Excellent Education & Expo Elevate CEDIA 2019
CEDIA Expo’s education sessions shined a spotlight on the importance of ongoing support and service, while the expo floor featured an increased focus on security.
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When it comes down to it there are five critical components of a successful false alarm program — meaning managing and verifying signals so as to minimize the incidence of unwarranted police dispatches. They are:
- Ensuring customer expectations are grounded in knowledge and reality
- Tailored system design and skilled installation
- Thorough system operating training for the end user
- Testing and smooth handoff to a monitoring provider steeped in the implementation and reliable execution of proven best procedures and practices
- Ongoing support and service
You can read much more about those tactics in this month’s cover story, but here I want to focus on the final point. Last month I attended the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo in Denver, now owned by Security Sales & Integration’s parent company Emerald Expositions and closely associated with sister publication CE Pro, for the first time (more on that for next month’s Smart Home Issue) and sat in on several educational sessions addressing solidifying dealer service departments for both proficiency and profitability.
That also lends itself to effectively managing false alarms because a well-served account is much more likely to remain comfortable and engaged with their system, which then likely results in fewer false triggers and higher awareness of how to deal with alarms when they occur.
The assertion that homeowners and families are going to need their own technology managers in the smart home era was the basis for “Strategies for Successfully Selling Service to New Clients and Existing Clients Alike.”
Treat service as its own product category, urged presenters Joey Kolchinsky and Alex Boyle of OneVision Resources. They maintained that a dealer needs to hire personnel dedicated to service and structure the business to deliver 24/7 service, or as close to that as possible — and charge accordingly.
They recommended offering a tiered array of service packages to build RMR, for example an “Essentials” starter level for $30 per month.
“You need to understand how often your customers seek support to more effectively monetize your service. Aim for stellar service, which means not just fantastic but consistently fantastic,” said Kolchinsky. “You need to keep customers happy while not breaking your business, so set parameters that make sense for you. Never say no, instead identify a price.”
Boyle was also on hand for “Strategies for Creating a Quality Service Experience for your Clients,” along with his colleague Justin Cook. They advised looking at service as an opportunity rather than a problem and said to establish dedicated channels (e.g. phone numbers, email addresses) to funnel all service inquiries, and also setting up an organizational chart to clearly delineate service responsibilities.
Standardizing on a remote troubleshooting and diagnostics tool (software) was also recommended, as was locking customers in for basic support and attempting to migrate them to advanced packages. Peace of mind is a major value-add they contended.
Cook remained in the “kitchen” to whip up more insights for “Strategies for Successfully Closing Projects and Transitioning Clients to Service,” accompanied by his boss, Jason Griffing. This very interesting discussion found the speakers proposing the addition of a fourth segment to the standard three-phase cycle of sales-installation-service, inserting a transitional phase to more seamlessly ease customers into the final service segment.
They suggested that period last around 90 days (far beyond the one-two weeks alarm accounts are typically kept on test), during which time the dealer informs the client they will receive a complementary service package that they can then extend if they wish — for a fee.
They emphasized keys to service success being managing customer expectations, executing consistently and smoothly transferring them to ongoing maintenance and service. They also recommended the utilization of software tools on the market allowing both project and service teams to view and access punch lists and other client documentation.
Perhaps above all else they stressed, whether internally or externally to the customer, there is no such thing as over communication. It’s typically being left in the dark that sets customers off the most, so nip that in the bud by being as forthcoming and transparent as possible they said.
In my observations there is a tendency for dealers to give away too much for free. Bending over backwards to satisfy customers is fine, but there must be limits and there must also be reasonable monetary compensation. Anything less is just bad business.
Never forget that people tend to place more value on things that have a price attached and are usually willing to pay for perceived value. It’s up to you to establish and maintain that perception.
While I did spend an entire day in meeting rooms soaking up educational sessions, the other days were spent out and about on the trade show floor checking out hundreds of exhibiting vendors and sitting in on several main stage presentations. At roughly 80% the scale of ISC West, the CEDIA event drew upwards of 20,000 folks. It is set to return to the Denver Convention Center in September 2020.
For more info and a visual experience of this year’s CEDIA expo, check out the slideshow.
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