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Increasing Installer Efficiency in a Down Economy

There is no doubt that we are in a difficult economy right now. As small-business owners, employees, and consumers, we are all keeping our wallets closed these days.

Increasing Installer Efficiency in a Down Economy

Jan 20, 2009 9:13 AM,
By Chris Mauzy

There is no doubt that we are in a difficult economy right now. As small-business owners, employees, and consumers, we are all keeping our wallets closed these days. However, as professionals in the electronics industry, we have recently been receiving mixed messages, causing some confusion about the current state of the consumer electronics industry. Some reports claim HDTV sales are slowing, but the Consumer Electronics Association says flatpanel TV sales were up 40 percent in October.

Despite these varied claims, consumer electronics installers have the potential to see continued steady business because of a trend known as “cocooning.” This trend shows that, when tightening their budgets in times of economical strain, consumers historically tend to bring entertainment into their homes as a substitute for going out to dinner or to the movies. The nation’s economic strain is also likely to cause a drop in price for many of the electronics items consumers are looking to upgrade in their homes, further encouraging purchases for the home cocoon.

“I expect that, while large screen HDTVs have already experienced a steep drop in prices from last year, there will be many more price adjustments in that category before Thanksgiving,” says Len Wanger, a industry analyst at William Harris & Co., a Chicago-based technology firm.

By replacing old TVs with new flatscreens, adding surround sound, or even adding an entire home theater, these cocooning consumers may be creating more opportunities for home electronics installers.

If we see this trend gain momentum in the current economy, professional installers might breathe a little easier during this recession, but not too much easier. Even with steady business and consumers still purchasing home electronics, it isn’t uncommon for individual technicians and owners of installation companies to look for new opportunities to increase business and work toward keeping their days fully efficient.

As you may well be aware, a typical CE installer is only 60 percent efficient. Meaning, on any given day, an installer only spends about 60 percent of their day performing installations and bringing in income. Realizing this abundance of excess technician capacity, Zip Express Installation—a newer services platform in the industry—took the approach of compiling a nationwide workforce of technicians to complete jobs next-day for consumers across the country. As a productized service provider for electronics retailers, consumers can get immediately connect with a technician in their area, either at checkout in store or online at Technicians who join the Zip network can increase their efficiency by taking on local installation jobs through Zip, and also be eligible for same-day payments.

The unique business model for our installation company came from my first-hand experience while working at Best Buy. For the retailer that can affordably manage the overhead associated with an in-house installation service, providing customers with installation is a great way to add revenue. However, many times, customers are frustrated with the wait-times associated with the install and are not able to immediately enjoy their new purchase. Zip Express was born after the discovery of a way to fill this immediate customer need by offering the first next-day installation option as well as a way to manage this model for retailers. The successful model benefits technicians, retailers, and consumers, each in different ways.

Technicians in the Zip network benefit from a simple work order process. With a current network of about 16,000 nationwide, Zip’s CE-certified technicians have the chance to take on installation projects in their area based on their schedule and convenience—hours that would otherwise remain open. There is no cost for installers to join and the process of taking on work through Zip Express is simple.

After an installation package is purchased, a work order is sent out with skill-based routing to all qualified Zip installers within a 60 mile radius of the customer’s home. