Smart Home Surge Drives Customer Care Moves

As home security and smart home services become a new cornerstone for cable operators, customer demands are causing vendors to rethink and expand how they support their MSO partners.

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For Universal Electronics, a company known for making remote controls, its aggressive push into the smart home sector has been followed with the recent launch of call center support services that are tailored for helping consumers find answers and troubleshoot their connected home devices.

Universal Electronics, which acquired smart home product specialist Ecolink Intelligent Technology in 2015 and counts Comcast as a key customer, said consumer demand in that sector has led to a 30% increase in home security call volume at its Technical Support Services (TSS) center over a period of about six months.

Universal Electronics, which will show its latest wares at this week’s SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, has been able to generate some serious scale from those businesses. The company, for example, buys chips in quantities of about 100 million per year using technology that works with both its remote controls as well as smart home devices, according to Lou Hughes, Universal Electronics’s chief operating officer.

In addition to teaming with Comcast on certain types of smart home products and sensors, such as door contacts and motion sensors and keypads, Universal Electronics also supports the Samsung SmartThings ecosystem, works with several do-it-your-self smart home companies, and sells its own products under the Ecolink brand at retail outlets such as Amazon.

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“All of that work has required us to support [smart home] devices out in the marketplace,” he said, noting that some smart home products “aren’t trivial to install.”

To support its growing smart home businesses, Universal Electronics has been training its people to become experts in that area so they are knowledgeable about wireless networking, how to pair devices, and relay that information to consumers in plain English.

Universal Electronics also brings this support capability to its cable operator customers, typically providing a second tier of help in a subcontracted role. For instance, if a consumer contacted an MSO about a smart home-related technical issue that the rep couldn’t figure out, that customer might be relayed to a Universal Electronics representative to get it resolved.