How to improve tado? Hint - it's not product development.

I've been a tado user since its UK launch, running a v1 product that over the last decade, has been pretty stable. My own tado experience? Meh, it's a central heating thermostat, and it almost always does what it's supposed to do, and pretty well too.

So why have I still not installed the replacement v3+ I bought over a week ago?

It's not fear of the installation process, or whether the product offers the functionality I need. It's the knowledge that if it something goes wrong at some point, tado is unlikely to be of much help, potentially leaving us with a cold house and no hot water. First World problems, but fundamentally, it's why we buy the product.

Now don't get me wrong, it doesn't take much research to ascertain that tado isn't alone. This particular industry is rife with appalling customer service. And therein lies tado's silver bullet.

There are so many great product development suggestions on here, based on real world use experience. But the thing that really stands out here, on retailer reviews, and on AppStore ratings? Terrible support.

Most people don't know (or care) a great deal about central heating systems. Self-installation may appear straightforward to a bunch of engineers, but for the average user attracted to some smart tech that promises to reduce their eye-watering energy bills? I'd say there's a likelihood of some problems there. And with any product that's cloud, data and code heavy, you're inevitably going to experience some ongoing issues.

So tado, my suggestion, idea and improvement is really simple, and the good news is the development road map is really short. You'll need to hire a few people, but the return on that investment will be exponential.

Focus on what matters - the customer experience.

Create an actual customer contact team that can handle queries in real time. Actual chat. Telephone contact. Focus on resolution and customer satisfaction. Customers aren't stupid, they just don't necessarily know what they're doing, and most really want to like the product.

Yet we don't need the tado product to be the very best. We'd like it to work, but most people get that nothing in life is perfect.

But we absolutely do expect that when we're experiencing issues, you'll help us fix it as quickly and easily as possible.

I'd imagine you're already aware that companies are judged by the way they treat their customers?

Throw more investment into your customer experience and I guarantee you'll blow the socks off your competition.

(FWIW, I've spent 30 years in tech sector professional services CX and have first hand experience of the biggest global corporations getting very quickly outflanked by the start ups that get this. As I understand you want to IPO, you have have such an easy opportunity here, to significantly increase your valuation. Just saying.)

Community, let's keep this out of rant territory, as that's not helpful to us, or to @jurian and the rest of the tado team, but what's really more important, having the ability to tinker a bit more with the programme schedule, to be able to get tado to switch on the kettle when we get home, or to know tado has our backs when it's sub-zero and the heating falls over?

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  • I doubt it is economically feasible to deliver 'great support', even when you pay ~75,- $,£ or € per device. How many hours of 'great support' does such a once off payment give you, and how much will be left for running the backend systems, office systems, development of new hardware and software, warranty fulfillment, publicity/commercials and profit for the shareholders?

    It would only work with some sort of subscription, or returning income from people buying software upgrades every now and then. The customers are likely either tech-enthusiasts, misers/thrifty/focused on savings or both. Good luck trying to get them to pay you monthly for minor features that they expect(ed) to be standard for a 'smart' thermostat. This will likely be seen as 'eating into their savings/ROI', so not worth it.

    A remote controlled thermostat is nothing new, especially for relay controlled boilers, where you just wire something in parallel, but there's also OpenTherm interface-boxes etc.
    Putting in some sensors per room, and extra controlboxes or an 'app' interface to the heating system similarly is not rocket science.

    To me, and I guess in general, the only thing approaching a unique selling point are the valve actuators, as they already can be fitted to most valves, look reasonably nice, and usually run for a good amount of time on their batteries.

    If you just make and sell (variants on) those, and leave the bespoke integration to the users and/or software companies (one of which could be a spin-off), by making sure there is a proper local API and spme application notes, there seems to be money to be made, without need for a large cadre of support staff or the need of indefinetly supplying a cloud-service to support the hardware on a once off payment...
  • DM932187
    DM932187 ✭✭✭
    edited December 2022

    Well made points @luteijn, and so assuming tado business model can't finance adequate support, the issue is expectation management, right?

