Seemingly Well Designed, But One Thing I Find Suspicious
Snap One announced today the launch of three new services, part of a Software-as-a-Service subscription program that gets the manufacturer in direct communication with end users of every Control4-based system sold and provides new levels of customer support. The program is said to include a revenue share for its dealers. These programs are called Control4 Connect, Control4 Assist, and Control4 Assist Premium and allow for direct-to-consumer support by the company.
See more on how Snap One is driving change in custom integration…
Snap One company executives say these programs have been in development for more than a year and that it was assisted in the process by an advisory panel consisting of 23 geographically dispersed integrators of differing sizes, and serving different market segments. The goal is a lofty one – no less than “to evolve the core business model of the Custom Integration industry.”
In addition to working with the advisory panel, the company notes that it has significant experience with customer support thanks to its existing 4Sight program and via its acquisition of Parasol, a 24/7 remote support service provider for integrators. The company says it has 100,000 4Sight subscribers and “thousands” of Parasol customers.
Custom Integration Industry has Evolved, We Need to Evolve With It
Snap One’s argument is that our industry has made an incredible evolution over the years, from proprietary, mostly free-standing hard-wired matrix systems to IP-based network connected, cloud-enabled, wired and wireless solutions with foundational operating systems – the game has changed. Much of the user experience, as well as system operations, security, and system health, is driven by manufacturer-developed software delivered by the cloud. Support needs have increased commensurately with system sophistication, often demanding a type of support not always easy for the busy integrator to be in a position to provide.
To better address the user experience over the life of the system, the integration business model must also evolve, Snap One’s CEO John Heyman told me. In the early days of our business, integrators operated as another home contractor – much like an electrician or plumber – but dedicated to residential audio/visual sales and installation services. Once the system is installed and the client walked through and shown how to operate it, with that project completed, the contractor moves on to the next project. Some refer to this as the “one and done” stage of the integration industry.
From Break-Fix Model to Ongoing, Proactive Model
But today’s increasingly sophisticated systems require a higher level of support. The old, break-fix model of the past isn’t responsive to the ongoing needs of systems today. The many networked devices in a typical system require regular driver updates and the systems overall need monitoring to ensure they are healthy, safe, and operating properly. And of course, customers need a readily available hotline for support when something isn’t operating properly, which for those companies with a large installed customer base, can be a drain on their resources.
This new industry model calls for a different integrator operating model in which the dealer is more of a technology service provider, or some would say, a technology concierge – always available and providing continual support. Snap One has come up with a way to help integrators make this happen in a relatively pain-free and profitable way.
CHECK THIS OUT > Over six years ago in 2017, I wrote about an evolving integrator business design – moving from a project-based model to a technology service-provider model – in a series of articles about monthly maintenance programs with recurring monthly revenue. See that article here…
The Dirty Little Secret
The homes and businesses of today rely on a wide range of networked systems and devices to operate. This makes software updates and system monitoring critical to ensure reliability, confidence and continued use. As such, the traditional business model of the CI integrator must evolve into an ongoing partnership with their customers. We believe that the customer understands the importance of working with professional integrators to keep their investment current – and that they’re willing to pay to ensure their systems are maintained and optimized.John Heyman, Snap One CEO
The dirty little secret of our industry is that many integrators do a poor job of keeping on top of system updates. In a media briefing for Strata-gee, Heyman gave me an example that illustrates the situation manufacturers find themselves in. He told me that even today, around 200,000 Control4 installations are running its OS2 operating system, even though the company transitioned to a new OS3 operating system with a much-upgraded design, features, and security improvements four years ago.
A Multi-Layered Program
So SnapOne has developed a multi-layered program that will take much of the burden off the backs of the integrators, provide greater support and safety for the customer, and generate revenues that will be shared with integrators on a monthly basis.
Adds Heyman: “The launch of Control4 Connect and Assist meet the business and experiential needs of this new emerging business model, one that represents a major opportunity for our Partners, who can now more easily foster stronger long-term relationships with customers to drive greater satisfaction and increase profits.”
