmaker. A smart watch is made by a team of people within a company that rely on a global supply chain and a collection of third party developers that provide the apps. Together, they are a powerful lifestyle tool that does more than just tell time. It’s a personal assistant. These products and the experiences they deliver to consumers are increasingly made possible by ecosystems rather than unilaterally from originating companies.
When I look around, I see everything getting ‘smarter’: cars, refrigerators, light bulbs and even tennis racquets. However, all the additional functionality provided by smart and networked products brings additional complexity.
To stream a home movie to my television, I need to make sure my laptop, router, media player and TV are all working together. I also need to know how each of these things work individually. Although some platforms have better “plug and play experiences” than others, the norm is that it’s a bit of a hassle to get smart products to be sufficiently smart to be useful. Until we have artificially intelligent computers assistants like in Star Trek that can magically make things work, we need to to provide consumers with the support they need to actually use these product.
How can we deliver support for ecosystem-delivered products? Unlike the old watchmaker that knows how his watch works, it’s not likely that there is an individual person or even a single team within a company that can support all the possible use cases that a consumer might encounter. Traditional channels such as documentation and help desks can only scratch the surface.
As I experimented and configured my new smartwatch, I found myself consuming support from many different sources: the community forum, Reddit, YouTube videos created by enthusiasts, developer blogs as well as the vendor’s knowledge base. All of this, curated by Google search, answering my questions and routing me to the best places to get answers.
This makes me wonder how less tech savvy people go about using setting up their smartwatches. Traditional support channels are ill-equipped to answer ad-hoc questions. Imagine calling the toll-free number and having the callcenter agent wait as the client fiddles through the different steps. Short of a video conference call, some things are just better explained with videos and pictures.
It sounds all ‘mom and apple pie’ to say that consumers and brands should come together for the common good. But go out there and have a look, it’s happening. Smart brands are leveraging the community of customers and other stakeholders to help support their smart product.