Amazon adds 'Mayday' button tech support to new Kindle Fire HDX tablets

The device's customer support experts can take over your screen and virtually guide you through your questions via a live video feed.

An Amazon service representative responding to a Kindle Fire HDX user's Mayday request. CNET

Apple customers may have access to some "geniuses" at the mall, but Amazon Kindle Fire HDX users can now get live -- and visual -- tech support no matter where they are.

The company, which unveiled its new tablets Tuesday, has added a "Mayday" button to its Quick Settings menu, letting users connect with a customer service representative via a video feed. The Amazon representative can then talk you through your problem, draw on your screen remotely to provide directions, or even take control of your device and fix the issue right in front of you. The 24/7 service comes free with the device, and Amazon said representatives should respond within 15 seconds of requests for support.

Once the representative answers, they can see your screen but can't see you, so no need to worry about video-chatting with a stranger. Amazon wants customers to feel like they are having human interaction without having to visit a physical store.

Screen-sharing technology is readily available through other services, including Google Hangouts , and live, online customer service chat boxes are nothing new, but Amazon's combination of these features with a one-sided video chat sets its customer service approach apart from its competitors.

CNET's David Carnoy, who has seen a demo of the new Mayday feature, said it's like Amazon's version of Apple's Genius Bar. The button looks like a life preserver and is located where you set your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options. The rep, who appears in a small video box on the screen, can take over the tablet and circle a menu or draw an arrow to point to something. Carnoy said it may initially be unnerving for some customers, but will help those who are less tech-savvy troubleshoot easily.

Amazon's tech experts can now take control of your device's screen and draw on it to guide customers through troubleshooting situations. CNET

Amazon soon run TV ads to promote the new feature, much like Apple did with Siri, according to Carnoy. Amazon thinks Mayday sets its tablets apart from others in the space.

"They see it as a key selling point and plan to do heavy marketing around it," Carnoy said.

Consumers have long hailed the customer service experience of Apple's Genius Bar since it gives users a convenient place to visit, and actual people to talk to, when they need some tech support. Amazon has considered opening brick-and-mortar locations as well. In fact, CEO Jeff Bezos has said Amazon would "love" to open some retail stores if they came up with the right setup. Presumably, an Amazon store would have on-site customer service, but Mayday could be another way Amazon gives customers the services they want without the e-commerce giant needing to lay down any bricks.

 

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