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Is a Smart Home a Smart Choice?

Current Owners and Potential Buyers Weigh In

Today, many home devices are interconnected. You can easily watch a YouTube video from your smartphone while casting it directly to your home TV. Not using a room? The lights will dim or shut off automatically. When you come home from a long day the thermostat will automatically kick up a few degrees to warm the house up.

These are just a few examples. Many of these devices and systems promise more enjoyable entertainment, increased home safety and security, greater energy efficiency and costs savings.

But at the end of the day, is all of this connectivity costing or helping us?

A recent study by Support.com Inc., the makers of cloud-based Nexus software and leading provider of tech support, set out to answer this question. The new report, entitled “The Smart Home Customer Experience: Repairing the Broken Promise,” includes response from more than 3,000 U.S. consumers — both homeowners and potential buyers — and examines the drivers and barriers of Smart Home usage and consumer behavior.

A Closer Look at Connectivity

Support.com examined key considerations across the entire customer experience: buying, installing and configuring Smart Home systems, as well as post-purchase needs such as self-support and guided assistance from technology brands, device manufacturers and service providers.

What kind of devices did the study look at? Support.com says Smart Home systems include, but are not limited to any device that controls/connects: lighting, heating, security systems, appliances and entertainment systems.

Smart Home Survey results

(Photo: Support.com)

Support.com found that 64% of homeowners have 2 to 4 connected devices in their home; 25% have 5 to 8 connected devices and 12% have 9+ connected devices in their home. The study found that the most common installations for Smart Home owners are home entertainment systems (74%) and security systems (46%).

The study reviewed “Points of Satisfaction,” or the things that most Smart Home owners are m

ost satisfied with when it comes to their connected devices. The findings are not all that surprising — participants were most satisfied when a device works the way it’s supposed to; when all connected devices work together easily; when there’s easy installation and set up; ability to fix any issues themselves; easy to upgrade the device and having a single company to call for support.

Issues With Complexity and Cost

Support.com found that the road to a smarter home is not without obstacles. Cost was a big concern; 42% of Smart Home owners said that price was their greatest frustration when purchasing, installing and maintaining their Smart Home systems.

Potential buyers echoed this concern; 67% said the price to buy, set up and maintain a Smart Home system is preventing them from purchasing.

The second biggest concern is in system complexity. 43% of potential Smart Home buyers were concerned about the complexity of installing and configuring devices and systems and 31% of current Smart Home owners said they struggle with setup, configuration and ongoing support for their devices.

Overall, Support.com found issues centered on complexity, cost, self-service and technical support.

  • Complexity: The complexity of installing and configuring Smart Home systems is already frustrating users and causing hesitation in potential buyers.
  • Cost: Despite the promise of adding 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.

While the promise of a more connected, automated home continues to intrigue consumers, another study from Argus Insights shows that year over year Smart Home demand has slowed, yet another indication that some of these devices and systems may be too good to be true.

Support.com suggests that manufacturers and service providers look beyond the “cool factor” of new features and flashy devices and focus on the consumer’s experience. “In the wake of new Smart Home technologies unveiled at CES 2016, consumers are left to deal with the not-insignificant task of securely and properly installing and managing these new devices,” said Elizabeth Cholawsky, CEO at Support.com. “The inherent complexity of this task — and the lack of adequate customer support at the installation stage and beyond — is threatening wider consumer adoption, as well as breaking the implied brand promise of an easier, more automated home.”

Until it’s an affordable, easy-to-install, easy-to-use and update type of solution, some consumers will remain wary of the Smart Home promise.

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