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What's the Long Term Impact of the Wink Hub Recall?

Mike Wolf Hub Nest Quirky Smart Home Wink

Recalls are never good news. They're costly in both time and money and can bring even the most resource-rich of companies to their knees.

While there aren't a lot of case studies for smart home recalls, we can say that with a fair degree of certainty the Nest Protect smoke alarm recall last year knocked a previously untarnished Nest back on its heels a bit and seems to have maybe contributed to a slowed pace of innovation for Google/Nest (they've yet to introduce any new products almost a year and a half after the acquisition was announced). 

So when I saw the news of the Quirky hub recall on Sunday, my first thought was "uh oh". After all, the Quirky hubs had a rough start on Amazon, and while improving, you have to wonder if a venture funded startup can handle the financial and brand toil of a hardware recall.

Before we assess that, however, let's look at the facts as we know them.  On Sunday the company sent an email out to Wink hub users. The reason for the recall was an expired security certificate which, after it expired, meant affected hubs could no longer connect to the Internet. 

According to Julie Jacobson, it looks like about 10% of the Wink hubs were affected. The company also rolled out a $50 coupon as recompense for annoyed hub owners, but quickly terminated the offer as (surprise) many started using the coupon code  for free stuff.

A sign of hope emerged yesterday, however, when it looks like Wink came up with a DIY fix. Customers who are brave enough to tweak their router settings can connect the hub to the Internet and get a fix.

So what does this mean long term? I think the fact it affected only 10% of hubs is good, but the cost of a mail-in recall program certainly isn't something to sneeze at. Call in support, labor, postage all adds up. That the company came up with a DIY fix is a net positive, even if it's putting a bit of a burden on the end user.  My biggest surprise is why they didn't offer a software fix immediately, instead waiting a day before rolling this much more cost-effective solution out. 

But perhaps the biggest cost long term has to be to the Wink brand both to partners and end-users. On the partner side, GE and Home Depot put a lot of eggs in the Wink/Quirky basket, and you have to wonder if a misstep of this magnitude could plant some seeds of doubt.

From a consumer perspective, this won't help a brand that suffered early on from bad reviews. Lots will depend on execution and how quickly Wink can get things right for the installed base, but Wink has shown a strong record of customer support and parent company Quirky has an impressive record of executing quickly.

Bottom line, while it's not fatal, there's no doubt the Wink brand will be slightly tarnished as a result of the recall. 

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