LG have launched what they call “smart diagnosis” technology on some of their white goods appliances in the UK, which it claims will revolutionise after-sales service. Will it? Or is it pure marketing spiel?
How does LG Smart Diagnosis work?
According to LG it, “allows customers to solve appliance problems over the phone rather than call out an engineer”. All a customer has to do is to hold a telephone up to the smart diagnosis button, press the button, which then transmits a series of tones so the engineer (or smart phone app) can identify the problem.
This technology, which is hailed as the first, is featured on LG’s 2011 range of washing machines and their new dishwasher but there are plans to extend it on a range of refrigeration appliances.
My first reaction to this smart diagnosis technology is alarm. Is it a crafty way of restricting who can repair their appliances by introducing technology, which only their own agents have access to? This type of restriction is in fact increasingly happening in the white goods industry, and is a serious consumer issue.
However, LG have created a downloadable mobile app so customers can, “diagnose their washing machine at home”, but how much genuinely useful diagnostic information will it give them?
I’d be surprised if this app will give more diagnostic advice to customers than LG already do via the instruction book. Unfortunately I suspect it will simply give them the handful of very basic error code explanations already printed in most instruction books such as to check the water tap is turned on, check the door is closed properly, or check the pump filter. Anything else and you are most likely to be advised to call one of their engineers. With their phone number conveniently displayed on the app ready to ring – or if you’ve not got the app and have already rung them – it’s a perfect opportunity to book an appointment for one of their engineers to call, which a sceptical person might suspect could even be the real reason behind its development.
My concern is, if a customer wants to call a trusted and reliable local engineer to fix their LG appliance, will he be able to diagnose what the coded tones mean?
I’m sceptical of claims by any manufacturer that they want to let their customers solve appliance problems over the phone rather than call out an engineer. However, when an appliance is under their guarantee it is in their interests not to send an engineer out if it’s only something silly like the tap turned off. My concerns lie solely with LG appliances that are out of their guarantee.
LG smart diagnosis App review
I just searched for the app (in the UK) on my iPhone. I was presented with an LG smart diagnosis app but with all the writing in Korean (I presume) and not a single review. This was enough to stop me downloading it, but on second thoughts I decided to download it anyway only to find it totally in English after all.
The app looked good. I can’t test it properly because I don’t own an LG white goods appliance. However, it contains some genuinely useful extras such as a fabric care guide, stain guide and links to some basic LG white goods appliance help videos.
The smart diagnosis works just the same as demonstrated on this YouTube video (video no longer available) but as you can see it only shows a pretty silly basic fault, exactly the kind of fault I suspect will be the only ones you will get advised properly about.
Anything that improves the quality of after-sales service on an appliance is a good thing, so is this a good thing?
If it’s offering more information than can be found in the user manual, and proper fault diagnosis reports such as “faulty thermistor” then it could be. If it’s only a fancy replacement of the current system of displaying actual error codes such as F01 or E30 except that error codes will now be even more secret and only decipherable by ringing an LG agent or via their special app, which may or may not mostly just advise customers to ring an LG agent then no.
I place the quality of after-sales service on white goods appliances second only to the quality of the appliance itself when making a purchasing decision, so any claim to, “revolutionise after-sales service” gets my attention. Current practice is to design appliances to log error codes when most faults occur, and to either display them via the display window, or cryptically broadcast them in ways only decipherable with the right knowledge.
Either way most error codes mean nothing to the owner of the appliance and apart from the few very basic error code descriptions printed in the instruction book (mentioned earlier) some manufacturers try to keep the meanings secret from their customers – and some from even legitimate qualified appliance repair engineers (Appliance Error codes – friend or foe?)
Therefore unless this new Smart Diagnosis system gives more diagnostic information to customers and independent engineers it can’t revolutionise anything. Previous appliances that don’t have this system still produce error codes, which if displayed to the customer can be relayed by them via telephone. So this system doesn’t appear to do anything except carry out that task in a more complex and expensive way. The customer is still likely to be told they need an engineer to call out if any error other than the 2 or 3 basic ones is triggered.
Utilising modern technology to enhance features and create an extra link with customers is OK. If it’s marketed as something that will revolutionise after-sales service then it should – the jury is still out on this at the moment. More importantly, if this sort of technology is used to further hide error codes from customers and independent repairers with the result (either intended or not) of restricting who can repair the appliance in favour of the manufacturer then it’s a bad thing for consumers.
I hope to find out more about this system and update this review. Please add comments if you have any information. If anyone at LG would like to correct anything I’ve got wrong or enlighten me so I can ensure this review is totally fair please contact me.