Article written by John Heyman, CEO of SnapOne
The latest smart home tech offers residents powerful 24-hour-a-day benefits that improve the comfort and security of home life. As smart home systems have become more affordable, expandable and compatible with existing devices such as smartphones, TVs and voice assistants, what was once a luxury feature targeting wealthy buyers has become a key area of interest for every type of home and buyer.
At the same time, manufacturers have invested in creating chic, design-friendly products so that any space can be technologically elevated and automated without sacrificing visual appeal or livability. As such, conversations about smart home technologies are now critical to builders, designers and even developers, as they compete for buyers’ attention in a tight housing market. When working with tech-savvy clients, industry professionals who can convey the simplicity and home life benefits of smart technologies have a distinct advantage over less forward-thinking competitors.
Whether a client expresses interest in enhancing safety, entertainment, remote lighting control or multi-system automation, it is vital to highlight the benefits of professionally-designed and installed solutions that cannot be attained with DIY or piecemeal systems from big box stores.
User experience is the most important aspect of any purchase, and it is especially important for items intended to be used for years or decades. For smart home systems, user experience includes everything from aesthetics and reliability to overall functionality and options to upgrade or expand in the future. To determine what experience they want, we must identify specific features or activities the client wants to invest in, whether it’s lighting, climate controls, AV, security, access or the ability to use voice control in every room.
If they express interest in gadgets from big box stores, a few simple questions can highlight the drastic differences from professional smart home systems. Do they want each room to require multiple remotes or apps that don’t work together, so they constantly have to switch between security, garage doors, lights, music, etc.? Or do they want a seamless experience where one app controls everything, every room has the same controls and functions, and all the different systems communicate perfectly with each other?
Make It Reliable, Compatible and Adaptable
Delivering an optimal user experience requires working with an integrator whose expertise ensures proper system design, installation, user tutorials, maintenance and troubleshooting. Again, it’s all about experience. Do potential clients want their home to be outfitted by a trusted professional with vast technology experience, or do they want to do their own research and try to cobble together a few basic products from big box stores?
The hope is that showing images or videos of past projects, or giving a demo or showroom walkthrough, can help clients recognize that the power of a fully integrated system overshadows what’s possible from DIY solutions. Even if the client only wants a smart doorbell and a couple security cameras, we should make sure they know that in the future, that system may be incompatible with other systems, and that an integrated solution will be better if they have any interest in adding more technology down the line.
Connecting with the clients’ specific desires is crucial to demonstrating the full value and power of integrated solutions. Whether they are music or TV buffs, host a lot of parties, travel a lot or absolutely love voice control, we can specify exactly how a professional smart home system will enhance their home experience, and explain the limits and complications of DIY solutions if they ask.
The Age of the Real Smart Home
For clients who have prior experience with smart systems, the recent advances in capabilities, reliability and ease of use make these conversations and demos even more important. In short, past experiences do not reflect the current realities.
To win over skeptical clients, we can rely on the experience they desire, explaining how a professional system ensures that controls are consistent from room to room, that the home can be operated through a single mobile app or wall controls, and that we know how to make everything work together seamlessly. Currently, there is no DIY solution that provides easy, consolidated control of disparate systems with any reliability. We can also stress the importance of using trusted manufacturers that won’t end product support unexpectedly, and convey our personal ability to provide ongoing maintenance or troubleshooting, just like an electrician or plumber.
Physically using a professional system interface versus a DIY interface can be a lightbulb moment. This gets to the core of the homeowner experience and allows integrators a simple way to show how much better and more reliable a professional solution is. It can be as simple as opening a smart home app and letting them quickly navigate to lights, TV, security and climate controls, then giving them a more basic DIY app and noting the limitations and separate apps needed to have the same level of control.
Dispelling the DIY Myth
Lots of people today consider themselves tech-savvy, and with the plethora of low-cost DIY products available, it’s up to building professionals to temper the expectations of excited buyers who think they can purchase a few smart outlets or smart light bulbs and be able to create a cohesive smart home experience. It would be as if an average joe assumed they could build their own airplane just because there was a store selling wings and jet engines. They may be able to build something that looks like an airplane, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to fly.
Like any other service provider, it’s up to us as home professionals to instill a sense of expertise and communicate the vast differences between a complete smart home system and one-off solutions advertised on TV commercials.
Integrators, builders and designers must strive to provide the best experience possible for every client, and the best way to do so is to offer hands-on demos that highlight user simplicity and demonstrate leading capabilities. The more we talk about the user experience in the home and our professional experience installing successful, reliable home systems, the more we can help potential clients understand that these are complex installations, just like other core infrastructure systems. Yes, DIY solutions exist, but we can accurately explain their limitations to clearly show the advantages of a professional system. When we prove to buyers that we can create custom solutions that meet their specific needs and are easy for anyone to use, we can deliver better living and more useful homes that are ready for whatever technology comes next.