Control4 Connect is Like 4Sight on Steroids
Control4 Connect will replace the existing 4Sight program and is the software service that enables essential features that keep customers’ systems up-to-date and secure. It also provides convenient access and insights and ensures smooth integration with new devices as they are released.
Connect also provides access to the Control4 mobile app and is responsible for delivering popular smart home features, like voice control, remote access, Intercom Anywhere, When>>Then scene programming, system backups, on-the-go visibility and personalization of notification for mobile devices.
Control4 Connect is Required
However, there is a big change as compared to 4Sight, which is an optional service. Beginning April 23, 2024, Connect will be mandatory on all Control4 installations. The company says 4Sight will continue to be available to past subscribers, but clients receiving any installations going forward must sign up and subscribe to enable Connect.
This new Software-as-a-Service subscription model brings benefits for Control4 dealers as well. First and foremost, they will get a monthly share of the revenue stream for each Control4 installation with Snap One handling all of the billing and payment paperwork – so no fuss or muss for the integrator. The company says that customers pay for the service directly in the Control4 app upon registration of their new system – Snap One takes care of all of the rest.
Three Pricing Tiers for Control4 Connect
The company is offering three pricing tiers for Connect, based on multiple factors, including the specific controller employed and the size of the system. The company says that systems with the CA-1 controller will be free, systems with the Core Lite unit will be $99, and systems with any other controller or multiple controllers will be $249. This rate is the annual charge for use of Connect.
Snap One says that its integrators (it calls them Partners) get “a generous revenue share paid monthly by direct wire payment.” It notes that this program is a big upgrade from the $30 product credit it paid them for a 4Sight activation in the past.
Control4 Assist is an Optional Remote Support Program
As opposed to the mandatory Control4 Connect, the more premier Control4 Assist is a totally optional remote support service, based on the company’s experience with its Parasol subsidiary. It’s kind of like Parasol for All, but a Parasol only for Control4 systems. Control4 integrators – er – Partners need to go through an easy process to become “Assist Authorized” and then they can offer the service to their clients. Keep in mind that Assist is only available for Control4 systems. It is not a broad-based, multi-brand service solution like other independent remote support services generally offer.
Snap One says that Control4 Assist takes a heavy support load off of the integrators back, while creating yet another recurring monthly revenue stream for them. Company executives say this is a win-win-win for the client, the integrator, and of course, Snap One.
With Assist, clients will have proactive system monitoring and access to the Control4 Assist Team of programmers, AV technicians and certified networking administrators who remotely solve issues, answer questions and help manage customer experiences. The service will be available to clients from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 365 days a year and costs $899.
Control4 Assist Premium
Wait! What about those panicked, midnight calls from clients whose systems died in the middle of a big party? Control4 Assist shuts down at 8:00 P.M. local time. What’s a needy client to do?
Meet Control4 Assist Premium, a remote support service that offers clients even more services with even more accessibility. For a charge of $2,999 a year, clients get all of the services offered in Assist, plus a full 24/7/365 access – the other half of the day not covered by Assist.
Not only that but Assist Premium customers also receive two “manufacturer check-ins each year.” For these check-ins, the Assist team “will review the full system, discuss personalization needs, and even optimize automations.”
Delivering Programs ‘In Concert With the Integrator’
It can’t be stressed enough that Control4 Assist and Control4 Assist Premium needs to be delivered in concert with the integrator. This is not a replacement…nor is it a handoff. This is a partnership to better serve the end customer.
