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Stop Arguing with Your Customers

Don’t let tribalism put a wedge between you and your clients.

I’ve never understood the CI channel’s predilection for tribalism. I like Sonos, you like Heos. Who cares? Our pursuit of tribalism costs us customer relationships. I joined the “happy tribe” long ago. In the happy tribe, we listen to our customers and give them what they want. Then they pay us fairly for the work we do. There’s no drama in our tribe and everybody’s, well…happy!

Tribalism in our industry is a cancer and akin to Baskin Robbins arguing about which flavor of ice cream is best. As it turns out, they don’t care which flavor of ice cream is your favorite. They studied consumer buying behavior and settled on 31 flavors that I’m guessing keep 99 percent of their customers happy. The CI channel is different. For some reason, many of us adopt vanilla or chocolate ice cream into our business with a zeal that borders on evangelical. Any prospects walking in the door are immediately met with this tribal approach, which comes off as frustrating and confusing to outsiders. The truth is, our own obsession around which gear is best and our client’s desire for the technology to “just work” couldn’t be any further apart.

Also by Henry Clifford: Are You Scaring Off Potential Customers?

In many ways, our manufacturers and distributors exploit our bias towards tribalism by trying to attach as much importance as possible to control system selection. Whether it’s Control4, Savant, Crestron, ELAN, or others, there’s a strong drum beat around, “We’re the best solution for the home.” It’s all about context. One home/client combination may truly be best suited for a Control4 system where another may warrant a different fit. Because customer relationships are so subjective, that’s a tough claim to make if the goal is to listen first before designing solutions.

Our tribal bias comes out in other ways. Those of us who’ve been around the industry for a long time may stop evaluating new products at the same clip we did at the beginning. It’s no different than talking to older folks who’ve stopped listening to new music. I call it “calcification.” It’s uncomfortable to never stop learning and always look at the world through the eyes of a student.

Are you always learning or have you become set in your ways? In an industry where constant change is the only thing that stays the same, calcification can be really dangerous. In the words of Bob Newhart: “Stop. It.” Consider setting aside time each week to evaluate new products and draw your own conclusions instead of giving in to groupthink.

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

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