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Warranties, Labor Rates, Networking & Other Best Practices

One integrator saved $6,000 per year on insurance by switching to an industry specialist. Another offers money-back guarantee on enterprise-grade networking gear ... and other tips from CE Pro 100 Summit.


Dealer roundtable at CE Pro 100 Summit 2012
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At the CE Pro 100 Summit this week in Houston, accomplished integrators shared their best practices and learnings with each other in roundtable discussions. Here are some of the notable tips they shared with the entire group.

How do you convince a client with a modest system to spend a considerable amount of money on an enterprise-grade network? Give them a money-back guarantee: To anyone whose network performance doesn’t improve dramatically, offer to switch them out.

How do you train your techs
on IP networking? Integrator-friendly manufacturers often offer free generic training, and CEDIA has a solid curriculum in that category. Another suggestion? Use a CE-centric service provider such as Access Networks or WhyReboot to create some turnkey custom systems for a few clients … and learn from them.

If you have a minimum one-hour charge
for every service call, and it just turns out you have to press a button, you won’t want to tick off the client by charging $100 (or whatever the rate) for a 5-minute visit. Go ahead and use the whole hour. Check the smoke detectors. Check the HDMI connections. Dust off the rack. They’re paying you for the hour, so give it to them.

One integrator with a security division
and separate A/V business used to use two different insurance companies because security insurance tends to cost more than A/V. Then he discovered Security America, which scales the coverage so he saved $6,000 with the switch.

Looking for a good fleet-management
/GPS system? Try Gotrack.com

One group went around the table
with each person mentioning one thing they did in the past two years that really made a (positive) difference:

  • Joined a buying group
  • Started 1099ing employees
  • Fired someone
  • Discovered Liberty Wire, which ships wire in bulk but you only pay-as-you-go.
  • Dropped lines to focus on just a few, just saying “no” to prospects who wanted something else.

For remote-monitoring and other services, instead of one-year agreements, offer three- and five-year plans with discounts for longer coverage. It’s good for cash flow.

Most manufacturer warranties
pay only for product repairs, replacement, not the installer’s time. Warrantech will pay dealers for the labor on repairing and replacing defective product.

Charge a monthly fee to be at your customer’s service via Go To Meeting or some other Internet communications service. Give them an IP camera so they can show you any problem areas.

Sell network monitoring service contracts
in packages based on every 10 devices in the home at $480 per package/per year.

At point of sale, introduce that the idea that the client is going to have three options for service plans at the end of the project. Do not give them any more details at that point. At the end of the job is when you lay out the details of the good/better/best program.

Non-complete laws vary state-by-state. One dealer institutes employee contracts with programmers and engineers, but not technicians. It includes a non-compete for three years and the inability to work for a competitor within a 60-mile radius. Another notes that non-competes must be presented at time of employment and must be “in exchange” for something, such as sending them to programming educational courses.



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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