“24/7/365 service is the future. The days of closing on the weekends or responding to service calls only during workday working hours are over. Round-the-clock service is going to come to every market, no matter where you are located. That fact that this industry has been able to get away with indoctrinating our clients to wait two days for service is amazing.”
And this new reality can help smart-home pros generate recurring revenue if they learn how to charge for more generous services.
That was the blunt message from CE Pro 100 integrator Greg Simmons of Eagle Sentry in Las Vegas to the crowd during a panel discussion at the Total Tech Summit / CE Pro Summit in Orlando. The panel explored various ways integrators are successfully offering service to their clientele, from 24/7/365 monitoring to simple fix-and-repair service with no agreements.
Here are three valuable tips the panelists offered to streamline service:
Offer Network Monitoring — Eagle Sentry worked with fellow CE Pro 100 integration companies ETC in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Livewire in Richmond, Va., to launch a full-fledged network monitoring service for their customers. The partnership among the three companies helps mitigate the costs of the monitoring service, which is based out of Las Vegas and Richmond, VA, to cover all time zones 24/7. The companies charge clients $49 per month and use the SnapAV OvrC system.
“Providing service to your client base is not easy… and it only gets harder as you get more accounts. Once you get up past 200 clients, you are not really providing good service to your clients without some sort of a proactive solution in place,” remarks Simmons. “We now get recurring monthly revenue (RMR) from service. That money from RMR helps us provide even better service to our customers because we now have an extra $5,000 or $6,000 per day we can use to improve our response.”
Fellow panelist Joey Kolchinsky of OneVision Resources in Boston agreed, advising integrators to install a network monitoring device on every project, even if the client does not intend to pay for service.
“Even if you have to install a network monitoring device at cost, it will save you truck rolls. Plus, it will allow you to offer that first tier of service that the client usually expects you to provide for free anyway,” he says. “Your clients are all going to expect 24/7 service. Best Buy is already offering it. Amazon will likely be offering it soon.”
Start Sales Conversation with Service – It might sound contrarian to logic, but Kolchinsky recommends integrators start every sales conversation with clients talking about service first, even before you discuss the actual smart home solution.
“Talk to that customer how you are a company that will be there whenever there is a problem or whenever the client needs you. Then talk about the smart home system itself. Clients are looking to you to be their ‘technology manager’ and a service-first conversation will help you achieve that role,” says Kolchinsky.
He encouraged integrators to conduct consistent analysis of their service calls so they can identify patterns. For example, one of OneVision’s clients recently was able to isolate a faulty balun that had been installed in multiple homes as the source of frequent service calls. That analysis allowed them to proactively switch out that balun on other projects before problems occurred.
Offer Multiple Types of Service — Roy French of MHS Technologies in Newland, N.C., offers multiple types of plans to clients, including pay-as-you-go service, quarterly, biannual or annual preventive maintenance, and full monitoring. The company now earns $3,000 per day from its service department from all three of those offerings combined. “I can count on it,” comments French in reference to the daily income.
He also believes, “The only reason for a service department is to drive installations.” French says staying in touch with those customers for service is the best way to consistently sell upgrades, new equipment or even become engaged with entire new projects with those customers.
Substantiating that point, moderator Mitch Klein of the Z-Wave Alliance noted how years ago he had showed up at a client’s home many years after the initial project to discover new TVs had been installed. When he asked the client why they had not called his company to help with the new TVs, the client said, “We didn’t want to bother you.”
“I knew our service response was in trouble when our own clients considered they were ‘bothering’ us to reach out for service,” he recalls.