You Can't Drive 2,000 Miles
— By Ron Davis in ESA Newsline, March, 2011
... unless you know how to drive, know yourself, and don't try and push either you or your vehicle beyond a normal range. Well, that pretty much describes our trip coming back from Florida last week. We drove, we knew our limitations and we got home exactly when we planned, and with the exception of a flat tire somewhere in Alabama, no unforeseen events. And getting home was when our problems started.
It was not an innocuous and inauspicious beginning to our return home from being away several months. We wanted to relax, watch a little television and get a good night's sleep. I reached for my blankety blankety (you didn't think I'd use real names?) remote control to turn on the system. This is one of those systems that controls the whole house, including lighting, energy, security and a whole host of other things, most of which I don't understand ... really don't need ... and really, really tried to avoid! But I digress, let me go back about a year ago.
It started with a simple phone call to a good friend who was in the security business and had built up a substantial AV and home entertainment business along with the security that had been the mainstay of his business for more than 20 years. I called him up simply to get a television screen, albeit a large with a kind of unique place in which to be placed (I won't go into that, just believe that I felt I needed an expert to help me!). My friend started questioning on what I needed, how I wanted it, what I thought I could do, etc. etc. And after a couple of days of going back and forth — I settled on what I thought I wanted — several big screen televisions, a whole house automation system, a beautiful array of remote controls, even an installation that had more wires and connections in it than the typical 747 airliner has.
Now, move ahead about a year, and share my frustration as I made — probably the 20th call — to my friend, to come out and fix some aspect of the system. In fairness, I suspect some of the things that went wrong were my fault — some of them were the fault of the installation, and the majority of them were their problems. Every question, every problem, every request was handled promptly, courteously and professionally. And that's what annoyed me more than anything. I possessed an expensive system that was supposed to make my life easier, only to find out that the system itself was possessed, and like the devil set free from the chains that bound him, it was bound and determined to ruin my life (or at least make it inconvenient for me to live stress free!).
I'm sitting here writing this article with my background music (which I truly enjoy) not functioning. None of the system seems to be functioning properly and a service call is not to be made until tomorrow morning. By the way, since this seems to be a never ending dilemma, for those of you out there living in the Chicago area, please let me know if I can come over and watch TV occasionally when our system goes out.
Now you might be asking, "What is he writing about, why am I reading it, and what's to be learned?" Well, hopefully you'll be amused at some of my troubles and, in fact, may be able to empathize with them. It's a little attention getting device that authors use in what is hopefully a self deprecating manner in order to provide some insight onto a particular subject. In this case, it's true, and I don't know what to do about it. And unfortunately, neither does my friend who sold it to me in the first place.
I've talked to an awful lot of people who sell sophisticated products, and over the years, have come up with a fairly simplistic approach to marketing. Always sell something sophisticated to someone unsophisticated; always market a complicated process to a know it all who thinks they know what they're doing. Automobile dealers do it all the time, they actually pretend that most of us knows what goes on underneath the hood of a car. And even though I'm loathe to admit it, I haven't the vaguest idea how the thing works. I haven't the vaguest idea how a microwave heats up things. Or for that matter, how the refrigerator keeps things cold. In fact, on a scale of 10, I'm at a 1, going on a 2, in terms of technological expertise. And the system I've got was designed by engineers, marketed by engineers, and sold to dorks like me who really thought we could get the better of it!
As alarm and security dealers approach the next wave of growth that exists in the alarm business, they're going to be looking at a lot of things, most of which is outside of the reach or technological understanding of the average consumer. Whether itt's commercial or residential, whether it's a standard alarm panel or a more technical advanced whole house system, or an automated and integrated security and environmental control system for a commercial building — it doesn't really matter, the problem is the same. Sell to the prospect what he is comfortable of understanding, and don't let a customer upgrade themselves to something that will get them crazy. If you do it, you both lose. On my blankety blank system, my friend has over 20 visits to my home to get it operating. That costs him money, it costs me money and it hasn't really fixed the problem. By the way, don't ask me what the problem is, because I have no idea. What's even more scary, I'm not sure that my friend or his suppliers have any idea of what's wrong either!
The industry is changing, technology is advancing at a rapid pace and for those of us who are technological wizards, it's very easy to get caught up in the sophistication of the technology and oversell something. For those of us who are relatively ignorant of how things work, it can be a nightmare neverending and the disintegration of a good friendship. And both the seller and the buyer will lose. Now, for those of you young enough to have been born into this technological revolution, you probably have no idea what I'm rambling about; for those of you old enough to remember that refrigeration systems used to be called iceboxes and if you go back less than a century, automobiles used to be called horseless carriages. If you're that old, than you're probably undergoing some of the same issues that I have. I was on a flight from New York yesterday, and I saw everyone under 30 working on their electronic devices. Most people over 30 were reading books.
Make sure that your company markets products and services that the consumer will understand, even if you have to have separate lines for levels of understanding and expertise. It seems to me this is just common sense, but for many of us, it's a source of great frustration and aggravation.
Don't just sell what the customer thinks he wants, sell him what he needs, but then make sure that he understands how to properly use it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go power up my rinky-dink system, wait for the settings to readjust, and then I'll be able to watch the news so I'll be well informed for what's happening tomorrow. I can only envision what technological advances tomorrow will bring!
P.S. The technician was here while I was writing this, found a wire that had come loose and some defective cable company receivers. The system is working!