Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Unique circumstances around service in our industry make many feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
This post originally appeared on Residential Systems on September 23, 2019
Whenever I’m on an introductory call with an integrator, I ask him/her what they would do if a VIP client called them on their cell phone right now. Almost universally everyone says that they would prioritize the client and either put me on hold or call me back. I’m never offended by this answer because I recognize that the integrators with the best reputations are the ones who have learned to prioritize their clients.
I then follow it up with a similar question, pitting the VIP client against dinner with the family. Just about everyone acknowledges, sheepishly, the same unfortunate fact — that they will prioritize the VIP client over the family. I hope for their sake that the family understands. I certainly do because I did the same thing for many years.
But there’s one more question that puts it all into perspective. I ask the integrator “would you be willing to guarantee to your client, in writing, that you will be there for them anytime they need you, whether you’re sleeping, traveling, or working with other VIP clients?”
Universally the answer is no. And therein lies the opportunity. As an industry, we are all breaking our backs to be there for our clients. I believe it’s that “always there for you, instantly whenever you need us” experience that is the foundation of any successful service program. And I don’t mean just remote support, I mean on-site support, too. The problem is that in the absence of a written guarantee, we are unable to effectively market and appropriately monetize this insanely valuable service.
Imagine if AAA said, “cross your fingers, we’re usually able to help you but not every time”. Would 55 million families sign up for a AAA membership? Their roadside assistance is guaranteed 24/7 anywhere in the US and that provides the peace of mind people are looking for when they engage in some sort of service arrangement.
There’s another component that adds to the difficulty, and that’s the comparison made by our industry (and sometimes on behalf of our industry by others) between our craft and that of other trades. For projects, it’s an apt comparison: sell, design, engineer, install. But the analogy breaks down with service. No other trade is expected, able, or required to provide remote support. When you have a plumbing emergency, you reach an answering service or coordinator who simply arranges for a visit. Rarely is phone support provided in those situations. But with technology, there are ever more tools that let us solve problems remotely (eg Ihiji, OvrC, web-based programming, cloud-managed networks, etc) and clients are becoming more aware of the possibilities. Remember the good old days when a client was pleasantly surprised we could reboot something remotely?
I think we are the lucky ones blessed with this opportunity to address a clear need for tech support. Homeowners depend on their technology 24/7. Recognizing this fact, the best integrators are breaking their backs to provide an ever-increasing amount of support around the clock. In order to properly market and monetize this highly valuable offering, it's time to take the next step and put it into a guarantee. Those who figure out how to do it and leverage it as a differentiating way of doing business will have successfully gotten out from between the rocks.