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August 20, 2019

How Technology Is Changing Warranty

Summary:

Technology is changing the warranty experience for consumers, providers and retailers -- even small to midsize ones.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.

In days past, whenever consumers wanted to make a major purchase—say, for a large appliance or the latest electronics—they had to leave the house and visit their local retailer. If they were concerned about the well-being of their new investment, they’d add a warranty plan once their transaction was complete. If something with their new fridge or stereo system went wrong, they’d need to pick up the phone to schedule a service visit.

Things have changed. Let’s take a look at just how much technology is influencing purchasing habits and changing the warranty experience for consumers, retailers and providers.

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Today, when consumers need to make purchases both big and small, they’re often opting to make them online. For big box retailers, incorporating additional warranty protection on their websites to accompany those purchases is no sweat; they’ve got the capability and budget to do so. But what about smaller retailers?

According to a report by CBRE Group, about 30% of e-commerce retail is sold by small and midsize companies. While many of these companies might want to offer online consumers the benefits of product protection like their big box counterparts, integrating third-party warranty protection with a retail e-commerce platform can be cumbersome. But some providers have cracked the code and developed apps that allow smaller retailers to level the playing field and easily establish and manage valuable warranty programs.

Another technology solution being explored is blockchain. For as long as anyone can remember, returns, warranties and service contracts have required proof of purchase. Blockchain capabilities can eliminate that need by decentralizing record-keeping, so all relevant parties can instantly access a digital proof of purchase, as needed. Innovative companies are already jumping on board and using blockchain to improve industry collaboration, increase customer satisfaction, boost efficiency and reduce prices.

Make the Connection

As the Internet of Things grows and consumers replace their obsolete, non-IoT devices, the true benefits of connectivity will continue to be revealed. For example, smart home technology will take the guesswork out of claims. Service providers and technicians will no longer be forced to rely on a customer’s diagnosis of the problem, because devices will accurately relay data about malfunctions or damage in real time.

See also: How Tech Is Eating the Insurance World  

Administrators will be able to better identify issues and potentially help the customer find a resolution via phone or chat, without a service visit. If a service visit is needed, the customer representative can approve repairs and estimate out-of-pocket costs in advance simply by using the data already available.

But before the advantages of this new technology can be enjoyed to their fullest, there are some obstacles to overcome. The complexity of connected devices can be a lot to tackle for many consumers. Without the help of a professional, new device setup and network connections can be time-consuming.

Recognizing the opportunity for increased customer satisfaction, streamlined processes and lower costs, service contract providers are stepping up their game to offer plans that not only cover repair and replacement but tech support, as well. This kind of 360-degree service plan can help simplify the consumer transition to the fully connected home experience.

Go Custom

Thanks to the intimate connection to products and data offered by IoT, the opportunity to customize service contracts and protection programs has never been greater. Driven by constant data collection, warranty analytics can be employed to create extended protection plans that categorize failures, identify customers who are most affected by these failures and key in on potential causes. These “intelligent” plans can help determine and customize proper coverage levels guided by each customer’s risk profile.

The opportunity to apply the data extends beyond the connected home to products on the road. Now with the help of analytics, the failures, causes and costs that affect drivers most can be identified to help create intelligent protection programs for automobiles.

Known as telematics, these systems facilitate the transmission of vehicle diagnostic data. Telematics can record a vehicle’s condition to provide quick, efficient analysis that can isolate an issue before it becomes a real problem. This technology can also simplify next steps by alerting the provider to the issue and directing the vehicle owner to the closest repair shop with relevant parts in inventory. This kind of efficiency can help consumers remedy potentially dangerous and costly situations early on, while also reducing expenses for service contract providers.

See also: Common Error on Going Digital  

While some may long for the old days, the benefits of new technology offer a chance to look on the bright side. For providers, retailers and customers, advancements have changed the warranty protection experience for the better and will continue to do so for years to come.

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About the Author

Steve Davidson, vice president of Fortegra’s warranty product group, spearheads business development and client support for the company’s consumer and commercial product service contracts.

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