10 Strategies to Thrive During the Coronavirus Outbreak

*Originally published on CEPro.com*

Instead of being idle, integrators should outreach to clients with assuring messages, look for opportunities to help them, and brush up on internal policies.

In the coming weeks and months, families will be spending more time together at home than they probably ever have. A lot of time, with nowhere to go other than under one roof trying to manage a completely new mode of life during the coronavirus outbreak. Now’s your chance as a home systems integrator to help them conquer boredom, work and school obligations, stress, and social isolation.

“This situation is giving us all the opportunity to find our escape, and that place is our home,” observes Skyler Meek, director of marketing, Screen Innovations. “Your home is your sanctuary is a story that dealers have telling their clients for years, and now we are all feeling that truth more than ever.”

By the same token, almost every facet of your work environment has flipped seemingly overnight. Face-to-face contact with clients, conference-room pow-wows with your staff, training opportunities, jobsite walk-throughs, marketing efforts—they’re handled much differently. You, your staff, and the professionals with whom you collaborate are all adjusting to the situation. And although it may feel strange, uncomfortable, and stressful, there are alternative measures you can take to keep your business running smoothly and even capitalize on new opportunities.

Here are 10 ways to conquer this crisis by revamping your sales and business strategies:

1. Show Empathy with Assuring Messages

“Whether you communicate with your clientele via email, newsletters, or some other mode of messaging, reach out to them as their trusted tech advisor,” advises Ed Buday of Buday’s Home Electronics Simplified, Kalamazoo, Mich.

Empathy goes a long way in your approach: Are they experiencing any Wi-Fi difficulties now that the entire family is online and eating up bandwidth? Do they need additional content to watch? Are they concerned about the spread of germs? You have solutions for these and other issues, so make them aware of it.

2. Focus on Solutions that Resonate with House-Bound Customers

What makes sense from a sales and marketing perspective? Which technologies should you pitch to your house-bound customers?

Voice control, projection screens, and wireless networking solutions are the front runners,” says Mark Cichowski, CEO of Clarity AV International, a rep company based in Southern California. Anything that keeps your clients well connected, happily entertained, and fosters a sense of health and well-being is going to resonate.

3. Embrace the Home Office with Enhanced Wi-Fi

“Your clients have probably already experienced Wi-Fi hiccups when the kids are playing Minecraft and they’re trying to do their actual job,” says Joe Whitaker of Thoughtful Integrations, St. Louis and Dallas. Slower-than-normal connections, buffering of video downloads, and spotty streaming, can bring work, school and play to a grinding halt.

Alleviate these bandwidth burdens by offering to upgrade their existing Wi-Fi network. Be sure to mention other perks that come with having a better wireless networking system, such as enhanced cybersecurity, privacy, and parental controls.

Nathan Holmes, technical director at Access Networks, advocates upgrading to Wi-Fi 6. This new version of Wi-Fi has been engineered to handle the bandwidth requirements of multiple devices operating on the network at the same time. “As more and more Wi-Fi 6 devices hit the market, updating your Wi-Fi network to support them is a logical next step,” Holmes says.

4. Foster Health and Wellness Through Touchless Voice Control

Consumers have wiped clear the store shelves of disinfectant. Preventing the spread of germs is top of mind. In addition to recommending thorough and continual cleaning of items like handheld remotes and light switches, suggest the addition of voice control. Your clients can keep their hands off the goods, minimize the spread of germs, and still stream Netflix, a favorite playlist, adjust the lights, and more.

Offer suggestions on ways to interact with their voice control platform: Keep the kids entertained with a “joke of the day” or trivia.” Enjoy an audiobook. Teach it some new home control tricks or curate a new music playlist, suggests home systems integrator Steve Stary, vice president of Brilliant AV, Costa Mesa, Calif. “Remind them to explore additional options at their leisure, then add them over time … which many have in abundance right now.”

The adoption of voice control platforms is expected to soar, so should your product offerings in this category. Carry good, better, best options, adding a system like Josh.ai to your lineup. Engineered to understand natural inflections and patterns of speech rather than scripted commands–it’s intuitive for the entire family to enjoy. With data privacy being top of many people’s minds, the Josh.ai platform offers a secure option dealers can offer as an alternative.

5. Provide a Window to the Outside World

“In these challenging times, as many families are and will be self-isolating, creating experiences in the home with loved ones becomes even more important, and enjoying movies, art, and games can make an incredibly positive contribution to how we all tackle this challenge together,” says Tim Sinnaeve, managing director of Barco Residential.

