Days after Snap One announced a major program initiative in an effort to change the integration industry business model, the company held a media presentation in which 5 members of the 23-member Control4 dealer advisory panel that helped the company design the program were made available to select members of the media for a short question and answer session. This was organized by Snap One specifically because I had asked to speak with the panel. How do I know that was the reason for this media opportunity? Because company executives told the media that I was the reason they chose to hold this event. This may, or may not, have endeared me to the other media.
See what members of the Snap One Advisory Panel said
If you saw my previous post on this Snap One Connect/Assist/Assist Premium initiative, you saw that I ended on a somewhat angry note – using the word suspicious when my request for a list of the 23-member advisory panel was responded to with this company organized – and orchestrated – event. Truthfully, I considered not attending in protest, as this organized event did not match at all what I had requested…the opportunity to independently speak with the panel without Snap One handlers watching.
However, I am glad that I attended. I feel the participating dealers answered our questions honestly. Nothing felt scripted, but it was clear that these dealers were a sort of “band of brothers” in this initiative and were very much of a like mind. As the company had said – they were all very pleased with this program and felt a real sense of contribution to something bigger than just themselves.
A Company Controlled Q&A Session
So let me set the stage here. A Google Meet was scheduled that included two Snap One executives, one Snap One contract employee, five Control4 dealers who were members of the dealer advisory panel, and four members of the media (including me). The media was allowed just 30 minutes in total to ask questions of the dealers. The actual meeting went about 37 minutes and the company shut it down at that time.
Here is who attended the Snap One Advisory Panel Media Q&A event:
- From SNAP ONE – Graham Jaenicke, VP of New Ventures; Abby Hanlon, Director, Marketing Events and PR; and Marta Majstorovic, Griffin 360 (Snap One’s PR agency)
- From the MEDIA – Tony Savona of Residential Systems; Jeremy Glowacki of Residential Tech Today; Tim Albright of AVNation; and Ted Green of Strata-gee
- From the ADVISORY PANEL – Tim Manning with Wavelength Audio Video (NJ); Mike Fitton with Home Technology Solutions (NC); Ed Gilmore with Gilmore Sound Advice (NYC); Kellan Warren with Kelltech Systems (TX); and Chris Bell with Bell Integrated Home Solutions (GA).
If you look at the picture at the top of this post, it is a reasonable representation of the mood of the event. Note that other than Jeremy Glowacki and Abby Hanlon, both of whom have their cameras off, you don’t see any smiles. I would say the mood was unusually somber as though people were organizing their thoughts about what to say or how to say it.
Under Snap One’s Watchful Eye
Keep in mind, the dealers the company had selected for this duty were asked questions by the media to which they had to respond under the watchful eye of Snap One executives. That being said, once the conversation started flowing, I felt they all answered reasonably fully and honestly (as best as I could tell, not knowing them personally).
A few things emerged from this meeting I found noteworthy. First, it was clear that this group of dealers were fairly high-level Control4 dealers. One of them is a platinum Control4 dealer. Four of the five have Control4 Certified Showrooms. And four of them have been Control4 dealers for over a dozen years.
Long Term Loyalty to Control4
It would appear that they earned their spot on the panel by virtue of this long-term loyalty to the brand.
It’s clear that they were all on Team Control4, some of them since the early days of SnapAV – before the company was bought out by private equity and taken public. While the group’s demeanor seemed quite serious, I did not detect any rote script reading or question ducking.
A few key themes began to emerge from our discussion…
The Panel’s First Impressions of the Program
I asked the dealers to share what their first impression was when Snap One approached them with the initial idea of this program – was there any hesitation or concern or was it full steam ahead?
Tim Manning jumped in and told the story of how he had tried other control brands but years ago started a relationship with SnapAV who offered them great customer support, and then Control4 – then an independent company – who also offered what he described as superior dealer and client support. Then Control4 went public and Snap One came into being…
‘I Would be a Fool Not to’ Get Involved
“So Control4 had this reputation of outstanding customer service to both the integrator and the end user, the client. Then things kind of changed when Control4 went public and then was acquired by Snap One, and you know, there was this question mark of like, ‘What’s going to happen?'” Manning said. “That always happens when there’s any kind of a, you know, acquisition like that. But ultimately as the dust started to settle, there was this kind of clear vision – I saw that Snap One was trying to bring what SnapAV had done in the integrator market, which was a really great customer service for the integrator.”
Manning added, “So when they reached out to me about this program, [with their track record of superior support] I felt I would be a fool not to completely jump on board and believe that their program was truly in the good nature of getting to both the integrator and the end user and giving them a wonderful experience.”
Interestingly, Manning told me something I’ve heard from several integrators, that he had been burned in the past by other brands directly marketing to his customers and hurting his business. The most notable case of this was Sonos. But he drew a distinction between a large consumer brand like Sonos and an integrator-oriented brand like Snap One.
