Last week my cable went out. Most of my channels simply had the on-screen message “One Moment Please.” I called Comcast (s CMCSA), navigated menus of phone tree options, and waited for a service rep. And waited. And waited. When the rep finally came on, they remotely reset my box, which fixed the problem… temporarily (but that’s another story).
I tell this mundane (but probably not uncommon) tale because Verizon (s VZ) introduced its new “In Home Agent” for its FiOS customers today, which lets users troubleshoot some basic TV issues on their own, without the need to speak with a customer service rep.
The In Home Agent is actually a package of tools for Verizon FiOS internet and TV subscribers that offers a bunch of quick home fixes for network issues, email support, etc.. As part of this new toolset, Verizon has introduced a series of codes that appear on the TV screen that can identify and resolve FiOS TV issues, or allow a user to subscribe to new channels. For example, if a channel you subscribe to suddenly goes out, a code appears on the TV screen along with a toll-free number. Call in and enter the code and that channel will be re-established.
Additionally, if your entire set up goes on the blink, you can re-boot your set-top box via your phone without having to wait for and speak to a customer service rep. If there is a more catastrophic failure of the TV service, users will be prompted with a number that will connect them directly with the appropriate rep, instead of having to choose one from a menu of options.
On its hyperbole-packed-to-the-point-of-being-unreadable Verizon at Home blog, the company brags that this is a breakthrough service that its competition can’t match. I only have experience with Comcast, perhaps readers can pipe in with other examples.
This In Home Agent isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it caught my eye because we hear (and write) a lot about how there is more content than ever coming to your TV and TV is becoming more social. The more stuff we jam into TV service, the more stuff there is to fail. Creating easier ways for users to troubleshoot problems on their own will become increasingly important in order for us to enjoy all that sweet newteevee.