With more time to consume content—and more time to have a system professionally installed–consumers more than ever are realizing the advantages of having a big, immersive screen in their homes. A projection screen/video projector combo brings home the cinema experience, but it’s not just theaters that are closing. Health clubs, yoga studios, sports stadiums, concert arenas, hotels, resorts, golf courses, museums, nature centers, bowling alleys, and other gathering spots are shutting their doors.

A projection screen can also deliver these experiences to home-bound families. Introduce the notion of swinging a golf club on the fairway of a course in Ireland or relaxing on a beach in Thailand. Explain how they can exercise with an instructor via live video streams, view works of art up close, bring the sights and sounds of nature to the living room, grab a front-row seat to hear a favorite band.

“It’s like having a digital canvas in your living room that makes everything come to life,” Sinnaeve comments. And when it comes to gaming, “being able to interact on a lifelike screen is about as close to virtual reality as you’ll get.”

To evoke the true sense and sensation of being somewhere other than the living room also requires audio, “After smell, hearing is the most powerful sense we have for memory recall. The sound of waves lapping gently against the beach, a friend’s laughter, thunder rolling as rain taps against the roof, or even just a particular song can all bring memories flooding back,” says Nick Berry, CEO of Origin Acoustics.

Dealers have the opportunity to create these feelings in customers, with minimal impact on the architecture of their sanctuaries. Combining that with Artnovian acoustic panels, the kids can play games while minimizing noise pollution in the home office.”

Families that previously followed hectic schedules, hardly home for long enough to cook dinner let alone transform a room into a media space, are finding themselves with ample time to tackle lengthier home improvement projects. Show them a more sophisticated home theater setup including a motorized screen, projector lift, or a complete room overhaul where the technology meshes with the room design. If you’ve resisted working with a home theater designer, chalking it up to your busy installation schedule, connect with one now to forge a new partnership that can contribute to the differentiation and prosperity of your business.

A designer like Lisa Slayman, principal of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based Slayman Design Associates and Slayman Cinema, for example, applies design elements to optimize the performance of the AV equipment. Rayva offers another approach through its prefabbed theaters that are quick to specify and install. Take time now to make the connections that you and your clients will benefit from in the future.

6. Evoke a More Peaceful Environment

“Many consumers don’t have the luxury to spend much time at home and assessing how to make our spaces warmer, more inviting, and more functional,” says Cory Lovett, CEO of Nexus21. “Now they do, so now’s the time that dealers should help them explore technology that can improve the flow and functionality of their homes.”

Motorized screens and shades, for example, can contribute to a home’s atmosphere without conflicting with its design, plus offer a host of “stay-in-place” benefits. Two that will resonate with your clients: video always looks better in a dark room, and a home’s heating and cooling unit can operate more efficiently when the shades are down.

7. Host Educational Webinars and Remote Video Consultations

Can’t meet with your clients but want to give them the low-down on some practical home tech solutions like those mentioned above? Discuss the benefits and explore options with your clients in a friendly, conversational manner by hosting educational webinars.

You can schedule live, interactive webinars, or pre-record them so customers can access the information at their leisure. You’ll feel more connected and proactive with your efforts and so will they. Take it a step further of offering Facetime consultations. You can engage with customers virtually and discuss concerns and offer solutions.

8. Hone Your Skills with Online Training

A pain point for many integration firms is finding and retaining talent. Ongoing education and opportunities for self-improvement are proven methods for both. Even if you’re not looking to hire, at least encourage everyone on the team to use their time wisely by taking an online course. From the bookkeeper to the lead technician, they’ll be able to hone their skills, be on their A-game, and feel good about their jobs.

9. Do Some Heavy-Duty Housekeeping

When you’re focused on landing and finishing jobs, important parts of your business are often neglected. When was the last time you spruced up the showroom or organized your inventory? Maybe your business management software needs to be updated? Or perhaps you’d like to implement a completely new platform? Is your email database up to date? There are probably many housekeeping tasks you could tackle during the quarantine.

10. Train Your Next Pool of Talent

Kids home from school and college need something to do. Why not hire them to help out and learn the ropes of the home systems business. Give them simple jobs and expose them to the fun, interesting aspects of your work. You’ve been dealing with a talent shortage for years.

Take this time to inspire and mentor the next generation of home systems installers. At the same time, you can listen and learn from them. Key in on what motivates them, how they think, how they shop, what excites them. Understanding what makes this next-generation workforce tick can unlock a lot of potential avenues of opportunity for your business.

So, while the world may be in upheaval there are services, products, knowledge, and inspiration you can provide to your current clientele as well as prospects. As always, be there to help and share how you can support them, but most of all, be genuine. We’re all in this together but together, we’ll rise above and get past this.