My day-to-day experience with smart home technology is equal parts comforting and frustrating. Most days, I’m blissfully unaware of the hard work going on behind the scenes as my Control4 system automates my home’s lighting and thermostat settings and simplifies the process of switching sources and executing on/off sequences on our TV remote. But then, at least once a month, gremlins–like the ugly versions of those critters from the bad '80s movie by the same name–enter my house.
I know the glitch occurs either through my home’s electrical system or via my otherwise-steady Pakedge network. Usually overnight, something knocks out our SmartThings hub, which monitors our utility room for water leaks via a Fibaro sensor, and my Nuvo Renovia multiroom audio system, which runs over the powerline but is IP controlled. I get an “offline” notice from the hub and the Nuvo system just doesn’t work. SmartThings is self-healing, but Renovia requires a power cycle, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a hassle.
I really enjoy whole-home audio that blends almost invisibly into my home. I also appreciate a Wi-Fi network that just works, and having remote controls that don’t require “mother-in-law instructions.” I also love having access to movies and nearly limitless TV content via my Apple TV. The thing is, I just want everything to work, reliably and consistently, all the time. Nobody enjoys dealing with mysterious system hiccups that require a device reboot or sometimes an entire network reset to repair, especially your wealthy clients.
I’m sure your clients think exactly like I do. They just happen to have a lot more disposable income and probably much higher expectations of their system than I do. That’s why, in my opinion, service contracts and remote monitoring are a no-brainer for our industry.
Remote monitoring shouldn’t really have to be a discussion with your client. It ought to be an upfront, mandated line item in the system proposal. You have to provide an “opt-out,” of course, but just make the first year free (rolled into the cost of the initial installation), with annual renewals where the client can choose to move on or pay up. Just make sure you send service reports that first year, so your client knows when you upgraded AV firmware, improved network security, or got the system back online before they even knew it was down.
I’m far from the first person to advocate this sort of approach, and many of you are already doing a great job with system monitoring and service contracts. For those who aren’t, however, there are a growing number of service partners available to help simplify the process. If you don't want to do the monitoring yourself, you can even choose to outsource to a company like One Vision Resources or Parasol.
However you do it, please add service contracts and remote monitoring to your operation. There will always be gremlins in the system. Provide the bright light that knocks them out.