Before founding my current company, I co-founded a company in the mobile advertising industry. You’d think home repair and maintenance would be a big departure, but increasingly, the rise of the smart home means that houses are looking more like smart phones every day. Not only are home systems and appliances getting smarter, but they’re also increasingly interconnected – with each other, with smart home assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Nest, and with third-party cloud services like SideChef and Drop. And while these devices have features that can ease the maintenance burden (by alerting when a repair is needed in advance of a breakdown), the complex inner workings of these devices are increasing the frequency of breakdowns, with higher end equipment requiring skills from those specifically trained to service them.
Certainly, truly smart homes are not yet mainstream. Smart dishwashers, refrigerators, and other smart household appliances are currently high-end items. However, the capabilities they provide likely won’t remain luxuries for much longer. After all, it wasn’t long ago that smart automotive features like lane assist, collision detection, and adaptive cruise control were only found in the most expensive brands and models. Today, they’re standard in mid-range vehicles. Likewise, companies now build entire apps around smartphone features that were only found in the most expensive devices a few years ago, because today, they’re standard.
Smart Homes are Changing Homeowners’ Expectations
Expectations around home repair and service are changing dramatically. For starters, would you say you are less willing today to wait for an appliance to be repaired? After all, Amazon is able to deliver most products in 24 hours, mobile apps are just a quick download away, and mobile repairs can happen onsite, within hours. Why should appliance repair be any different?
Also, because the appliances in today’s houses – and even houses themselves – are more like computers than motors, you won’t be able fix issues that you could have addressed on your own in a traditional home. Certainly, if you have home repair skills, you may be able to troubleshoot basic issues, but even if you are relatively sophisticated, you will need specialized help with deeper problems that involve the sensors, electronics, and internet-enabled control boards.
In fact, simply identifying the issue may require analyzing multiple different devices and connections. If the dishwasher, for example, won’t respond to commands given via Alexa, the issue could be the home assistant, the Wi-Fi router, the dishwasher, interference from other devices, or dozens of other possibilities.
Homeowners may find themselves in the same situation that some businesses have found themselves in for years. A problem arises and it’s difficult to determine where the problem resides among interconnected systems they rely on, and various vendors simply point their fingers at the others.
As a result, homeowners will expect service providers to understand not just smart appliances, but smart homes and the interconnections between devices and networks. Additionally, they need to find trustworthy sources of information that will enable them to fix simple problems immediately.
What Service Providers Need to Know
And it’s not just homeowners who will face new challenges as smart homes go mainstream. Service providers, too, will need to adapt. Service companies need to educate themselves and better understand smart home systems. To service smart homes, service providers need to understand the landscape of connected devices, so they know not just how individual devices function, but how they work as part of a greater smart home.
These smart homes are not a collection of individual machines; instead, each smart home appliance depends on a network of devices and technologies to function and deliver the advanced capabilities that homeowners increasingly expect. For example, a doorbell doesn’t just ring to alert residents that someone is at the door – it’s part of a larger smart security system, with a camera, a live feed, connections to networks and mobile devices, and more.
Service providers will need to invest in continuing education to learn not only how to repair and maintain smart appliances, but also to work with the networks and interconnections that enable so much of their functionality. A service provider who can only replace a faulty dishwasher arm won’t be in as much demand as the company that can also repair the appliance Wi-Fi connection and fix broken integrations with smart assistants.
Even if the service providers’ current clientele hasn’t yet invested in smart appliances, as noted earlier, they will not remain luxury items forever. Those service providers who are already well-versed in the complexities of a modern smart home will be well positioned to succeed when the smart home goes mainstream.
Additionally, service providers can provide additional value by providing homeowners with immediate help to resolve their issue. For example, a service provider could hold video calls with homeowners to provide virtual support, provide short videos to answer easily addressed, common issues, and create an FAQ (frequently asked questions) that details the common issues with leading appliances to help a homeowner fix an issue on his or her own.
Preventative Maintenance for the Modern Home
So, what can you do to ensure your increasingly smart home remains smart? The best way is to seek out services that will help prevent problems from ever occurring in the first place.
One of the best things about a smart home is that they can alert you when repair is needed in advance of a breakdown. In the industry, we call this capability “predictive maintenance.” Contract with a home care company that can receive predictive maintenance alerts directly from your smart home. In this way, you can avoid unpleasant surprises without even having to go to the trouble of calling a technician to replace parts that are close to failure — it’s all done for you!
Next, look for high-quality self-service solutions. The most skilled service providers can guide you to fix many issues remotely, which saves on cost. And when selecting a home care provider, it’s smart to verify that they’ll provide technicians with the skills to address all aspects of the interconnected smart home, from ordinary parts replacement to networking issues.
The smart home promises a new era of convenience and control, but it also introduces a lot of additional complexities. By thinking and planning ahead, however, you can sharply reduce the risk of that complexity and enjoy a trouble-free smart home.