Smarthome Direct Growth the Smart Way
The company's main conduit for generating these requests is its tech support staff. Available to Smarthome customers seven days a week, the company's 14 tech support staffers provide free product selection advice, as well as post-sale troubleshooting and programming. These staffers also take note of which customer needs and desires are not being fulfilled. Root explains that the engineering staff then works with marketing to determine which of these needs and desires will be turned into INSTEON products.
Smarthome also has made it possible for customers to make product recommendations on its Web site. At the bottom of each page of the Smarthome Web site, there's a "Suggest a Product" link that opens up a short form customers can use to recommend a product they need that Smarthome doesn't carry, Root says.
Focus groups have been another source of customer insight for the company, Root notes. But more narrow, and in some ways more valuable, is something Kapur calls "the customer advocate meeting." As Root explains, "We've actually contacted a customer who has had lots of activity with us, but isn't necessarily upset or satisfied. And we've had a conference call with that customer and our entire executive team. We gave him the floor for 30 minutes, and we sat and took notes feverishly. We learn a lot by doing those types of things."
Businesses as Customers
While hobbyists and DIY customers make up the majority of Smarthome's customer base, a significant source of sales are generated by the company's business-to-business catalog title, Smarthome Installation.
To differentiate the two sides of the business, Smarthome operates a separate Web site for dealers and installers interested in using home automation products. That Web site is password protected to prevent customers from the consumer side of the business from seeing the reduced prices on wholesale products.