Working in the “consumer sector” is relatively new in my long career. The vast majority has been in very large corporate IT operations (data center hardware & OS: IBM AIX, SunOS, HP/UX; and enterprise platforms like SQL database management software DBMS: Informix, Sybase, Oracle, and middleware).
We required, demanded, and received the highest quality of customer support; first-line through all the deeper layers, and had regular monthly post-mortem (or occasional more urgently mid-incident) reviews with an Account Manager(s) and Tech Support(s) manager assigned to our company, department or project.
I took this level of support for granted and it became an absolute expectation that heads would roll if quality drifted.
But this it was also taken as a simple fact that this level of service came at a price: Usually 20% to 30% (or more!) of the purchase price of the software or hardware, billed annually! For that we received an SLA: Service Level Agreement and could choose different tiers such as 1 hour on-site response 24x7, 4 hours, 24 hours, or business hours best effort only, etc… We nearly always opted for 4 hour response and the related benefits in that package. That often guaranteed a high-level back-office engineer would be flown out to our site the next day, if an issue could not be resolved remotely.
Due to corporate inefficiencies at measuring cost-benefit for hundreds of licenses vs. projects, these “Annual Support & Maintenance” contract costs were sometimes entirely unjustified. They were often purchased out of habit even for development & test systems or redundant systems. But for critical systems, the purchase decision was a “no brainer”: Every hour of downtime could cost us $millions in revenue.
Obviously a SmartThings household is unlikely to experience $million losses due to platform issues and/or unresponsive support. But keep in mind that these Support & Maintenance contracts were priced proportionate to the base hardware or software license purchase price.
Retail consumer products are seldom offered with such high quality support contract options (except at the high end dealer supported systems like Control4, Crestron, Savant, right?). Extended warranties or priority support is sometimes an optional add-on; as is monthly service fee pricing. But proportionately this could never reach the level of quality, engineer access, and personal touch of corporate deals. Because of the low entry price ($99 hub), even a 30% annual support fee would be $30. Not even a fraction of one hour of engineer’s time per year, let alone, per incident.
Still… Extra revenue couldn’t hurt. With monthly recurring revenue, SmartThings would have direct financial incentive to focus on customer retention.
How high the expectations of ST customers be if there was a $10/month fee? Well… Consider the price of your broadband service (ummm… Comcast) and consider the quality or lack thereof of their customer service .
And if it’s too hard to get these fees out of Customers, what about large for-profit add-on Developers? A service level agreement at a certain price could be justified by both parties.
Or maybe not? The economics are entirely different at this scale: The bill of materials and retail distribution cost of a hub is absolutely trivial compared to the labor cost of a single support contact by a customer. The only reason support can be provided at all is because only a tiny fraction of customers ever contact support.
Ironically, corporate enterprises discovered this too. By building in redundancy and fail-over, 4 or 24 hour support response is no longer required. Or by outsourcing to pay-as-you-go clouds (external data centers) the economies of scale could finally kick in and benefit everyone… At least for basic issues.
Developers and ventures building on top of a platform or cloud still need expedient personal support from time to time. For small ventures… This commonly just isn’t offered at any price, or any justifiable price. While we have a miniscule frequency of outages, one of ActionTiles’s cloud vendors had an outage one day (their fault, but isolated to a few dozen customers of theirs) and it took them 4 hours for an initial reply, and it wasn’t resolved for 6, and they never apologized or admitted they caused the issue or how they would avoid it in the future. So the business-to-business support attitude has now degraded to the same level as business-to-consumer.
Seems like the recipe for a race to the bottom; or, more likely just a lack of perspective from customers getting amazing technology at trivial pricing?