AT&T announced the launch of ConnecTech, a bold move into the home tech support market, and a direct shot across the bow of competing services from Best Buy, Circuit City, and others. ConnecTech will offer “television and home theater installation and personal computer and home network setup, plus an extensive list of repair services.” Home tech support services are growing among the telecom service provider community. Both large and small carriers are seeing the natural evolution of supporting customers in the home with the entertainment and broadband solutions they are increasingly marketing. Rather than just selling a service, these types of support services allow service providers to strengthen customer relationships by helping simplify the growing complexity of installing and managing entertainment and broadband products and services. Of course they also hope to gain some competitive advantage, and make a little money at it too.
It remains to be seen if this is a good business move from a dollars and sense point of view. But I do believe this is a smart move from a competitive positioning point of view. Despite all the cool applications that broadband and entertainment convergence products can do, they can create potential areas of frustration with customers. The average customer has no interest in configuring their wireless router, but they do have an interest in enjoying the experience and convenience a properly configured wireless router can deliver. Service providers that enable that experience and convenience only strengthen their relationship with customers, as well as enhance their brand and visibility. These types of enhancements also strengthen a service provider’s ability to effectively compete. Of course all of these benefits are only won if the tech support service works. By that I mean, technicians show up on time, calls to customer service are answered quickly (and by human beings), and technical problems are resolved to customer’s satisfaction the first time. If expectations are poorly met, these tech support services could backfire and do just the opposite – weaken customer relationships and brand equity. Moral of the story – if you launch these services – make sure they work – the first time. If not, you’re better off without them.