Agree On a Game Plan

The common tie that binds the builder and the technology provider together is the needs and satisfaction of the client. Along these lines, there are constants with technology that an electronic systems contractor (ESC) and the builder must be conscious of at all times: It changes rapidly, and; it can be intimidating for the end user. As a longtime member of the ESC community, I am constantly reminded of this axiom on a daily basis.

I have experienced my share of the “slings and arrows” of designing and installing high-tech residential control systems over the years. If I were to tell you that every experience was flawless for all parties involved, I would be less than forthcoming. Providing residential electronics technology for a homeowner is a process that involves high levels of skill in a number of areas. To be able to understand the true needs of the homeowner demands not only a good education both in application of technology, but more importantly, good listening acumen.

It has been a dynamic challenge for my company to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology and, at the same time, be able to translate this to both the builder and the home-owner. One of the fundamental struggles toward meeting this challenge is that there are not really any standards under which each consumer electronic product functions. The average ESC doesn’t necessarily realize that by standardizing how each system functions and by delivering the same simplified approach to the end user, they will reach a much higher level of success on a more consistent basis. When you factor in the reality that we are charged with controlling audio/video, HVAC, lighting, window treatments, security, closed-circuit cameras and other subsystems, you see where this process can be daunting.

How can the ESC manage this element of residential technology applications and help the builder provide the best product and service to his client? The following is a list of practices that builders should make sure their ESC follows:

  • Your ESC should choose a balanced cross section of products and require the entire staff to become intimate with each product. Redundancy is key, and helps the builder and homeowner to have a more satisfactory experience.
  • The ESC should share his experiences with the builder in respect to solutions for subsystems he knows will work. For example, builders should know what HVAC and lighting control products the ESC has worked with in the past, which should provide a seamless solution.
  • The entire experience for each client is new every time whether or not an ESC is delivering the same product over again. It’s important to understand this.
  • The ESC should always keep things simple. It will make the end user and the builder infinitely happier. If homeowners have to relearn a technology on every job, or the ESC finds himself making multiple site visits to re-educate the customer, everyone will suffer.
  • The ESC should implement a strong discovery process with the builder and the client. This simply means
    taking the time to carefully listen to what the client wants.
    Many times, a homeowner will not really know what all the available options are until an ESC
    provides enlightenment.
  • Focused instruction on the operation of the system should be provided to the client when the installation process is complete. A client should sign off at the end of the process and acknowledge he understands how to use all elements of his system. A basic manual with simple guidelines is a good tool that should be provided at the conclusion.