Leveraging STEM and Empathy in Custom Installs Grow Your Business by Combining Your Technical Aptitude with Emotional Intelligence By Henry Clifford Published: April 3, 2018 ⋅ Updated: April 15, 2019 As 2018 whips along, our industry’s rate of change is accelerating ever faster, forcing integrators to constantly sharpen their edges while staying relevant. Thomas Friedman suggests in his book, Thank You For Being Late, that jobs requiring only high technical skills or empathy will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) or low wages. On the other hand, jobs combining high STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and emotional intelligence–what Friedman calls “STEMpathy” jobs–will see high demand and wage growth. The custom installation channel is awash in STEMpathy jobs and will continue to see expansion because we’re geographically local and uniquely positioned to fill a huge service gap in the market. The question is, now that you’re aware of STEMpathy and its benefits, how will you adapt your business to take advantage? Use these five guidelines to stay ahead of the AI curve: 1. Hire (and fire) for values over raw technical skills Clients love enthusiasm and passion; make sure your employees are all solid brand ambassadors. Do you have any employees who you wouldn’t fight to keep if they resigned? Fire them. Our companies are only as strong as our weakest links. People can buy technology anywhere. They don’t do business with your company because you’re cheaper or have better technology than your competitors. They buy from you because they perceive that you offer better service and expertise (STEMpathy at its finest). 2. Develop a rewarding career roadmap for your installers and service technicians Just like clients have choices, so do employees. If your company isn’t a great place to work, how are you going to attract and retain top talent? If your employees don’t understand where they are in their career, then they’re more likely to disengage and won’t feel challenged to strive for excellence. Focus on giving your employees the tools to succeed and rewarding those who demonstrate drive and self-motivation. Your company should embrace STEMpathy from the inside out to truly maximize its chances of thriving against the competition. 3. Understand the difference between shiny objects and solid solutions Resist the urge to sell new technology to your clients without thoroughly vetting it yourself first. Do you live with all the technology you sell? If not, give some thought to “eating your own groceries.” Test it for the customer, or the customer will test it for you. STEMpathy is all about marrying technical expertise with killer service. You can’t deliver both to clients without living and breathing the best in home technology. Embrace your role as a curator and managing the entire home technology experience. 4. Start treating time as your most precious resource By forcing yourself to think about time as fleeting, you’ll heighten sensitivity to wasting it. Utilize timesaving technology solutions for clients by allowing them to schedule from your website or meeting them on their timetable (not yours). A STEMpathetic approach to being efficient with time will pay dividends in referrals and happy employees. 5. Be available 24/7 The height of STEMpathy is going above and beyond for your clients while being able to monitor and repair systems remotely. Can your customers reach you via text, email, phone, or chat anytime? Consider using software solutions like OvrC, BakPak, or Domotz. If you don’t have the resources in-house to manage 24/7 service, consider outsourcing to remote managed service companies like Krika, Axius, OneVision, or Parasol to handle customer support [disclaimer: the author is a co-founder of Parasol]. AI is coming at us faster than we can imagine. STEMpathy jobs in the CI channel will continue to develop and require a trained workforce catering to clients with high expectations. We’re lucky to work in an industry where customers pay a premium for STEMpathy talent. Your competitors are adapting. Are you? Stay frosty and see you in the field.