Can You Earn $150/Month per Account for Services Alone? OneVision Says Yes

OneVision Resources develops instant triage, basic support and monitoring service program that it believes is repeatable for all integrators to use. Find out how it works.

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Is the existing business model for custom installation outdated? OneVision Resources in Boston thinks so.

The eight-year-old company has completed a bold transition from being a custom integration firm that physically installs equipment in homes to a service provider that helps the rest of the industry build RMR (recurring monthly revenue) and focus on billable work by offering to manage their service desks.

OneVision is the latest custom integrator to go from being a competitor in the industry to becoming a service provider to the industry. “Following in the footsteps of Stuart Rench of Ihiji, Scott Marchand of Slateplan and Kirk Chisholm of SupplyStream, as former integrators we identified a problem in the industry and now as vendors we’re providing our solution to the rest of the industry at large,” says Joseph Kolchinsky, founder and managing director of OneVision.

Indeed, the company has placed itself at the forefront of a paradigm shift aimed at guiding the entire industry away from its dependence on equipment markups to a service-based RMR business model. The end result being happier customers, improved levels of service, more profit and ultimately higher valuations for custom integration companies when seeking an exit strategy.

Surely, OneVision’s ideas will ruffle some feathers. But as the industry plods along with the same business model developed in the 1980s built on making money from equipment margins, OneVision has been challenging the status quo and is now enabling other integrators to piggyback on its “instant triage” and “proactive monitoring” business model. And the company is not alone — at least one custom installation company, Symbio Lighting + Control in Houston, has inked a deal for OneVision to service its high-end clientele allowing the company to focus on billable work and saving tens of thousands of dollars in man-hours and service costs.

Why Not the Status Quo?

Home technology professionals face continued decrease in margins in virtually every equipment category. Flat-panel TVs, touchpanels, automation systems, multiroom audio systems, motorized shades and other categories that used to carry hefty margins are now sold at minimal mark-ups, while at the same time the total prices have fallen dramatically. CE pros have been forced to maintain the value of their labor to make up for the shortfall. Many integrators work harder than ever before, doing more projects at lower margins to keep pace.

“Integrators are investing time without getting paid for it. … It’s hard to build a sustainable business.”

— Joseph Kolchinsky, OneVision

Now here comes the Millennial generation, a group of 80 million just entering their prime spending years who are avid discount-seekers that prefer to be DIYers when it comes to their home technology. The future growth prospects could be bleak for integrators unwilling to change, but for those who are willing to embrace service and RMR the prospects are brighter than ever given society’s increased dependence on technology.

In the meantime, if you broadly break down the phases of a traditional custom installation business — marketing, design/ sales, equipment acquisition, installation, programming, training and service — most integrators are only getting paid for one task: physically installing the equipment, while subsidizing the rest of the process.

“Integrators are investing time without getting paid for it,” says Kolchinsky. “As an industry, we’re investing time in presales and design. Then we engage with the client to properly design and project manage the process. Then we engage in the engineering and documentation of the system. Then we finally get to the point where we’re ordering all the hardware. But there’s so much more hardware involved in a system these days, and everything is so connected and requires so much programming that even simply ordering hardware from a plethora of providers has gotten more difficult. It’s hard to build a sustainable business.

“Then you finally get to install the system,” he continues. “This is the point today where the traditional integrator is making money, but there’s still more labor to be subsidized. Integrators now need to properly program these increasingly complex systems and provide training that requires an increasing amount of hand holding. Then it starts all over again for the next sale.”

The final phase of any project is the expectation of after-install service. This is where Kolchinsky sees the opportunity through instant triage, basic support and proactive monitoring to respond to clients’ needs, without the need to roll a truck. As customers become dependent on having a technology concierge on call, integrators create a secure source of monthly revenue. “Client engagement is the key to making up lost revenue from shrinking equipment margins. I think the industry is maturing and a lot of integrators can likely benefit from the wonderful new, white-label services sprouting up to help generate RMR,” he says.

The Integrator Service Desk

OneVision Resources started back in 2008. For many years, the company specialized in personal technology devices (like smartphones, email/calendar/contacts and computers) and eventually expanded to home technology. As its affluent clientele started building smart homes, OneVision grew into a traditional integrator, while securing “membership” agreements for an average of $2,500/ month (ranging from $500-$10,000/month based on individual family need).

