For the system designer, guiding your customers through the smart home sales process is an education experience for both sides. Mark Jeisman examines ways to make the journey a smoother one.
I’ve seen the look before — glazed eyes and polite nodding — the young smart home system designer is doing a first consult with a couple building a new home. The product and technical knowledge was outstanding yet they risk confusing the couple with information overload.
As industry professionals we’ve all been guilty of being overly excited about some of the amazing technology we live and breathe day to day but it’s better for our customers if we take a step back and consider that we are often on the same shopping list as tiles, carpet, swimming pools or kitchen appliances in a new home build.
Here’s how we can sharpen our focus and guide our customers accordingly to deliver a better project outcome and a better customer experience.
Plan, listen and learn
If possible, gather as much plan and specification content as you can about the home beforehand. The more intimate you are with the home’s layout and features the more you will gain a feel for the use of spaces that will allow you to frame the right questions in your meeting. Respectfully understanding the family dynamic is crucial in achieving maximum seamless functionality. How long do they plan to live in the home? How do they entertain? Are they an iOS or Android family? Forecast life changing events such as children growing into teenagers, elderly family members moving in for aged care assistance, empty nesters locking up and leaving for travel. Find out what’s important to them. All of these factors will shape how you customise the most effective solutions required.
Build your brief and qualify
Formulate effective questioning in ways such as the SPIRAL method. As an example, cite an implication in your questioning. ‘I’ve just been reviewing your window treatments and realised the interior designer has specified thirty motorised blinds in the home. Are you aware that this will require picking up five different remote controls around the home to close up your blinds in the evening? What if we allowed these to be a part of the smart home system and provided a one button close control, or in groups to simplify this process? Would that be more beneficial?
Keep your proposals simple
In some cases on a fully integrated home, it’s not uncommon to be covering ten different system disciplines in one document, so break it down into small bites for easy reading. Providing your customer options or scalability gives them somewhere to move if they feel one option isn’t right for them, or they wish to scale up one part. Your proposal should clearly offer a line of delineation between inclusions and exclusions — too many businesses are driven to the wall over losses faced by the blurred lines of what was expected and what was included. It’s also a great idea for every proposal to feature a short form signing page and agreement with your terms and conditions.
Keep the brand you or your business
Sol Marrington, director of ‘Surrounds’, one of Australia’s earliest smart home companies says “Focus on the solution and simplify the description as they are buying you to make the right choices for them. We sometimes remove product brand names from our preliminary proposals, or in the least are not driven on being overly brand-centric, leaving that detail for contracts or specific technical documents.”
We are a long way from a common concept of understanding and the perception of what a smart home is and the consumer space is incredibly fragmented. It can vary wildly from a DIY single smart speaker through to a fully integrated automation solution. Our job is not to push unnecessary, trendy products but to understand our customers’ needs and expect to complement and facilitate their lifestyle.
Mark Jeisman is a Business Development Manager with Clipsal by Schneider Electric. Based in Perth, he has a 35-year background with some of Australia’s most influential AV and Smart Home companies and as a broadcaster and technology commentator in radio and print media.