Support.com — a cloud-based software services company that has garnered success by pairing up its technology support services with a variety of marketing partners, including Staples and OfficeMax — has recently found a new groove itself thanks to the growing multitude of devices orbiting around most households these days.
The term “Internet of Things” was first coined by technology pioneer Kevin Ashton in 1999 to describe a system wherein objects are equipped with identifiers and managed and inventoried using computers. For Support.com, the term has increasingly become reflective of the world of home computing, where a growing number of wireless devices are now connected to home networks.
“When the firm started, the premium support area was really computers, and I would say that 98 percent of what we did was about computers. Then things evolved, and it became more about the home network. As PCs sort of declined, the home network in people’s homes was growing,” says Support.com CEO Josh Pickus, who back in 2007 set the firm on an entirely new course when he spearheaded a radical reorganization involving the sale of Support.com’s core enterprise software business.
As for the firm’s latest chapter, it’s clear that the Internet of Things has become something of a trigger for Support.com’s management as it seeks to signal yet another new direction.
“The people who are selling Internet of Things devices — whether they are stand-alone or part of some sort of managed service — make money to some degree with the first sale, but what they really benefit from is building a relationship with a customer that will likely add many more devices down the road,” says James Morehead, Support.com’s vice president of product management.
The focus on customer experience is nothing new for Support.com, which a number of years ago locked in a variety of marketing partners, including Staples and OfficeMax, that were eager to enhance the customer experience of their technology customers by using Support.com’s service offerings. From there, Support.com set about carving out what it defines as a subsection of the CRM market, a space that focuses exclusively on the technology customer experience.
“The foundation that we’ve had for many years is the ability to remotely connect and take control of and diagnose a variety of computing and mobile devices. Now we’re adding to that the ability to build a map of everything connected to the home network. Since the Internet of Things services rely so much on the home environment, being able to see a map is important,” explains Morehead, who notes that Support.com can meanwhile assess the physical installation of a customer’s home network by empowering the customer to deploy a video feed from their smartphone.
“The alternative to these solutions is what we all experience today, which is really ‘talk therapy’ — and this is just not going to work or scale as the Internet of Things takes over people’s homes,” says Morehead.
When asked whether Support.com could face larger and more numerous competitors as the services opportunity being driven by the Internet of Things becomes more exposed, Pickus said “I think that what we’ll find is that some companies believe they can do it themselves, and we won’t object to that, but we would say to them, ‘Do it yourself, but use the best tools available.’” Pickus cited the example of Google supplying support services to the customers of Nest Labs — a maker of remote-control thermostats that was recently acquired by Google.
“Google doesn’t have to necessarily use our people, but they could license our technology, which would enable them to provide a much better support experience. So once you become willing to separate the labor from the technology, as we are now willing to do, then it doesn’t matter that much whose labor it is,” explains Pickus, who observes that the separation of labor from technology has signaled an important shift that will ultimately broaden Support.com’s market.
Says Pickus: “We can now target anybody who provides any kind of support and who wants to use tools to improve the customer experience.”