New code, new customer

I’ve considered buying a Nest thermostat since they were first released on October 25, 2011. While Nest certainly appealed to my geek side (controlling my home’s temperature from my iPhone? Come on!), I couldn’t justify the cost to replace something that didn’t really do that much more than my cheap digital programmable thermostat.

Our house was built in 2004 and as such, is well insulated and sealed. So much so in fact that we’ve had some challenges with humidity. Nothing too concerning, but things like excess (in my opinion) window condensation at times. Many newer homes come with a Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system that exchanges air in the house while retaining heat. This indoor/outdoor air exchange is key to controlling humidity. We could install an HRV, but they can be expensive and challenging to install, especially if the required ducting wasn’t pre-installed in the home. Instead of an HRV, our HVAC system has a fresh air intake that draws outside air into the house while the furnace fan is running, so I was constantly turning the fan on and off manually to move air and control humidity.

Soon after the Nest was released, I contacted Nest Labs to ask if it was capable of automatically cycling the fan on and off, but the feature wasn’t available.

Last week, Nest tweeted that they had released a software update that included advanced fan control (along with a number of other interesting features). It was at this moment that I realized the incredible influence that software has on product sales.

From Nest’s blog post on the software release:

If we’ve learned one thing about our customers in the last year, it’s this: they really like fans. And for good reason: circulating the air keeps homes from getting stuffy, maintains an even temperature throughout the house, and can sometimes save energy. With Advanced Fan Control, you can now schedule the fan to run all night and turn off in the morning, run for a few minutes every hour, or just turn on at 6pm when you get home from work.

Exactly what I was looking for. The moment I read that, I had already decided to purchase. All because some programmers had typed on keyboards and tested code for a few months. No changes in manufacturing, no new physical hardware, just new ones and zeros. Pretty amazing stuff.

Welcome to the future. Sometimes it doesn't take a new product to bring in a new customer, it only takes a bit of work and innovation to change the value proposition. What can you change in your business to appeal to new customers?