Getting Smart About Smart Appliances

A new wave of products will make old service skills obsolete

By Paul MacDonald, ServiceSource

Change is inevitable, and pushing water back up the river is futile. 

In the last century, people who once tended horses had to adapt to a future with cars. Similarly, auto mechanics who could tune carbs had to learn how to handle fuel injection, and now must evolve to servicing hybrid and electric powertrains.

Likewise, we need fewer bank tellers today and more skilled workers who can design, build, install and service ATMs.

People can either continue grasping for low-skill jobs that technology will replace or we can advance our skills so we can remain relevant in the future. Education is the key; we cannot allow the younger generation to leave school without the needed skills to make their way and contribute to new technologies.

I attended a manufacturer’s roundtable at the recent UASA Appliance Service Training Institute (ASTI), where the national service managers of GE, LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, Electrolux and Miele were questioned about the future of smart appliances. Attendees asked how the industry is going to protect independent service providers. I have a secret for you — it’s not! 

I predicted years ago that one day smart appliances would be built with secondary components enabling them to fix themselves or be repaired remotely by the manufacturer. We may not be there yet, but rather than resisting the future you need to embrace it by changing your business now. Adopt the latest technology and teach your technicians new skills that will prepare them for the future of appliance repair. Train all service staff on the workings of domestic Wi-Fi and how to connect to it.

The manufacturers at that ASTI roundtable revealed that less than 30% of consumers connect their appliances to their household Wi-Fi networks, citing privacy concerns and connection difficulties. I suggested to the service managers that they consider paying servicers an extra $25 per warranty claim to connect a customer’s appliance. Tracey Janey, Director of Customer Care at GE, thought it was a good idea, and told me at the subsequent AVB Summit that GE pays Allstate contractors to do just that. GE is spending far more than the $25 I proposed, and with servicers already in the home for a warranty repair, the uptake on connectivity would increase significantly.

While writing this article, my news feed buzzed with the latest Elon Musk news. Seems Elon and hundreds of tech leaders and futurists signed a letter calling for artificial intelligence labs to stop developing powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing the “profound risk to society and humanity.” In early tests, ChatGPT-4 technology was able to pass licensing exams, draft lawsuits and build a working website from a hand-drawn sketch. “Recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one, not even their creators, can understand, predict or reliably control,” the letter stated. 

While the tech leaders try to damn the river and stop the progress of digital technology, countries like China or Russia will continue development, possibly taking another step toward world dominance. I doubt that NATO can stop this global digital tech phenomenon any more than the World Health Organization was able to prevent a worldwide COVID pandemic.

While global leaders figure out how to control the digital future, only you can take the necessary steps to prepare your company for the smart technology driving more and more appliances. I advise service companies to embrace this technology and train their teams on connecting customers’ appliances to their homes’ Wi-Fi networks.

The future is coming faster than we know, and it’s tough trying to push the water back up the stream.

Paul MacDonald, AVB’s senior ServiceSource lead, ran his own 38-tech service business and is a past president of the UASA. He currently operates The Expert Service Program, which helps servicers run their operations more efficiently and profitably. You can reach Paul at (647) 500-7785 or at

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