So which did you actually get when the last AV guy finished that installation?
Did they over deliver on their promise to provide you a fabulous AV technology experience that would both wow you and simplify your life? Or…was it the deluxe smart home technology package with extra hot air? Or the extra value package with low satisfaction?
Whether you're a former customer, a potential customer, architect or designer or one of the audio visual companies who may specify these whole house automation systems to your clients, if you're reading this then you have already taken some position on the question above.
The Sound Of Silence…
And why are you reading such questions from a company called Ultimate Sound & Installations, whose business it is to design and yes, sell these smart home systems?
Because something doesn't sound quite right in our industry. It's the sound of silence. A silence that we in the industry have heard for many years but often goes unanswered until it's too late. It's the silence of many former or soon to be ex-customers of audio visual companies that aren't even aware their relationship status is about to change.
These are customers frustrated by what they feel are overpriced AV systems that have underperformed on what they were promised or worse, enslave them to a life where they can't even enjoy this AV system that cost them a very pretty penny. They feel locked into a feedback loop of endless service calls and empty promises by their audio visual companies and they're angry. At some point, they throw up their hands and simply move on to another company.
When Opportunity Knocks…What’s Lurking Behind the Door?
Recently, we received a phone call from someone who found us online (That's a good thing! Our marketing efforts are paying off. Hooray!). He was having problems with his whole house automation system that was installed by one of our well known home automation vendors (still a good thing…for us). His address was in a desirable neighborhood on New York's very wealthy upper East side. (So far so good, right? What’s the catch?).
So we arrange an appointment to see what his issues are and arrive to have a look. Beautiful apartment with wonderful river views. It was a good sized whole house automation system on a par with something we would certainly design and install for our clients. I am there with our head technician and strike up a conversation with the client while my tech looks into an issue with his HVAC control.
What happened with Company X? I ask.(we know them well) I find out they came by a few times after the original installation to deal with some typical issues and added a new iPad control feature when that became available so he could operate his system with it.
But evidently they didn't provide a very satisfying experience where he could truly control the system as thoroughly as he was promised. So at some point he has to resort to throwing a circuit breaker to turn off certain lights that were supposed to be controllable as they were overheating and he ends up causing some problems with other devices that are no longer controllable with his system. The AV company becomes unresponsive to his ongoing requests to remedy his situation.
Now anyone on the sales or installation side of this conversation (which includes yours truly) would be quick to remind you that there are always two sides to every story. And there are. And sometimes, yes, there can be difficult customers with unreasonable requests. The jury is still out on this one as we're just walking into the situation. However, that's not the point.
One Bad Apple In A Socially Connected Fishpond
Our industry is built almost entirely on referrals from our customers and our associates in the design/build industry. So an unhappy customer, architect, designer or builder may be the end of one sales cycle and potentially many other future sales if that referral source decides to spread their story to the rest of their network in a very socially connected world; a network who turns out to be precisely our target audience.
More often than not, a client’s satisfaction or lack thereof is directly related to the follow through by the integrator after the sale and installation of an AV system. In our industry, with a client base of typically well to do members of the upper echelons in business, entertainment and politics, the old adage of no news is good news when we don't hear from them is a very bad policy to adopt.
Communication is absolutely key to taking the pulse of your customers and if you don't hear from them it's incumbent on the home automation vendors to reach out and check in to see how they're doing, especially if they haven't heard from a former customer in quite some time.
Smart Home Technology: The Key to Freedom or The Handcuffs?
At some point, this customer confides in me that he wished he never installed any of this technology in his home; a very expensive system that was supposed to enhance and simplify his life. It didn't.
He describes how he came from a country where he didn't even have a telephone as a boy. If you wanted to communicate with someone, you went out to meet them. It used to be called human contact. You could read someone's emotions by seeing them in front of you. Body language. Remember that? He was used to operating and fixing things with his own hands. Now he feels like he has lost that ability, not because he lost those skills but because the system prohibits him from doing so.
In the short term, this could seem like a new business opportunity for our company and it is. Great! A new client we've inherited from our competitor's lack of caring. Maybe we can sell him some upgrades. Fantastic! But in the long term, this is a bad thing for our industry.
Us or Them? Hint: There Is No Them
Whatever side of the fence you stand on in this conversation, you've probably heard this story before. It’s nothing new (unfortunately). The villain is always the same (the evil AV company and by default, the salesperson who sold the system). Likewise, the problem (complicated technology). Only the customer's name changes.
And while many of us have and know clients who are very happy with their systems and understand there's a right way and a wrong way to design and install them, we can't ignore this uncomfortable silence.
It's a poison arrow through the heart of our industry that creates a worldview in this particular niche of clientele that smart home technology sucks, is too expensive and not worth the trouble. The problem is that this clientele, the ones who can afford these elaborate integrated systems: the best home theater system, distributed audio and video, lighting and shade control and so on, are the bread and butter of our industry.
Your Choice: Hide Your Head or Dig Deeper
We as an industry have a choice: ignore stories like this one at our peril and write it off as simply one negative stance on an otherwise wonderful and thriving industry. Or suck it up and acknowledge that we've all heard stories like these and cringe when we do. Recognize that maybe today it's another company in the crosshairs of someone's discontent but tomorrow it could be us.