But Kolchinsky discovered that the two groups didn’t scale well together. At the end of 2015, the company stopped doing physical installations, sold its trucks and transferred staff. It’s now a full-service company for other integrators, as well as for its own clientele.

“After learning firsthand what the barriers were, we realized there is a great opportunity and a need in the marketplace. We are uniquely positioned with our deep experience in service, and our technical expertise as integrators, to provide an incredibly high level of support to our fellow integrators and their customers,” sums up Kolchinsky about the transition. “Every integrator is interested in providing a high level of service not just to build RMR but to also live up to client expectations, but it can be costly to build a highly trained, smart home experienced service team that can respond instantly to every client request.”{pagebreak}

Kolchinsky recognizes that the best integrators have excellent in-person service relations. And while many are able to prioritize onsite visits when it’s an urgent or life-safety issue, they struggle to justify building a remote service team that can respond instantly with basic support to every call and email.

“The demand for instant service is growing. But responding instantly as the request comes in can be really hard,” he admits. Kolchinsky is right that the demand is growing, according to consulting firm Toister Solutions. Its annual study shows that 30 percent of users requesting support expect a response within one hour. And that number is twice what it was last year.

For example, when an integrator gets a call with a simple problem like the remote control or Apple TV is not working, most dealers, when they’re able to follow up with the customer, will conduct basic troubleshooting over the phone. It could be just walking the client through a reboot, but that phone call can take 15 or 20 minutes and usually distracts more than one person in the office when it comes in.

“There’s almost no integrator I know who can monetize that,” Kolchinsky says.

Yet, CE pros know the expectation is that they will take care of the problem. And those small issues are not “I-will-get-back-to-you-tomorrow” problems — they usually occur just as the client is sitting down with his or her family on Friday night to enjoy a movie.

“The client has just paid you to install this whole system. So even though it is an easy problem, it’s effectively an instant high-priority problem because the end-user really expects you to resolve it quickly over the phone. And they don’t expect to get a 15-minute bill for that,” Kolchinsky says. “Good luck trying to charge for that type of incident without being perceived as nickel-and-diming.”

Step 1: Building Foundation with Instant Triage & Support

So what is the solution to service woes? According to Kolchinsky, integrators need to start providing instant triage and basic support services to every customer, and do it as inexpensively as possible. OneVision’s Integrator Service Desk solves this problem for integrators by instantly responding to every call and email on their behalf, and charges dealers a fixed monthly fee based on average incident volume.

“This is the core service offering we believe every single one of your customers should have,” says Kolchinsky. “Instant triage is the act of picking up the phone or responding to the email right away. Basic support is the act of diagnosing and offering basic fixes/workarounds.”

Integrators know that the initial phone call with an unhappy or frustrated client can be dicey. The customer is often emotional, nervous and upset. So the first role of the OneVision technology specialist is to make the customer feel at ease. Having high emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for the job.


Symbio Signs On for Personalized Service from OneVision Resources


By asking a series of questions — whether on the phone or via email — the specialist attempts to understand and diagnose the problem remotely. Is it the remote control? Will the TV not turn on? Is the Internet down? He or she might offer some basic support recommendations, like replacing batteries on the remote, resigning in to Apple TV with their iTunes account, restarting the Apple TV in the settings menu, etc.

All of those can be done quickly and efficiently without needing to know any deep specifics about the system. An analogy to this instant triage service would be a hospital emergency room or even 911, Kolchinsky explains.

“When you call 911, the person on the other end of the phone is able to do an incredible amount of work to understand the urgency of the situation, and figure out exactly what needs to be done,” he says. “Similarly, if you walk into an ER, the first person you talk to is not a doctor, it’s a triage nurse. The triage nurse cannot necessarily solve your medical problems. He or she is trained to perform the most basic form of triage without knowing anything specific about you or having access to your medical records.”

A key aspect to the instant triage is that it is provided in white-label fashion to dealers. Homeowners believe they are speaking with a service rep from the same custom integration company that installed their home technology. Using a dedicated number and email that OneVision sets up for each integrator, the specialist responds by invoking the installing dealers’ company name.

