There are products—like TVs, AV receivers, and speakers—that are easy to sell, easy to understand, and pretty easy to understand when specs change. Then there are products created to improve the world of the custom installer. These products give back only what you put into them. They require training to fully understand their benefits and knowledge to implement. If you are willing to put forth such effort, you will cover yourself and your client more fully, and if you are especially talented, you will find the golden ticket to recurring revenue.
One perfect example is a company called ihiji—a network and software system that allows you to connect, diagnose, a resolve issues for your clients. It consists of a small piece of hardware, called the “appliance,” that you bring to a client’s home and connect to their network, preferably to the router. This device, about the size of your fist, only requires power and a network connection. That is the install—all done, in about five minutes. Through the appliance, you can now remotely monitor the home and all the connected devices on the network, with no port forwarding and no VPN. As ihiji puts it, it is your “secure gateway in the cloud.”
Two appliances are available through the company: an APP-500 that will allow you to monitor up to 50 connected devices and the unlimited APP-1100. The appliances now retail for a one-time fee for the devices themselves and then an additional yearly fee depending on how many managed devices are part of the system. ihiji points out that these fees often cost less than a typical truck roll.
ihiji’s web-based portal, called invision, allows you to see all clients systems in one place. The beauty of this arrangement is that if something goes down in the client’s monitored system, you will see that particular client first on the portal. You’ll also be notified by email or SMS message (based on your configuration) when there is a network problem for a client.
Typically the way a problem is brought to our attention in AV land is that a client calls to complain that their system isn’t working. Yes, there are ways that you, as an integrator, can log into systems to see what is “live” and what is not. You can even “ping” devices and see if they are responding. The major difference with ihiji is that you know there is an issue before the client does. You will wake up in the morning to see a text message that Mr. Smith’s router went down overnight, was rebooted, and now the system is back online. Like magic, it is back up and running before Mr. Smith ever knew it was down.
Then you may run a report at the end of the month, or a year, and give it to Mr. Smith. You will prove to him the worth of your annual fee, thus recurring some revenue for another year. Rinse and repeat with other clients and you can build up extra income to help your business grow and/or increase your profits.
The catch is that you will only get out of the system what you put into it.
As soon as you sign up, you will be fed an email with quick videos about what the products and services are and how they work. There are more quick videos for what to do when you received the device. It takes time to watch them, and I would suggest carving out an hour to go through a few at a time. Another option involves watching webinars that will go through the system step by step in about an hour.
ihiji is very easy to install. I was able to do it out of the box. I was also able to scan my network and run a speed test. Once you scan your network, you then have to add those devices onto the system to begin monitoring them; this is not a hard thing to do, but it will take a bit of time. I’m guessing that the more you learn as you move forward with the company, the easier this becomes.
Take the system a step further and add on managed POE switches and UPS, and these devices can now also fall under the same umbrella on the same platform. ihiji has partnered with many industry leaders such as Panamax, Control4, and SnapAV to allow you to integrate these products with the ihiji portal.
Kicking it up one more notch, ihiji wants to teach you how to sell recurring revenue via its Client Care Program. For no additional fee, this package of templates provides dealers a complete road map for the successful creation and sale of service contracts. A turnkey guide complete with step-by-step instructions, pricing calculators, customer facing collateral, sales training and more, ihiji’s new Client Care Program allows dealers to offer service contracts, or annual preventative maintenance programs, to their clients.
At this point my company does not offer service contracts, and yet I fully understand how important they are. They are harder to implement than to talk about and must be well thought out, and there are only so many hours in the day to get such a program up and running.
ihiji has done its homework and wants to let you copy down its answers; they want you to use their devices, implement their strategies, and in five years send pictures to them of your new boat. ihiji claims to have the pieces of the puzzle to make life simpler. If you are looking to increase your monthly revenue and have the wherewithal to sell remote monitoring through the cloud, this is certainly the company worth looking into.
Are you more experienced with ihiji’s system than I am? Please share your success stories in the comments section below.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.