Ovum: Smart home vendors must tap into what their customers think

There are many factors that contribute to the success of businesses, and customer satisfaction is one of them. Offering a satisfactory customer experience is key, not only for brand differentiation but also for upselling and cross-selling. Conventional wisdom suggests that it is important to pay attention to what customers like and dislike, responding to their needs and improving whatever seems to be driving them away.

In the smart home industry, however, enabling users to provide feedback is still far from becoming a widespread practice (Figure 1). Few vendors really know what their customers truly think about their brand, products, and services. Many still have not yet opened formal feedback channels to encourage buyers to provide product reviews and ratings, restricting other potential customers’ ability to make informed decisions before buying a similar solution.

In the case of user communities and forums, smart home vendors have been slightly more proactive. For example, Samsung SmartThings and Arlo have established discussion forums for users to learn, explore, and connect with other customers and experts. However, these platforms tend to focus more on providing product support than on offering customers an instrument to rate their experience. It is true that customers can always share their experiences in such forums, but rating a product goes a step further as the customer is required to select a number based on a scale that reflects the perceived quality of a product.

But, what does the fact that many vendors in the smart home industry are not keen on listening to the voice of the consumer tell us? Basically, they are scared of negative reviews, and such public feedback isn’t good for business. Revealing details of what buyers really think is not desirable if there is a chance such feedback might not be exactly glowing, especially in an increasingly crowded market where vendors are looking to build a good reputation and gain a competitive edge.

However, trustworthy testimonials, even negative ones, are important for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions and for vendors to drive product roadmaps. Understanding what can go wrong in a worst-case scenario is also the type of help users need from vendors. Besides, customers do rely on many other factors, such as price, product functionality, portfolio breadth, post-sale support, and more, to make a final purchase decision.

Ovum believes that product ratings should not be demonized as a marketing tool and that it is crucial for vendors in the smart home space to enable and encourage users to share their experiences. This will require more vendors not only to initiate this practice, but also to make it easy for users to provide feedback. Streamlining the process for writing reviews on smartphone apps and online would be the first step. Exploring alternative channels such as voice assistants to gather feedback is also key.

Mariana Zamoszczyk is senior analyst, consumer services at Ovum.

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