Mayday for Amazon’s Live Video Support Service

Amazon’s Mayday customer support feature was introduced with much fanfare in 2013, but the service was discontinued in 2018 without much more than a whimper. The video chat function was initially well-received by Fire tablet users, with Mayday allowing consumers to access face-to-face video support at the click of the button. Yet Amazon’s decision to withdraw the service has stoked fears that video customer support may be a thing of the past rather than a thing for the future.

If a company with the resources of Amazon cannot create a sustainable form of video customer support, then it doesn’t bode well for smaller brands and businesses. Given the problems that can arise when communicating via phone, the idea that video support would allow a better understanding from both parties is perfectly reasonable.

That face-to-face communication also presents advantages that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot match. Many companies are now turning to AI for their customer support needs, using chatbots to respond to consumer queries and complaints. However, the impersonal nature of AI has its drawbacks. Research conducted for CGS’ 2018 Consumer Customer Service Survey revealed that around half of 500 participants preferred the human touch over chatbot support.

A Quick and Personal Service

This demonstrates how many consumers prioritize quality over speed. Mayday’s popularity was largely derived from its ability to end the need to prioritize quality or speed. When Mayday was launched, The Verge noted how the service would be available 24 hours, 365 days a year. That kind of accessibility is matched by chatbots, but where Mayday distinguished itself was in the promised 15-second waiting time to connect the user to a live support representative.

Such a comprehensive support system was never going to be hugely profitable in itself for Amazon, but that kind of customer care worked wonders for the brand. Given Apple’s supremacy in the tablet market, Amazon needed something memorable to distinguish their Fire tablet. While it is impossible to pinpoint just how influential Mayday was, upward trends in sales do correlate with the provision of the service.

Figures from IDC show the ground that Amazon made up in the tablet market against more established contemporaries. In 2017, the overall tablet market declined by 5.4%. However, Amazon’s year-over-year growth figure was a rise of 38%, a far more substantial improvement than any other major tablet provider. The Next Web is not reluctant to acknowledge the Mayday feature as a key factor in driving that growth, given the favorable media coverage commanded by the immediate success of the service.

The Continued Growth of Live Streaming

The argument could be made that Mayday’s role as a media tool had been fulfilled, hence its quiet retirement in 2018. However, it is odd that Mayday has been removed at a time when live streaming is reaching new heights in popularity. Facebook has signed a £200 million deal to broadcast the Premier League in south-east Asia from 2019, while Instagram also allows users to share their activities in real time. Users can share live streams with complete ease, allowing their followers to feel more connected.

The success of specialist video hosting sites like YouTube and Twitch has perhaps been the most significant factor behind the popularity of live streaming. The number of active streamers on Twitch rose steadily throughout 2018, with data from Statista presenting that approximately 1.76 million streamers used Twitch in Q4 of 2018. Live gaming streams are the primary contributor to Twitch’s popularity The uninitiated may wonder why almost 14 million follow Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins on Twitch to watch him play video games, but this relatively new phenomenon is here to stay. One reason why so many watch these streamers is to share in a collective social experience.

This has also driven the development of live casino streaming. Whether on a console or at an online casino, gaming can be an isolated pursuit. The live casino games at Betway use video streaming to recreate the communal aspects of a physical casino. Games like blackjack and baccarat are operated by real-life croupiers rather than computers, with players able to see the action unfold through multi-camera technology. As with customer support, the game could easily be run by a bot. However, many people find the ability to see other humans makes the entire process more satisfying.

That human element was certainly appreciated in the Mayday service. In 2014, Amazon reported that 75% of customer support requests for the Fire HDX came via the Mayday service. Perhaps the fact that some people took advantage of the video service for pranks made the unprofitable nature of Mayday more difficult to justify. Some users called up to solicit birthday wishes, while others used Mayday to seek help in negotiating tricky Angry Birds levels.

That is an unfortunate development, but it is one that surely would have been foreseen. Amazon’s increasing investment into their specialist video service, Amazon Prime, shows that the company is not averse to live streaming. Realistically, only a company of Amazon’s size can offer such a wholesale video customer support service. Given the continued popularity of live video streaming in other forms, as well as the fleeting success of Mayday, it would be unwise to suggest that we have seen the last of video customer support.