Amazon says the Mayday button on its Fire HDX is a hit

Average response time is just 9.75 seconds.

Amazon bragged Friday that its Mayday tech support button on the Fire HDX tablet has become the most popular way to get 24/7 tech help, with an average response time of just 9.75 seconds.

When the Mayday button was announced with the Fire HDX eight months ago, Amazon said its response time goal was 15 seconds or less.

Amazon Customer Service Director Scott Brown said in a statement that the Mayday concept is working well and has helped revolutionize tech support.

About 75% of customer contacts regarding the Fire HDX come via the Mayday button to get a tech response. A tech then appears in a live video stream on a portion of the display (although the tech cannot see the customer). The tech can then make notations on a user's display or help a user navigate through a process.

Amazon touted the lighter side of instant tech support using Mayday in a statement. Customers have asked tech advisors to draw on their screens, including everything from happy faces to rainbows, unicorns, fire-breathing dragons and aliens. One customer asked a tech adviser to sing happy birthday to someone receiving the Fire HDX as a gift as the person was receiving it.

Some tech advisors have even received date requests and marriage proposals, Amazon said.

There's also a more serious side to the concept, analysts said: The Mayday button's popularity should be a wake-up call to product manufacturers, many of whom suffer low customer-service ratings and should consider more personal contact with users.

"Companies could learn a lot from the way Amazon does customer service," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "The focus Amazon has on customers, and has had for years, is often what makes users so sticky to them. It's true of their general Amazon Web site, too. Consumers love good customer service."

Gold said that what Amazon's done with Mayday is not completely new, as enterprises have provided remote screen control, without video streaming, to IT help desk personnel serve users for years. "Remote control is not as slick as the Mayday button, and Amazon has made it work fast and easy," he said.

Another analyst, Patrick Moorhead, of Moor Insights & Strategy, said Mayday appears to be "more of a gimmick than real support" based on the way Amazon talks about it. Amazon, however, needs to "paint a friendly face" to customers, he said, since it doesn't have physical stores or local distribution centers where customers can meet service personnel.

With Amazon expected to launch its own smartphone soon, possibly at an event in Seattle on June 18, it seems possible that Amazon would enable Mayday tech support on that smartphone device as well.

A Youtube video about the event shows people holding the expected device and reacting to it by moving their eyes and heads back and forth. One woman says, "It moved with me." Some observers said that suggests the device could have a kind of 3-D technology.

When asked whether Amazon expects to have Mayday on its first smartphone, an Amazon spokesperson responded via email: "Ha, I don't blame you for asking." Was that a semi-confirmation of a smartphone coming?

Gold said putting the Mayday button on a smartphone could be a problem for some customers. "If people start doing video chats for service over a standard cellular network, what will that do to their data allocation and ultimately to their bill?" he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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