Luxury AV and Home Automation: It’s not what you think!

We all have our own definition and cliché imaginings about luxury. For the 99% of us who have not made it yet, luxury is a nice car, an incredible house, fine jewelry, the ability to travel around the world on a private jet and to tan your skin on the most beautiful beaches on earth. But when you already have all this, what is the definition of luxury 2.0? It’s something you can’t understand if you are not wealthy or if you haven’t hung around with enough rich people. In fact, even if they are financially out of danger, their lives are anything but simple. You see, the more stuff you own, the more managing your life becomes a small business, which takes away more of your free time. Therefore, what wealthy people expect of luxury is peace of mind and they are ready to pay a lot for this.

Transposed to our AV & Home Automation industry, luxury is something simple that works in time with impeccable service and support. Push a button and the lights turn on. No stress. You trust the system, it works, and if it fails, you know you can rely on someone that will jump into his truck to the rescue. And you know this guy will come because you pay enough to trust him to assist almost anytime. This is the real definition of luxury: Peace of mind, simple and efficient things and people you trust that you can rely on. Therefore, Apple is a luxury brand and maybe they launched the iPhone X at such a high price just to boast it louder.

If you think about it, a part of the AV and home automation industry (fortunately not everyone) has been catering to wealthy people in quite the opposite way since the beginning. All those simple things like turning on the TV, that 99% of everyday people are doing without stress, is something that wealthy people cannot do without anxiety. For years, our industry created for them the most expensive and lavish systems with 10 times more features than necessary. In most cases, all this sophistication is not a client request, but a dealer wish. I even suspect here that some custom installers live vicariously their passion for AV through their clients, using technology they could not otherwise afford. Therefore, the endgame is to find a rich guy that allows the installer to play with the new, expensive toys our fertile industry has churned out and turn his house into Dr. Frankenstein Tech Lab dream.

Are you aware of the incident of the wealthy family who preferred to watch football in the maid’s room because her TV worked all the time? The signal came from a twisted fork plugged into the antenna connector - not from a fancy home automation and distributed AV system. It’s simple. It is not HDR nor Dolby Atmos, and there are no extra “Voice of God” speakers, but there is the guarantee to view their favorite sport without interruption. And you know why the maid has a dedicated room in their house? Because this family might need her 24/7 and they can pay for it. It’s not a question of money, they just can afford this luxurious way of life, to pay people to work for them 24/7. In fact, for the 1% wealthiest people our CEDIA channel tries to focus on, it has never been a question of money, but a question of trust. “Can I trust you or not? Will you be there every time I need you? What is the price for my peace of mind?

This raises an important question for our industry. Why do some custom installers I meet still tell me the same story over and over: “My rich clients do not want to pay ME for service or any maintenance contract. They prefer to pay as I am needed, if ever they dare to pay my bill.” Let’s recap: We have wealthy clients that pay without any question the service and maintenance to the swimming pool company, the HVAC, the alarm, landscapers, chef, maid, nanny, personal trainer, chauffeur, along with 5 sport cars sleeping in the garage and they have an extended guarantee on everything they buy including AppleCare. They give $100 bill extra tip to anyone who delivery something, they even pay someone $1000 to stay 8 hours in the line in front of the Apple store to get the latest iPhone, and yet they don’t want to give YOU $10 per month for service and maintenance? Come one guys... YOU are the problem!!!

Why in some cases, wealthy clients have such a bad perception of custom installers? You know, wealthy people have a sixth sense, they can instantly understand when you are totally thrilled to install the latest gears YOU want to play with, even if in some cases you have no clue how to make it work. And then, they see you entangle yourself with complicated technologies where all they want in fact is simple things. They see you fight with the interior designer just because you absolutely want to install 12 speakers in the living room otherwise “the system won’t be optimal.” Very often, custom installer is the only one who enjoys technology here, and everyone from the owner, the architect, the electrician, to the dog can feel it. In fact, they allow you to play with their house with their money. But don’t betray them or they will treat you like nothing. So, when it comes to ask for extra money for a service and maintenance contract, they consider that it’s enough. “You installed the things YOU wanted, you played enough in my sandbox with the toys I bought for you, now make it work!”.

Here's another hint: Some custom installers are not comfortable with money. And when it comes to make a quotation for a wealthy client, the total amount is about to be so important that it’s a real challenge to pronounce it. So, they willingly downgrade the system with cheaper gears that might not be good enough for the job, they will give the best possible discount, offer the installation, 10 years guaranty and never talk about service or maintenance just to be more comfortable with the number that must go out of their mouth. To be short: they do the mistake to buy with their own wallet. Wealthy people do NOT have any problem with money. They just can’t trust or have a good perception of anyone that work for free, because that guy will die in no time. Once again, the sixth sense of wealthy clients will tell them that something is wrong, the guy in front of me is not looking me straight in the eyes and he is much too subservient. It might mean that you try to fool them, or that you do not respect yourself enough to charge what you worth. In both case, you’re a dead man and you entangle yourself in a deadly spiral. Think about it: What kind of respect do you expect from your clients when you do not respect yourself enough to charge your real value, to even realize that you have a value. Even the Landscaper is better than you in this case...

Remember that people, especially the wealthiest buy experience and peace of mind and they can pay whatever the price for it because they know that everything has a price. Now, if you want to play the field, you’d better know the rules. Make your clients happy with very simple and bulletproof systems where you will not make a lot of margin on the first shot, but make you money on the service and maintenance you promise them all year long. Do you want to know what the ultimate luxury is now? It’s when it’s 2 AM, in the middle of a party, and your client shows his guest, “just for fun,” that he is able to call a concierge service for any problem related to the AV system and that he paid this service $2500 per month. This is luxury!

You can find the finest technology almost everywhere, but when it comes to service, it's a whole other story.