From its inception about five years ago, it has been the mission of ihiji founders Stuart Rench and Michael Maniscalco to provide a way for custom integrators to reduce truck rolls to client homes through a remote-monitoring technology for IP-based AV systems. That mission continues and at CEDIA EXPO in Denver next week, the company will showcase its new Client Care Plan for dealers as well as a technology called ConnectNinja that eliminates the need for risky port forwarding when accessing a client’s system remotely.
“We reworked our service contracts, because what we’ve found is that while everybody is interested in the concept of recurring revenue, nobody really knows how to find it or how to generate it or what the best practices are,” Maniscalco said. “So we invested time and resources into this to create a turnkey kit, which leads us to the Client Care Plan that we put in place.”
Don’t be confused by the name. The Client Care Plan is the same thing as a “service contract,” but clients apparently don’t respond well to that name.
“Clients don’t want to buy service contracts; they don’t call them that,” Maniscalco noted.
To help dealers learn to sell remote monitoring, ihiji hired a product manager who focused nearly half a year talking with integrators about what they needed, creating new content, and launching alpha and beta versions of this new package. A corresponding 85-page resource book contains step-by-step instructions, pricing calculators, customer-facing collateral, sales training, and more.
“It allows dealers to quickly and effortlessly offer service contracts or annual preventative maintenance programs to their clients,” Maniscalco said.
By utilizing the ihiji package, a dealer will have all the necessary components to offer annual maintenance agreements that require very little time or internal resources to be dedicated to the project. This immediately delivers a host of complementary services and a predictable stream of recurring revenue to the dealer’s business.
Maniscalco estimated that it would cost to an integrator $30,000 to develop this program on his own. ihiji puts a retail price of $5,000 on the package, but dealers that purchase into the company’s Success package get access to it for free and ihiji Direct dealers get it for free, as well.
The Client Care Plan was designed to fit any size job. Carefully developed and fully vetted by a select group of dealers, ihiji also studied industry trends that identified current median installation prices of $10,000 to $12,000. As such, dealers can now offer proactive services to many of their clients for as little as a few hundred dollars a year yet also have a more comprehensive offering for larger installations.
“We want our dealers to start with a foundation and not have to pour a ton of resources into it,” Maniscalco said. “When we sent out our Alpha docs, a dealer in Florida went out the next day and sold a $4,000 service contract. We had another guy who got the whole kit when we launched it and he went out and sold four in the first week, all over a thousand dollars.”
Two hours of implementation service comes with the package.
Additionally, ihiji will introduce CEDIA attendees to its growing line of Ninja products, including the PowerNinja for remote power unit reboots, the SwitchNinja for remote PoE port power cycles, StealthNinja for soft reboots of devices like control processors, Sonos and DirecTV, and perhaps the most important one, ConnectNinja, which helps eliminate the need for unsecure port forwarding.
“Port forwards are insecure and make a system vulnerable to hackers,” Maniscalco said. “Unfortunately what we’ve found is that most guys still are not installing higher end networking equipment, so they still don’t have VPN access to a site. When they resort to port forwarding to gain remote access to control processors, touchpanels, IP PDUs, power units, and security cameras, they’re leaving the site pretty exposed to the outside world.”
ConnectNinja allows an integrator to click a button in the ihiji interface and get a secure access tunnel established without doing a port forward.
“They can then do anything they can do on site through an ihiji system, remotely, and do it with specific user controls to limit certain technicians to only certain parts of the system. There’s a lot of control of who can access what. You don’t have to worry about sharing passwords with everyone.”
Maniscalco will be teaching six courses at CEDIA, where attendees can learn more about these products and remote monitoring in general.