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The Amazon Fire Phone's Mayday Effect

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Jun 20, 2014 11:09 AM PT

Amazon unveiled its Fire Phone this week, sparking wide interest, if not acclaim. The Fire Phone comes with some innovative features: a dynamic perspective display made possible by six cameras that track the user's head and eye movements; and Firefly, an intelligent assistant that can give Apple's Siri a serious run for its money.

The Amazon Fire Phone's Mayday Effect

Then there is Mayday, a support service feature that Amazon launched last year for its Kindle HD products. Mayday, which is activated when a user presses a virtual button, responds with remote, face-to-face, video tech support.

Mayday resonated with users -- and the customer service community too. After its debut, other vendors -- most notably Salesforce.com -- hurried to introduce their own versions of Mayday.

Fire With Mayday
Fire With Mayday

Mayday's presence on the Fire Phone is significant, as this device has larger strategic implications for Amazon than breaking into the smartphone market. That's largely because Firefly is seen as the ultimate showrooming tool for consumers, designed to draw shoppers back to the Amazon store to spend their disposable income.

Tech-Savvy and in No Need of Assistance

It's unlikely that the Mayday support feature will make or break the Fire Phone, though, according to Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research. "Mayday is mainly a feature for people who are less-than-tech-savvy and appreciate a little handholding in their tech support."

It could increase Fire Phone adoption at the margins, with groups such as senior citizens, many of whom have been slower to make the jump from a feature phone to a smartphone, he told CRM Buyer.

In short, even though no other smartphone offers a similar help function, the Fire Phone's success or failure will depend on how consumers respond to its other competitive differentiators, Chowdhry maintained.

"Most people know how to use smartphone devices now, and the initial learning curve for some of these new features, like FireFly, does not appear to be that steep," he said.

Difference Maker?

However, that view isn't shared by Max Silber, executive director of mobility at MetTel, who does see Mayday making a difference as Amazon jockeys for market share.

It is surprising how confounding even tech-savvy people can find new devices, he observed.

"The ability of Amazon to offer a service such as Mayday will be a big selling point for adoption of their new Fire smartphone, especially if enterprises choose to provide their employees with this device," Silber told CRM Buyer.

Internal help desks at enterprises assisting employees with their mobile devices receive countless requests from people having trouble learning how to operate new phones, even with basic functions, he pointed out.

"Not only will Amazon's Mayday shorten the learning curve for new users, it will allow IT departments to eliminate tickets on phone operation and allow them to focus on the more imperative tasks at hand," Silber noted.

"Further, Amazon's Mayday offering is a move in the right direction for the telecom industry, where superior customer service can often make or break a business deal," he said.

Still, considering Amazon's devotion to providing a superior customer experience, it probably didn't install Mayday on the Fire Phone to goose sales of the device, Chowdhry reasoned.

"It is a nice feature, and it is good to smooth out the little glitches that can occur," he said. "It would have been surprising if Amazon hadn't installed it on the Fire Phone."

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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