Written By Home Automation Hound Posted on February 15, 2013 – Original Article

There are many moving parts in a fully integrated home automation system, and just like any other complex machine, things can and will go wrong. But when something does go wrong, it’s important to have a system in place to quickly and efficiently find and fix the problem. This is why it’s essential for homeowners and customers to view home automation as an ongoing service, not just a one-time purchase. After all, there’s a reason why electronic superstore Circuit City went out of business, while competitor Best Buy, with customer services such as Geek Squad, remains.

Even if there is an ongoing monthly rate, which often scares customers away, it’s important to recognize that you are ultimately saving yourself money and time by allowing companies to actively monitor your system with a “client care plan”. Seth Rubenstein of One Firefly and I recently talked to Michael Maniscalco of ihiji about this reality. “Systems are like an automobile. You can’t buy a car and expect not to take care of it and for it to not have problems over time. There’s a lot of maintenance that needs to be done regularly in order to properly maintain performance over the lifetime of the vehicle.” The problem is – a lot of homeowners don’t understand this in relation to their home technology systems, and a lot of professionals are hesitant to share this with their customers for fear of losing that sale due to a higher price tag.

This is where a company like ihiji comes into play. They offer a service and support tool for dealers to better manage and maintain their systems. This way, if or when a problem occurs, they can be alerted in real time, often before the client knows about it, and they can fix the problem remotely from within the ihiji system without ever having to make a trip to the customer’s home. This, in turn, keeps the customer happy by saving them money, time and hassle. It also makes the business owners happy because it makes their systems more reliable and reduces the number of service calls and truck rolls that the contractors have to make. And as a result, these businesses can become more efficient and profitable over time.

So in the end, client care plans are a win/win in that everybody ends up saving time and money. Much like a car that’s routinely serviced so as to avoid any major (and expensive) problems, “…the cost of ownership over the lifetime of home automation system will actually decrease”, Mike shared. “The dealers are getting insight as to what’s happening while it’s happening, and they’re often able to fix that issue before it kills the equipment.”

The reality is, we’ve gotten to the point in this industry where the product isn’t a differentiating factor. One high-end TV isn’t going to be substantially different from the next, and the system you buy from one dealer to another is generally the same. However, what differentiates one company from another is the ongoing relationship and care. From a dealer’s perspective, it’s all about what you know and how you cultivate your relationship with the homeowner. “We’re becoming knowledge experts,” Mike shared. “And the people who understand service properly and professionally are going to be the ones that are around in the long-term to take care of customers.”

So what’s the take-away from this?

To put it simply, you as the customer will want to make sure that your home automation provider is going to be there to service and support you properly and in the long-term. The real value of home automation is in the relationship.

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