All of this is to say that we believe that Control4 Connect and Control4 Assist are great for integrators. They aim to improve the customer experience, drive integrator profitability, business efficiency and quality of life. And they exemplify why Control4 is a great brand and why Snap One is a great manufacturer to work with.Graham Jaenicke, Snap One VP of New Ventures
Control4 Assist helps my technicians to not have to field calls for simple matters during the workday, after hours and over the weekends. It helps my techs stay focused on their daily task at hand and allows for uninterrupted after hours, weekend and family time for non-emergency situations.Chris Bell, Bell Integrated Home Solutions
Marketing Materials Make Selling the Programs Simple
For those Control4 dealers who choose to participate as an Assist Authorized Partner, the company says it will provide professional marketing assets to simplify the program sales process. The Partner will receive a revenue share for Assist and Assist Premium services which, like Connect, are paid monthly over the 12 months by direct wire payment.
Through our experience with Parasol, we have identified the opportunity to better support our Partners and their customers. Control4 Assist and Assist Premium offer Control4 Partners of all sizes unparalleled recurring revenue opportunities and meet today’s customer demands. This is a significant opportunity for Partners at every level, even if they already operate other recurring services, because it offloads daily customer questions and requests to dedicated Control4 experts who focus exclusively on service. The result is happier customers, fewer emergency calls, more referrals, and improved quality of life for Partners with peace of mind that customers are being taken care of.John Heyman
Snap One Joins Other Brands That Have Already Moved to an SaaS Model
With this move to a full SaaS program, Snap One follows in the footsteps of another major control brand – Savant – which moved to a SaaS program back in 2021. Historically, in custom integration, integrators have been hesitant to turn control of serving and taking care of their customers to the manufacturer. I have heard horror stories of manufacturers threatening to terminate the dealer and redirect the connection of their customers’ systems to another local integrator – threatening to put the integrator out of business (more than once, I may add).
However, the overarching forces in the industry make this move a fairly logical one for the manufacturers, as it is their software in control of the system and the end-user experience.
What If You Already Have a Support Program in Place?
For those integrators who have already come up with a comprehensive support solution for their clients, either their own program with their in-house technicians or through outsourced services, such as OneVision for example, they are not technically precluded from continuing with them, the Snap One executives told me.
But there’s no escaping the requirement of a Control4 Connect account for all of your Control4 installations.
One Thing About This Story Seems a Little Suspicious
In my briefing with the Snap One executives, they spoke extensively of their advisory panel of 23 integrators. These integrators, they told me, were intimately involved in conceiving, designing, and shaping almost all of the key elements of the manufacturer’s proposed program.
When I asked, these executives assured me that the integrators were all fully supportive of the program and thought it would be a great tool for all integrators. That sounds good, but I wanted to get direct integrator input…
So I asked to be provided with the list of the 23 integrators who were on the advisory panel and who were instrumental in designing this manufacturer program. I wanted to reach out to them to hear about it from their perspective and in their own words.
Heyman responded, “I think that’s a reasonable ‘ask’.” He went on to add, “So I think it reasonable that you speak with them… We’ll come back to you on that.”
My ‘Reasonable’ Request was Denied
I asked that question directly to John Heyman and Graham Jaenicke face-to-face (on a Google Meet video call). Several days later, I received an email from their outside public relations person cheerfully informing me that the company had decided to host a panel discussion with members of the advisory board. I will have the opportunity to question them there.
The company has also helpfully rewritten its press release to now include direct quotes from three of the panel members. I am welcome to use them freely. Hmmmm…something’s starting to sound fishy.
In other words, my request was denied.
Suspicious: Denying a Request the CEO Called ‘Reasonable’
I did not expect that – a shorter sub-list perhaps, but a denial was not on my radar screen. It appears that Snap One wants to be there when I question these folks – whose thoughts will be provided at an event organized by the company. And who would of course be aware of the presence of the Snap One executives.
That was disappointing…
I find this all a little suspicious. If everything related to the advisory panel was as presented to me, what possible reason could there be to not provide me with direct access?
NOTE TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE CONNECT & ASSIST PARTNER ADVISORY BOARD – I would like to speak with you directly about the development of Connect & Assist. If you feel it necessary, I can commit to keeping your identity confidential.