In 2019, when industry veteran David Kaplan of Bluesalve Partners accepted the coveted Consumer Technology Association Smart Home Division Leadership Award, he offered sage advice to the crowd at CES 2019.

“Just show up,” he said, noting that the biggest threat to the industry is apathy. Kaplan pointed out that just being physically present is half the battle. He says that actually “showing up” gives you a major advantage over others who are likely to be MIA.

I couldn’t agree more, and my recent bad personal experience with a custom integrator confirmed this point. I needed professional installation of some smart home equipment in a newly purchased house in the mountains.

The house is only five years old, so it’s in near new condition, but we had a list of a few small upgrades. I found myself spending weekends painting, sanding sticky doors, moving piles of wood, moving a shed, and even installing a new window.

Of course, there are also desired electronic equipment. Integration needs for the home weren’t extensive: multiple TVs and brackets, thermostats, cell phone signal booster, smart door locks, video doorbell, outdoor surveillance cameras, home network and a fully monitored alarm system.

Mind you, the house is in the boonies, and I was warned by a friend who also has property in the area that I would have trouble finding contractors of any type. He was right. In the resort areas, it seems that even entrepreneurs have moved in for a laid-back lifestyle.

I called a local distributor who referred me to the nearest integrator.

When I say “near” I mean…more than an hour’s drive from the nearest custom installation company. I contacted the integrator by e-mail and he called me back the next day. Impressive! Several weeks later, in mid-November, he met my wife on the property and they walked through it. Our deadline to complete the work was six months.

“No problem”, I was told. “I will have a proposal for you shortly.

“I don’t blame any integration company for not wanting to do a small project, but the lack of communication is inexcusable.”

December has passed. No proposal. January has arrived. Nothing. I emailed and left a voicemail mid-month. No answers. February and March unfolded with crickets and tumbleweeds. No more unreturned emails and voicemails.

Finally, in mid-April, I received a proposal in an email with many excuses for being understaffed and overwhelmed. I get it…every custom integration company (or for that matter every company) goes through these same issues.

The offer was still less than I expected (only about $6,200) for installation plus a long term security monitoring agreement to give to the RMR dealer.

However, there were a few elements missing from the layout, so we backtracked noting some of the omitted elements. Again, it’s now two months later, and we haven’t heard back. Unfortunately, we’ve officially moved on to looking at other options.

Read more : Selling an Experience: How to Introduce Hesitant Smart Home Customers

I certainly don’t blame any integration company for not wanting to do a small project when they probably have a much bigger and more profitable roster of jobs, but the lack of communication is inexcusable. A simple “I’m too busy to take on this project” would have been appreciated.

Perhaps the old line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate” from the Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke” is more about “just showing up.” But either way, it’s experiences like mine that bring the whole industry down.

The whole situation is sad and depressing. I almost feel EC Professional itself has also failed when someone in the industry works so unreliably. But the best way to turn those lemons into lemonade is for integrators to share their best practices on how to communicate.

  • What is your standard schedule for communicating to customers whose projects you are not supporting and to customers whose projects are in limbo awaiting equipment?
  • When there is a delay in preparing a proposal, do you inform the client of the situation?
  • Do you have a regular cadence to proactively contact customers about project status, or do you wait to hear from the customer?
  • Do you call, text or email?

Let us know,