A Clear Distinction Between Connect and Assist
For Ed Gilmore of New York City’s Gilmore Sound Advice, the key to what resonated with him on this program and motivated him to get involved was the Control4 Connect program. Connect, as you may recall, is the mandatory subscription (SaaS) program that all Control4 system clients must sign up with Snap One directly. Cloud-based Control4 Connect will push feature updates and other driver software and security updates to keep client’s systems up to date and running optimally.
“The first thing we focused on was Connect. Assist came a little bit later. But the concept of Connect, I thought was very strong,” Ed Gilmore told me. “I come from, you know, almost 12 years with Savant and I can tell you that having taken over a lot of projects, I’ve seen a lot of software that was completely outdated. Now, that’s obviously a relationship issue with the integrator and the client, but really, the onus falls on the integrator to keep up and make sure that the client has the most up-to-date software so that they can have the best experience possible. So it kind of resonated with me with what the Control4 staff were trying to do.” [Meaning for Control4 to take over the responsibility of keeping the software updated without integrator intervention.]
Like Manning, Gilmore seemed to take pride in the fact that it was integrators adding shape and specificity to the program…including pricing. He noted that for his clients, $250 “…is a pretty small fee to pay, especially coming from Savant where Essentials is $550 a year.” Gilmore added, “Literally, it was a shrug from any of the clients that we spoke to. Everybody understood the concept of it, and none of them had a problem with it at all. And frankly, I don’t really have a problem.”
Interfering with the Integrator/Client Relationship
It was clear that many on the Partner Advisory Panel were aware of the explosion of criticism from other dealers at Snap One for mandating a direct connection to all of the integrators’ clients. In a way, they seemed to be feeling a combination of bemused, annoyed, and protective of the program that they personally had a hand in developing.
Several of them compared the fee the client needed to pay for Connect as being much like the fees clients pay for other services, such as Ring, security monitoring, or streaming entertainment services.
Ed Gilmore put it this way, “We didn’t have a problem with the idea of the manufacturer billing directly the client for that particular fee. It’s way better than me having to come up and say well if you want to try and add this particular piece of equipment or add this feature, it’s going to cost you X amount of dollars. That’s what I have had to do in the 30 years prior to this experience. So it felt like it was a much better solution.”
When I Touched on the Controversy, I Hit a Hot Button
And on the issue of the erupting controversy, Gilmore added, “And I know there’s a lot of angst about the idea of the manufacturer interfering with the integrator and client relationship, but in this way, I think it’s extremely benign. And I think it really does help everybody.”
However, it was clear to me that several of the dealers have had multiple conversations with industry colleagues about the controversy surrounding a mandated connection between every one of your clients and Snap One.
‘Frankly, It’s Absurd’
Said Home Technology Solutions’ Mike Fitton: “I had a very similar conversation just today about this. What I think is behind the question is there’s a fear that we as dealers will somehow – in some not-too-distant future – be in some way eliminated or cut out of the relationship between Control4 or Snap One and our ultimate customers. I think if that were to happen, it would be a betrayal of a magnitude that is difficult to wrap your head around.
Fitton added, “I guess I hear the question, and certainly it’s prevalent online. But if you think about it for a minute, frankly, it’s absurd. I just don’t see what the business case would be for [Snap One] doing that.”
Ed Gilmore jumped back in to say, “Kind of where I’m at with this, you know, is that it’s up to all of us to make the best decision for our companies. I do not feel like I’m handing over our clients [to Snap One]. In fact, I feel like what we’re reinforcing is that there’s a [three-way] partnership between the manufacturer and between us and our client. And that’s the important message to get across on this.”
Assist Has Been a Great Assist to Bell Integrated Home Systems
Finally, Chris Bell of Bell Integrated Home Systems had this thought to add: “I just wanted to add that the Assist program is actually an extension of our business. So when Assist connects to our client, we actually get an email about what they did, how long they’re on the phone, and whether or not the problem was received or repaired. And then we have a follow-up email that actually the problem had been taken care of, or if we needed to be onsite or something like that. So it’s not that these things are going on behind the scenes and we’re not aware of what’s taking place. So we haven’t been cut out – it’s just kind of an extension of our remote support.
Bell added: “Me being a smaller dealer. I don’t actually have a remote support plan within my business. That’s something we were trying to get off the ground for probably four years and I never could find something that was a good deal for our clients and didn’t put me on the hook, you know, to be available after hours and on the weekends and things like that. So you know, we kind of accepted this with open arms, and that’s been really great for our business.”
How Should Connect Software Updates Happen?
One of the many issues the Advisory Panel did tackle was whether system software updates should be automatically pushed out by Control4, or whether the integrator would be the one to pull the trigger on that. The panel finally decided that the integrator would give the high sign to Control4 to signal when the update should happen so they could ensure that the process broke no custom programming.
Learn more about Snap One by visiting snapone.com.
See more on Control4 at control4.com.