When my brother Julien and I founded Krika two years ago, we were confident that within months we would be the next huge success story. We could imagine it all so clearly. Remote Supervision - a perfect tool, released at just the right time, into a growing connected home market with almost no competitors! The thousands of Custom Installers we met during international exhibitions across the world seemed to understand the value of the product right away. These potential customers of ours were delighted by the prospects of Krika. Business was going to be great! Or so we thought… Our only question by that time was: Why ihiji is not already a multibillion company?
Even though we had some early successes, the results were not really being what we expected at the outset. It took us some time realize that Custom Installers will never absorb the cost of a Remote Supervision device the way they would with a CRM, a work truck, or any other tools necessary for the job. Even if our hardware was very affordable, installers reasonably expected to make a profit on the Krika device the same way they want to on every gear they sell and install at the client's venue. We were perplexed. Even our best arguments about Krika's ability to enable proactive service and cut truck rolls by 50% seemed to fall on deaf ears.
So, we began to aggressively make the pitch about bundling Remote Supervision alongside of service / maintenance plan. We would explain how Krika could help unlock the “Holy Grail” of RMR. We'd use slogans like “pure margin”, and “grow the value of your company”. We were not alone in this marketing effort: CEDIA was already on the field, having beat the drum about RMR for years. In 2016 our new competitor Domotz, along with the industry press, increased the pressure on Custom Installers, giving them all sorts of Excel sheets, complete with pie charts and tables, about how to structure their service plans. Webinars, training events, and conferences are being held to explain the benefits of RMR. Were we all convinced that Custom Installers are too stupid to understand what this RMR concept could mean for their business? Should I bother to mention the result of all these industry efforts? The percentage of Custom Installers in the world providing RMR is nearly equal to zero, nada, nothing... And unfortunately for Krika: in 99% of the cases no RMR means no room for Remote Supervision. Something was missing but what?
It's been two years, we hired the best distributors in the world and the frustration on our part has grown. Custom Installers seem totally in love with the concept of Remote Supervision, but they still don't install it as much as they should - one in every job. Why is this?
It's not that Custom Installers are stupid. Clearly, they can grasp in a minute the upside of RMR and Remote Supervision for their business. I even suspect they secretly dreaming about it. The challenge, we've realized, is that no one has figured out how to explain the benefits to the end user. In all our communication, we only seem to talk about the features and benefits for the professional. But in the end, we're asking the consumer to pay. And collectively (including all the consumer AV industry), we've done poor job explaining what's in it for them.
In many other parts of our industry, manufacturers provide abundant marketing materials aimed directly at the end user, hoping to drive demand back to the Custom Installers. In RMR and Remote Supervision market, we were talking primarily to the professionals and giving them very little marketing help aimed at their end users. We were selling Remote Supervision through RMR like we would a hammer drill or spirit level - tools that enhance the life of an installer but don't necessarily concern the end user. On second thought, this approach is a nonsense. It's not working and Custom Installers have sent us a message loud and clear: Don't sell it to me, sell it to my customer!
Think now about the uncomfortable and fuzzy position custom installers are currently standing in. One one side you have manufacturers & consumer press promising a technological DIY wonderland through marketing that shows everything working like magic with an iPad. On the other side, you have consumers who reasonably expect this promise of easy and reliable functionality to be upheld. And in the in the middle - the Custom Installers. How is he supposed to sell Remote Supervision and maintenance contracts to an end user who doesn't believe they need it?
Consider automobile makers, air conditioning manufacturers, or an alarm providers. All of these manufacturers advise the use of a trained, certified professional for installation, service or yearly maintenance. Likewise every manufacturer of AV receivers, projectors, or multiroom systems should clearly mention on its box: “This device is very sophisticated. For a better experience, call a professional”. Do we think it is an honest approach for a manufacturer to sell “cash-and-carry” a $5,000 projector without prompting the buyer to call the closest ISF certified professional? We all know that without the help from a certified professional using a expensive calibration tools that $5,000 projector will not perform anywhere close to its full potential. Same story for a 9.2 THX Receiver, a NAS, a router and so on… This is the last missing piece of puzzle: Unless manufacturers send a real message aimed to end user to legitimize a new job category called Home Technologist, Custom Installers will always feel uncomfortable selling service, maintenance, and Remote Supervision.
I am not trying to bash on manufacturers. But the AV and consumer electronics markets need to reach this same level maturity already seen in the commercial market. For too long we (and I'm including myself here) blamed the Custom Installers, treating them like dunces because they struggled to sell service. Can we now recognize how difficult it is to sell the benefits of Remote Supervision and RMR to end users? Can we help pave the way for Custom Installers to become Home Technologists?
We need to reboot this consumer AV industry. Everyone from manufacturers, to press, to Home Technologists need to speak in a single voice and create a virtuous circle that will benefit to everyone. We need to work together to craft a message aimed at the end user - to help them understand the value behind the guidance and ongoing service a professional can provide them. The result will be a better experience for the end user, and a more profitable business for the Home Technologist.