Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Mayday Feature - Game Changer Award Winner 2013

Apple has its Genius Bars, but Amazon is bringing its version straight to your sofa. Within 15 seconds of touching the Mayday button in the settings menu of a Kindle Fire HDX tablet, customers get free, 24/7/365 tech support via video chat. Customers can see and connect with a friendly face, but the tech agent can't see the customer. Plus, those tech agents can control and write on the display of a Fire HDX. The idea is not just to fix problems, but to educate the consumer. 

"Mayday is a way to bring tech support from the mall to your living room," said Peter Larsen, vice president of Kindle product management. "And the tech advisors need to be able to draw on the screen so we can actually teach customers how to do it for themselves. Teach them how to fish, so to speak."

While the e-tail giant won't say the inspiration for the screen drawing feature comes from telestrators used during football broadcasts, Larsen did tell us that the name "Madden" came up repeatedly during the planning process. Regardless, by circling and underlining various buttons on the display, it's dead simple for new tablet owners to become familiar with the device.

Amazon also believes that it's important for customers to develop a rapport with the assistant. "A customer who is having a Mayday moment may be a little tense or agitated," said Larsen. "Seeing a friendly face on the other side makes for a much more personal, engaging experience." 

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Because of the newness of the Kindle Fire HDX tablets, the Mayday feature is in its infancy, but a 15-second response time is fairly impressive. Amazon is leaning on its own massive Web Services division to achieve those results. And the company has scaled up its U.S. advisor training to get more agents online in time for the heavy Christmas morning calls that are expected.

For the most part, the company predicts two primary types of calls: "How do I do this?" and, "Look how cool this feature is, Mom and Dad," as families gather around the tablet to get to know the device. However, agents will answer questions about all manner of topics, including content, such as what book a customer should buy or what movie they should watch. Agents will try to answer those questions by walking customers through the stores themselves.

One customer even asked a support agent for help in ordering a pizza through via the Silk Web browser. That's a far cry from the scripted experiences most people get when calling tech support.

"We create guidelines for the tech advisors, not rules," said Larsen. "That's one of the reasons we think our customer support is so strong, because [agents] can vary their responses based on what the customer needs."

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Amazon is fairly confident that its competitors won't be able to copy this idea, at least not any time soon. The company's existing Web servers and customer support teams enabled this rollout within a year of its inception.

 "The way we think within Amazon is from the customer's perspective," Larsen said. "A lot of companies would look at a service like Mayday and would only see a lot of expense. We think if it's good for customers, that's what we're going to do."

As tablet users, we look forward to Amazon potentially expanding Mayday to its entire site, where agents might help you create a wish list or wedding registry. But the company is staying mum on expansion for now. Larsen told us, "I think there are lots of opportunities for scaling up Mayday. But for now, we're just trying to get going for the holiday season." 

Game Changer Award Winners 2013

SMARTPHONE: Motorola Moto X

The Moto X is the first smartphone that lets you perform voice commands without touching your device.

CAMERA: Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 packs a 41-megapixel sensor and lets you zoom in on photos after you take them.

GAMING: Oculus Rift
This jaw-dropping virtual reality gaming headset literally puts you inside the action.

A wearable breakthrough, Glass lets you snap pictures, get directions, speak to text and a whole lot more.

Leap Motion can read your hand gestures for doing everything from gaming to exploring the universe.

T-Mobile has shaken up the wireless world by nixing contracts and making phone upgrading easy.

Pebble is taking smartwatches mainstream with an e-paper display, useful apps and a low price.

APP: Vine
Vine is a whole new way to communicate and tell stories via 6-second videos that are a cinch to share.

Intel's powerful but efficient new CPU gives 2-in-1 tablets and laptops more speed and battery life.

Anna Attkisson
Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson heads up features and special projects for, in addition to covering social networking and accessories. She joined the LAPTOP staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.