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Coronavirus — Update From The Field

Communication to clients, vendors, and employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

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If you told me a month ago we’d all be huddled in our homes with public venues shuttered and something called “social distancing” in place, I would’ve called you nuts. How quickly things change. We’ve gone from watching foreign countries managing a virus outbreak to dealing with a full-blown pandemic right in our own backyards. These are scary times made scarier by inefficient communication. There’s plenty going on outside of our control and precious few things we can influence. Make no mistake: we’re all being tested. How we handle this crisis will be something we all reflect on for years to come. If you own a CI business, your customers, employees, friends, and family all are looking to you for leadership and strong communications right now. Not tomorrow. Right now.

Here’s a rundown of what we’ve done at Livewire so far to effectively communicate with our employees, customers, and other stakeholders:

Related: Coronavirus Impact on CI

We sent out an email on 13 March to our team outlining changes to our appointment confirmation policy and made new training available immediately concerning proper sanitizing and social distancing measures. We made it clear that our employees shouldn’t put themselves in a position they’re uncomfortable with. We also instituted a remote work policy where applicable, and mandated all company meetings should take place virtually. Please modify our email to suit your needs and use it.

I addressed the entire company in an all-hands Google Meet session on March 17 to let everyone know we’re all in this together with a month’s worth of work still on the books and we’d do what was necessary to ensure we emerged from the crisis intact. We also addressed HR concerns. Our office manager ran down a litany of pending and approved government policy changes and offered to help our employees through any questions they might have.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for our leadership team. They’ve all stepped up and just gotten on with it. It’s the kind of teamwork and esprit de corps that comes from years of building trust.

For the latest updates on how the coronavirus is impacting CI, visit our information hub and sign up for the Residential Systems daily newsletter.

We sent out communications to our clients via email and social media on March 15 letting them know what steps we’d taken internally to safeguard our employees. We made it clear we’d be asking each customer how they were feeling before our visit and would reschedule any appointments where there were sick people in the house. We also implemented a policy where clients could cancel for any reason with no penalty. We also began offering virtual consultations remotely and developed language for our sales team to use around the common inquiries we’ve started seeing (Wi-Fi dead spots, security checkups, and green lighting upgrades sitting on the backburner).

I began talking to our vendors about COVID-19 last month. At that time, it was a hoarding exercise with most large integrators and outfits with more cash out-buying the little guys like us. It became clear our distribution partners like ADI and SnapAV would become ever more vital as supply chains saw disruption.

I commend efforts by folks like John Heyman and others proactively communicating via video message (I think you have to be a Control4 dealer to access the video) with the integrator community. I’m sure we’ll see more thought leadership from other vendors as we move forward, but there are some great early entrants out there.

Click here for updates on the coronavirus from LiveScience.

Effective March 16 we launched a campaign offering free 24/7 remote support to any client deciding to subscribe to Invision (I’m a co-founder of Parasol — not a plug, just sharing what we’ve done) if they signed up by the end of March. Our whole mission right now is oriented around helping others. I’m sure we’ll get back to selling soon enough when this is over, but now is the time where we’re trying our best to be other-centered.

Related: Coronavirus’ Impact on the Global CE Market

We’ll continue communicating with our employees, customers, and vendors on a regular basis as the world continues to evolve and change. A buddy of mine is fond of saying “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible). I’ve always tried to live by that motto, and it seems fitting for what we’re all moving through now.

The next wave appears to be coming in the form of shelter-in-place orders where only “essential” businesses will be exempted. Are CI businesses “essential”? The definition appears fairly subjective but at least one integrator is already planting their flag in the sand, stating any business supporting the ability for employees to work remotely is essential. Let’s hear it for Long Beach’s Digital Installers for sending out an email campaign earlier this week leveraging California’s exemptions and letting clients know they’re very much open for business. [The Department of Homeland Security has cited professionals who are working to assist in the establishment of home offices as essential, so hopefully the state and local governments will follow their direction. —Ed.]

I’m here if you need me. I might not get back to you right away, but I care and want to help. I highly recommend the CEDIA COVID-19 community as a starting point. Our strength lies in our commitments to each other. I’ve got your back.

Stay frosty, and see you in the field (six feet away this time).