Q Thoughts

What Do Consumers Need Help With? Not What You Think

We’re in possession of some unique data on product ownership and consumer behavior. One of the things that we look at each month is the list of specific products generating the most help inquiries. These inquires take the form of a user downloading a manual, participating in a discussion forum, or just deciding that this product is important enough to follow what people are saying about it.

The data is most often useful when looking within specific categories. For example, we can see how different ovens or televisions stack up against each other.

However, sometimes I look at the data in aggregate, across all categories, and there are a few interesting things worth noting.

First off, the “long-tail” is very much at work in the support domain. Just like at Amazon or Netflix, the majority of products in our database have a small amount of activity in any given month. We cover more than 250,000 products and in a 30 day period most of these individual products have a median number of users inquiring about them. Products that have been in the field a long time, or those from manufacturers that had limited market share when the product was released, have even fewer inquiries on a monthly basis.

That said, there are some consistent, and somewhat surprising trends.

The top 10 products inquired about during the month of July included the following product types: tv remote control, refrigerator, garage door opener, wireless headphone, weed trimmer and a lawn tractor.

The same product types tend to appear in the top month after month. The fact that tv remote controls would be on the list every month isn’t that surprising (perhaps the fact that they occupy 3 of the top 10 slots might be considered surprising by some), but why does at least one refrigerator show up on the list every month? In fact, in June, a refrigerator was at the top of the list.

We know from our consumer research that the most frequent motivations for a support request are product feature and function education and routine maintenance. We’re not sure what features and functions of a typical refrigerator might motivate the kind of inquiries that we see, but perhaps routine maintenance associated with ice makers and water filters drives the level of interest.

Another month-to-month favorite is bread makers. Although a bread maker wasn’t in the top 10 in July (the first one appears in 17th place), of the top 50 products generating help inquiries for the month of July, 5 of them are bread makers. And, it isn’t just one manufacturer. The 5 bread makers on the list in July are from five different manufacturers. Is it the recipes that are usually found in the manual that generates this sustained interest?

There are seasonal favorites too. July saw 8 weed whackers in the top 50. In June there were 4 weed whackers in the top 10. Again, we think that routine maintenance needs (eg oil/gas mixture) and starting problems are driving the need.

Here are the top 10 products for July. Draw your own conclusions. I’m interested in your ideas as to what is driving the consumer need for support on these products.


Manufacturer (Model Number)

Product Type

TV and Video Philips Universal Remote
TV and Video Philips (PM335) Universal Remote
Large Kitchen Appliance Kenmore Refrigerator
Household Appliance Sears (139.53975SRT1) Garage Door Opener
Home Audio Motorola H700 Wireless Headphone
TV and Video RCA Universal Remote
Lawn and Garden Homelite (UT20024A) Gas String Trimmer
Fitness and Sports Bowflex Home Gym Home Gym
Lawn and Garden Homelite (UT20044A) Gas String Trimmer
Lawn and Garden Craftsman (486.24226) Lawn Tractor

Categories:Posts from 2008


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