Decide that if each of us worked a little bit harder to hear our customers' frustrations, if only a whisper sometimes, we can catch them in time and correct them before the whisper turns to silence and the silence turns into bad press. Yes, AV companies reading this view each other as the competition. And each one promises something better than the other. But this silence only serves to poison the well we all drink from as an industry.
So if you’re an AV company, the next time you send out an email blast touting the latest Wow! in smart home technology to your former clients and don’t hear anything back, try picking up the phone and calling them. Human contact still goes a long way. And it works both ways! If you’re a former client, potential client or architect / designer reading this and have a smart home technology thorn in your side, as described above, you can pick up the phone too.
Silence is deadly.
Communication is healthy.
So can we talk?
Posted by Mark Hermann
on Monday, February 20, 2012
at 7:23 pm
Business, Electronic Systems Design, smart home technology, Wireless Home Automation · Tagged
audio visual companies, home automation, home automation systems, home theater, smart home technology, ultimate sound
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I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you only have 321 days left to live…I'm truly sorry.
Well, that's if the Mayans are correct in their prediction for the end of the world this year.
So will you finally go and build that dream AV system you've always been dying to build? Before…before…well, you know.
(OK, I know what you're thinking). Oh, here we go again. Another end of the world, doomsday scenario from another crackpot. This time it's 2012. Hey, if you were alive when Ronald Reagan was president then you've already heard a few of these in your lifetime so you might well be justified in your skepticism.
I seem to remember there was some prediction in there from Nostradamus, another one about the harmonic convergence or something, where all the planets would line up, causing world flooding and mass extinction. And then I believe 1984 was another lights out scenario (or was it just a book?). Oh yeah, that's right and the Rapture was also supposed to happen this past year, no? And somewhere in there, there was a death comet and a spaceship coming to save the few who were in the know and were wearing their sneakers (Was that to get a running start and catch the moving spaceship?). Or was that the Koolaid people? I can't keep track of them all.
But what if this time it were different? What if the Mayans were right and we're all just a happily forgotten blip on Earth's four billion year timeline, some time in late December of this year? How did you spend your final days? Did you party like it was the end of the world?
I thought about all the things I would want to do. There are still a few places on Earth I need to see; the Himalayas, Africa, India, the Northern lights. Things I need to do, cars I need drive at frightfully excessive speeds. And it would be nice to build a completely over the top, fabulously expensive AV System like some of the ones we've built over the years for our clients or like you've seen on Cribs.
I envision a home theater built like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, only the seating would be more like a very expensive brothel somewhere in The Red Light District in Amsterdam. The sound system would resemble the kind of rigs I have mixed on for stadium concerts, only you wouldn't see anything. It would just sound like the voice of God speaking to you in 9.3 THX Ultra II surround.
How about you? What floats your fantasy smart home technology boat? I mean let's really dream the big dream here. Would it be a JBL Synthesis system in your beautiful 5 star home theater? How about a Digital Projection Titan Reference projector? Would you spring for lighting control, automated shades? Warm up that jacuzzi out in the Hamptons from your iPhone? How about that Crestron control system you bookmarked and keep going back to read about. What would it feel like to push one button and watch your whole world transform before your very eyes?
Yes, these economic times may be tough for many. But who cares? It's all over soon and anyway, you can leave the bill for the next inhabitants of our fair planet, whenever that happens. Not going to be your problem.
Seriously, if you have been sitting on the fence about pulling the trigger on building the system of your dreams, here's a great motivator to get you moving. The grim reaper. And what's the worst thing that could happen? You do this, you find out that I and the Mayans were dead wrong and you end up treating yourself like you always should have in the first place. You're worth it aren't you?
Now you'll have to suffer through a first rate entertainment experience every night, using cutting edge technology and so what, you have another payment to make each month.
Sure, this is a crazy post. But the point is if not now, when? 2011 was an amazing year for technology and this year it only gets better. There are some wonderful products on the market now that can take your home and mobile entertainment experience to a whole new level. We'll help you to separate the wheat from the chaff too, in terms of what's hot and what's not quite.
So c'mon, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone, give us a call at Ultimate Sound & Installations and let us fulfill your dreams while you still have time (or just to spruce up your reality!).
As people continue to find easier ways to access entertainment and have more options available to them in terms of movies, TV shows and various other choices to enjoy themselves they might seek new ways to improve their experience. As they spend more time with their entertainment system alone or with friends or family they will most likely want to improve their sound New York system. Having the best sound possible is very important especially when you want to spend your free time watching your favorite movies and TV shows. An audio visual company is a great way to easily improve your sound system so that you can enjoy a theatre experience in your own home whenever you want. If you want more than just a great entertainment system then you can ask the company if they offer home automation systems as well. This is a new method of making it quick to access all the controls for the electronics in your home. Imagine never having to look through all your different remotes again.
The reason that most people look into smart home systems is the possibility of making things around the house go more quickly and easily. It is a way of centralizing control over everything in the house including the lighting, security system or anything else that is run electronically. Being able to control everything remotely can save you time and effort as you enjoy the benefits of new technology. Having a home that is up to date with technological advances makes it more valuable and enjoyable for years in the future.