The job of a custom integrator is to coalesce very complex solutions and make them simple for customers to operate. For Dan Anton, co-owner of Rhode Island integration company Flint Audio Video, Nest is doing his job for him.
With over 15 years of business, Flint AV is a brick-and-mortar A/V retailer with locations in Middletown and Wakefield. About two years ago, the company launched a custom installation division that services both stores. Today, about half of its over-the-counter sales lead to a custom installation in both commercial locations and residences.
According to Anton, the installation operation is “the key to success as a small business in the A/V industry.” So it’s vital that Flint AV maintain high client satisfaction ratings with its in-the-field installations. Often, that satisfaction comes down to the interface … if the client has trouble interacting with the system, it’s not a good thing.
That’s why Nest has become a go-to solution for Flint AV. The company carries the full line of Nest equipment: the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Protect smoke and CO alarms, and the Nest Cam Indoor and Outdoor security cameras.
“We carry all of them; they all work nicely together. It's almost a no-brainer. The installation is very easy. The app interaction is fantastic. The customers get it. It's a great entryway to get into home automation. For a simple consumer who wants simple control and an easy-to-use app that doesn't need a lot of customization, Nest is perfect,” says Anton.
That combination is important for Flint AV, which has a lot of customers who own second homes in the ritzy Newport area. Those clients are not living in the home for long stretches of time and want to be able to remotely check in on the property.
“Bottom line – it's all about the app. People like to be aware of their home whether they're there or not. The Nest has your thermostat, your cameras, and your smoke carbon monoxide detection in one app. In our area we have a lot of transient homeowners who are here in the summer and gone in the winter. They want to make sure their home is okay when they're living in Florida, and they have that 24/7 on their phone,” he notes.
As noted, ease of installation is another element in maintaining efficiency in the field. Anton says the wireless connectivity of the Nest Cam solves lots of installation problems when running wire is difficult.
“The flexibility of the Nest Cam is its key feature. You can put it anywhere. Now Nest has the outdoor camera where the only thing you need is a power plug and you're done. The wide-view angle, fisheye lens gives me extreme flexibility in the camera placement.
Simple Integration with Whole-Home Control
In terms of what clients like best about the product line, Anton admits that every customer and every home are different, so it’s hard to pin down a particular favorite feature.
“I think it's a person-by-person, individual basis. Is it a customer looking to make sure while he or she is in Florida that the pipes aren't frozen in Rhode Island? Is it a customer who wants to keep an eye on the general vicinity of the house? Or someone who wants to make sure there's no smoke in the house?”
“I can say we can put all this into one simple app. For the customer who's looking for a simple solution, Nest has it. If the customer wants beyond a simple solution for their whole home, Nest has it,” Anton says.
Likewise, Flint AV also serves full-time residents who might have a larger automation system. For whole-house control, the company uses URC Total Control, incorporating Nest into an iPad control system for not only the thermostat and cameras but also the television and a whole-home audio system with Sonos speakers throughout the house.
“Nest is a nice entry to home automation. We're integrating them with URC Total Control packages all the time. So I can install Nest in a basic standalone system all the way up to a high-end URC Total Control or other automation systems. They all work nicely together,” he comments.
Speaking about the Nest Thermostat, Anton says the biggest “simplicity factors” are definitely the eco settings.
“It is going to learn your life patterns … learn how you live in your house. They like the overall interface. When you can demo it, and show people what it can do on your sales floor, they're interested in it. Then you show them all the other features and they buy it,” he remarks.
Sales Tactics That Work
From a sales standpoint, the company has made Nest a prominent display in its stores.
“We have it on display in the store, and people walk by and say, ‘Oh, cool, Nest Thermostats. Talk to me about that.’ It's a conversation starter. I think that's great. You always want to diversify your store. You always want something new and exciting but you need to be profitable also,” he says.
Anton also has Nest in his own home, which he often discusses during sales calls.
“I talk about my own personal home where I have a Nest Thermostat outside my kitchen. When we're entertaining you can't believe how often somebody sees it and says, ‘Is that one of those cool Nest Thermostats?’ It's such a simple thing, but the design, the look, the whole package people gravitate to.”