    Tado products are marketed as easy to install, but significant customer feedback suggests otherwise. There are even accounts on this forum of installers getting themselves tied in knots. So maybe tado needs to reconsider its messaging, bearing in mind that 'easy' is subjective.

    As for aftercare, I doubt there's substantial investment needed to move to realtime contact (live chat, telephone). It doesn't have to be of significant scale. A few people actually available would make a big difference from what's there today. And a bit of empathy would go a long way too, from what I've seen.

    At the end of the day, tado seems (and I stress that, because my own experiences have been at least acceptable), to be falling short of customer expectations, but apparently not on product functionality. The reviews bear this out.

    It would be interesting to see what impact making small improvements to the customer experience would make to those reviews. Maybe recognise that Average Joe isn't so good at heating electrics, and doesn't actually know how systems work.

    Tone down the promises and overdeliver.

  • Oh I agree with you that if tado had better support, it would be great. Probably tado would want to be able to give great supportm but I just don't see how they'd pay for it. It was all fun and games when their users were typical early adopters who knew a bit about electrical circuits and how CH actually works, but know they have more types of users, and the whole thing seems to succumb to its own success..

    And since they are keeping the keys to the kingdom for themselves, we can't even just help ourselves or eachother properly either.
  • DM932187
    DM932187 ✭✭✭
    edited December 2022

    Not looking like it's getting much better, as far as I can tell. I have some support messages still unread after 3 days (current response time apparently 'within a day').

    Whilst I've managed to workaround (and don't want tado changing anything right now), it's still surprising those requests haven't even been looked at yet.

    I get they're probably really busy right now, but no wonder people are getting p***ed!

  • rafm5
    rafm5 ✭✭✭

    Black Friday deals, heating period on, devices not tested during summer time refuse to work properly, whatever the reason is customer service won’t be able to handle such a high volume of queries efficiently.

    I actually contacted tado° with a ‘dummy question’ to see how quickly they will handle my ticket and it was resolved in approx. 2 days.

    The amount of ‘junk' they get must be huge, look @ the forum, same questions over and over again although the search option works well...

  • @rafm5 in fairness, it wouldn’t be the worst idea if you pinned some answers to the most asked questions. ‘Which devices have digital connections’ comes almost daily, as does ‘is opentherm worth it’, ‘how do I use Tado in a zoned systemI’ and ‘what are the differences between basic and smart trvs’.
  • @johnnyp78 makes a good point, @rafm5. Addressing more of the FAQs is going to create some bandwidth.

    Ultimately though, there seem to be an awful lot of people raising 'it's not working' queries, and those are just not getting addressed.

    Due to the cloud-based service that underpins tado, customers are never going to be happy if support is run as if the hardware is plug and play and fully user configurable.

    As I said, I can usually work things out for myself, thankfully, but I've seen plenty of people on here with no heating in sub-zero temperatures, and many of them are pretty chuffed off.

  • @DM932187 Good post. Whilst I understand your points, I actually think product development is more important than customer service.

    In an ideal world, a manufacturer sells a product/service that works as designed; simple, intuitive and doesn't need much support day to day. Fixes would happen quickly through firmware/software updates and an active forum (users and manufacturer) would provide feedback for complex issues and feature requests.

    Tado chucking money at support would be the wrong thing right now. There are gaps in product performance which I feel should be addressed over support. The former (product development) should reduce the need for the latter (support).

    I've been a tado customer closing on 4 years now, and not seen anything of any real value (for me) in that time in terms of functionality and features. What I do see is a number of core issues with the product that (in my opinion) should be addressed.

  • Oh don't get me wrong, @paul0000, I absolutely agree that tado needs to fix the existing core functionality and that by doing so, one would think that would reduce the need for support.

    However, in parallel, tado would benefit significantly by supporting customers through the transition to that steady state, rather than giving any thought (and I'm not convinced there is much) to introducing add-ons that also don't work very well.

    You can get a long way by treating customers well, even when the products are not the best, but treat customers with apparent disdain and it'll eventually catch up with you.