By itself, an “instant triage and basic support” package is not something to be resold to end-users, but Kolchinsky believes dealers can layer on next-day onsite service and sell the guarantee of combined priority remote and onsite support for at least $50/month.{pagebreak}

So who is handling these service calls? OneVision has amassed a well-trained team of individuals who are not only technically adept, but also well versed in customer service techniques. On the technical side, the group is able to remotely troubleshoot any device that is connected to the network, as well as standalone equipment like a TV motorized lift or loudspeaker. In its Boston headquarters, the company has constructed a large “Tech Wall” that includes a litany of interconnected equipment. This wall can be utilized, if necessary, to recreate the client’s problem for troubleshooting.

The team is trained to converse about potential equipment upgrades that can be referred to the installing integrator if a client indicates interest in new work. Kolchinsky notes that the team will never make specific equipment recommendations, but instead take down conversation details and allow the integrator to respond.

But it’s the quality of service and emotional intelligence of the team that Kolchinsky is most proud of. “Our team is able to look beyond the immediate technology need to help solve what we call the ‘root problem’ in order to bring tensions down. When a client calls about the Netflix not working the root problem might be that they simply want to watch a specific movie, so helping them find the same movie on iTunes or On Demand can be an excellent solution in the moment.”

Step 2: Offer Proactive Monitoring

With a service team in place, the next step is to begin offering proactive monitoring to clients backed up by the instant triage, basic support and priority onsite support. For this level of service, there is one equipment requirement: the CE pro must install Ihiji’s Invision appliance in the client’s home.

With Invision, OneVision specialists can be notified when components or systems go down and will immediately start taking action. The platform enables them to diagnose the problem and provide basic support, whether it be rebooting outlets or an offline wireless access point. Customers will receive a notification that there is an issue, technicians are remotely working on it, and that the problem might affect their home electronics in the short term. The specialist follows up with the customer and dealer appropriately as the situation progresses and sees it through to either resolution or, after providing the customer with an update, hands it off to the dealer for follow-up advanced support.

For proactive monitoring, OneVision charges an additional monthly fee.

“Our data shows that integrators can charge at least $150 per month for proactive monitoring,” states Kolchinsky. “With our service, combined with the cost of Ihiji, you should be able to make 60-plus percent in gross margins on your RMR. Every integrator has a database of homes that are just waiting to be activated — it just takes the right mix of responsiveness, timing and marketing to tap into it. Our experience shows that, on average between priority support and monitoring, homes in this industry are willing to pay $50 to $150 of RMR for these types of services. This should be a priority for every integrator.”

Rench, Ihiji’s CEO, thinks the service solution makes sense on many levels. “One Vision’s service goes hand-in-hand with the modern integrator’s Service Operations Center. If you’re looking to reduce service costs, improve the client experience, and build recurring revenue, they’re a natural fit.”

Other than the installation of Invision (if your customers pay for a monitoring service plan), there are no other particular equipment requirements. In other words, dealers will not have to revisit their existing customers to install any particular devices or brands to enlist OneVision’s core offering. But how is that possible? Kolchinsky refers back to the idea of providing instant triage and basic support without needing to know intimate system details.

Managed Ticketed System & Exclusive Support Tools

What happens if a service call eventually requires an onsite visit? The OneVision solution comes to the table with a fully managed Zendesk ticketing system for dealers. The system is set up and managed by OneVision for the integrator and the integrator’s team is trained on best practices for documenting tickets. With accompanying mobile apps, anyone can manage and update tickets throughout the day.

With every incident, a detailed ticket is created and shared with the integrator. If the problem cannot be resolved remotely, the ticket is handed off to the integrator with information on the diagnosis, triage steps that have taken place, the emotional state of the customer, and the customer’s schedule availability. Then, it’s up to the dealer’s scheduling coordinator to follow up.

“The idea is that the integrator has in place a scheduling coordinator or single point of contact to communicate with OneVision,” adds Kolchinsky. If the integrator needs to roll a truck or follow up with advanced remote support, he is presumably billing the client for that visit.

So can OneVision expect more dealers to hop on board the service bandwagon?

Custom industry consultant Paul Starkey, executive director at BRAVAS Group, thinks there are compelling reasons to do so and is an advocate of this strategic shift. BRAVAS aims to help integrators hone their business processes and boost RMR for a potential exit strategy. Starkey says, “OneVision makes it turn-key for any integrator to provide excellent, instant service and benefit from the data that comes from their service calls. This drives higher client satisfaction, improved margins, and growth in revenue — things every integrator should strive for.

About the Author

Jason Knott
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Jason Knott:

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald's Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

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