Emerson and its Sensi Wi-Fi- smart thermostat — not Nest — took top honors in J.D. Power’s inaugural “2016 Smart Thermostat Satisfaction Report.”
The report, fielded in September and released last week, measured overall customer satisfaction with smart-thermostat brands among 2,509 consumers who had purchased a smart-thermostat system within the past 12 months. It took 10 factors into account (listed in order of importance): ease of use, ease of install/setup, reliability, energy efficiency, price paid, effectiveness of heating/cooling, Internet connectivity, usefulness of app, variety of features, and customer service.
According to the report, convenience was the most important factor for consumers, with 63 percent stating they adjust their thermostat remotely. Fifty-three percent said automating temperatures when not at home was a benefit, while 51 percent said saving money on monthly heating/AC bills was a benefit.
Other details culled from the study:
• Percentage of consumers who installed the unit themselves: 64 percent.
• Used a contractor/professional installer: 36 percent.
• Those who used a contractor reported slightly higher satisfaction ratings: 883 vs. 873 for those who did it themselves. (Scores are rated on a 1,000-point scale.)
• Percentage who said DIY was easier than expected: 51 percent.
• More difficult than expected: 4 percent.
• Percentage of consumers who looked at consumer review websites before purchasing: 45 percent.
• Percentage of those who cited positive reviews as a reason for selecting their thermostats: 46 percent.
Jeff Conklin, J.D. Power utilities and infrastructure practice VP, advised manufacturers to focus on ease of connectivity. “Smart-thermostat customers are taking a hands-on approach to researching, buying and installing a product that allows them to have, in effect, a hands-off experience. The resulting satisfaction levels are promising, but manufacturers would be wise to focus on their customers’ ease of connectivity and the benefits of smart thermostats.”
While few consumers reported connectivity issues — just 15 percent — the issue can have a dramatic impact on satisfaction. According to the study, the customer satisfaction rating dropped to 843 for that 15 percent group and the 9 percent who reported difficulty connecting from their mobile app. It rises to 899 for consumers who didn’t experience connectivity issues.
High satisfaction scores also lead to brand loyalty. Of those who reported a satisfaction score of over 900 — J.D. Power terms them “delighted customers” — a whopping 94 percent said they “definitely will” recommend the brand to others. The report average is just 82 percent. Meanwhile, 55 percent of this delighted group said they definitely will purchase additional products from the same brand.
While Nest may not have pulled the top satisfaction scores, it is a best-selling thermostat. According to The NPD Group, three brands captured 90 percent of U.S. dollar sales for the 12-month period ending August 2016: Nest, Ecobee and Honeywell (in order).