What we hear is that once homeowners learn what home automation can do for them they want this product. But there are a lot of moving parts to the product. There are hardware costs to cover along with numerous home visits needed, so it’s not a product that is automatically going to make money unless you do it right. Here are things to think about when considering the product:
- You must be willing to cross the threshold. This product requires you to routinely go into customer homes. As an industry we have spent a decade looking for ways to reduce truck rolls and this product increases truck rolls as a routine part of the product. Your pricing must embrace that concept so that you are recovering a lot of your technician time.
- One way to look at this product is that it gives you the opportunity to cross-sell other telecom products. We are told by some clients that the cross-sales are worth far more than the margin on home automation.
- There are not likely to be any industry standards for a long time, if ever. This means that you need to decide what devices you will and will not support. We think the right strategy is to define the list of things that you will automate, and even then that you only deal with monitoring units that are part of your suite of products. Otherwise customers will always be buying crazy off-the-shelf things (like an egg tray that tells you how many eggs are left) and expect you to somehow tie them into your system.
- You must recover equipment costs. You need to have an initial installation fee plus some portion of monthly fee on a term contract that is aimed at recovering the cost of the equipment. Base hub units for home automation are going to cost you from $150 to $200 and there is a wide array of monitors that can be added to the system to automate things like watering systems, thermostats, fire detectors, music systems, lighting, etc.
- This industry and the product are always going to be changing. Home automation is the first small step into the Internet of Things and by becoming the trusted vendor today you have a foot up on that market when it gets more mature. The downside to this is that the technology will be changing quickly and so you are going to have to always be looking at different and newer monitors and devices to support with the product. But your customers will want many of the new things that will be coming along, and so you will have a continuous opportunity to upgrade and add on to customer systems.
- You must manage customer expectations. There are three components to pricing the product – installation, equipment and ongoing maintenance. We think customers are going to get excited about this product. Once it’s installed and you have automated their sprinkler system and window shades they are going to want you to keep coming back to update more things over time. So your pricing needs to make it very clear about what is included with your base fee, and what costs extra. We suggest that you offer pricing plans that include some set number of visits. For instance, a base plan might mean that all future visits to the home are for a fee. But you might then also sell plans that include two, four or six visits a year where the customers pay for these visits as part of their monthly fees. That kind of pricing will stop customers from calling you to visit every time they think of a new home automation device to add or a refinement to make with the existing equipment. Without managing expectations in this manner you will find yourself making a lot of unpaid trips to customers.
- Bundle the product. It’s a natural to bundle home automation with home security, but you could bundle it with anything else your customers want. The whole point of this product is to use it as a platform to get your customers to buy multiple products from you.