The Big “C” Change!

By Bruno Napoli
Published on: December 21, 2018

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For 100 years – even if they had different purposes, shapes, sizes, colors, or number of seats – all cars basically drive the same way. Thanks to the standardization of essential features, some worldwide regulations, and a common agreement between the automobile industries, you can jump into any brand or any model of car and be able to take your kids to school within 30 seconds of adaptation. This is a mature industry where all manufacturers and governments work together on the security and the comfort of end-users before everything else. Although I’m sure Ford or Audi can develop a better turn signal lever, that interface won’t radically change because they will worry, “Will people be able to drive the car?” Why is standardization so important for the automobile industry? Because if a car fails, then peoples’ lives may be in jeopardy.

For 20 years, our AV and Home Automation industry was all about custom design and custom installation. Olympic Games of Customization, with ceremonies and awards. And for 20 years, a lot of our clients were asking themselves: “Will I be able to work my remotes?” The result is that each time a guest comes to the house, it’s easier to take them by the hand to the restroom rather to explain to them what button to push between twenty on the lavish home automation wall plate. Now we are facing a time where a house can be dangerous if people don’t know how to use it. Can you imagine if someone must come to your rescue and can’t turn on the lights? Will you rent your house on Air B&B if the home automation system is not understandable by the masses? How can end-users sleep well at night thinking that there is only one “Custom Installer” in the entire world that knows how to repair or re-program your house? It seems like a lot of the systems we have in our CEDIA industry have been designed to entrap people – to milk them over the coming years.

But things change, and our industry is about to reach the same level of maturity as the car industry. Last week I was talking with JJ Canon and Pete Friesen of Digital Delight and we decided all together: What the heck will be left to “customize” in a few years? Good question, isn’t it? You see, the GAFA are providing a standardized user experience based on mobile or tablet apps as well as voice control. Therefore, if you know how to use Homekit in your house, you’ll be able to use it in any house without the need of anyone to explain it to you. At the very least, it is a form of technology that is truly beneficial to end-users by making things simple, affordable and safe. I’m terribly frustrated it didn’t came from our CEDIA channel – but that’s another story.

The acronym “CI” for “Custom Installer” will become irrelevant in time as we will not “Customize” anymore. Of course, we will install speakers in the ceiling, and put TVs on walls, but is it really “Customization”? Does the electrician call himself a “Custom Electrical blah blah blah” because he installs fixtures on the ceiling? No. He is doing his own thing without fanfare (and provides service and maintenance to the client, by the way). It’s time to deflate our big head and understand that we’ve matured, and we are just a profession like many others in the global “construction industry,” (and once and for all admitting that will be the highest level of maturity for us).

So, what will “C for Custom” become? I think we should exchange “Custom” for “Client” instead. As a matter a fact, our industry should be more customer-centric now more than ever. In exception to the 1 percent of professionals that deal with the wealthiest clients that can afford exotic systems, for the vast majority of “Custom Installers” in the world, it’s time to forget about the word “Custom.” Our industry has a great challenge to take on and it’s a total about-face for our business model. As incredible as it seems, we are going to make more money on services than on boxes.

Money is there, don’t worry. People are going to spend a lot on IOT, AV, and home automation. We just need to stop thinking in terms of customization and start thinking about what our customers will need now that there are new types of DIY and DIFY GAFA products. For the moment customers need guidance, they need installation, they need 24/7 support, they need you to be proactive, and they need a premium relationship with a human being. They need you. You have more value than the margin you could make on any box.

I know that I’m going to open the Gates of Hell by saying this, but stop being a Custom Installer and start being a Home Technology Professional – today!


Bruno Napoli

Bruno Napoli

Bruno is a French self-made serial entrepreneur and blogger based in Paris and a 25 year veteran in the residential AV industry. Along with his brother Julien, he runs Krika, a company providing residential network system-wide management solutions.

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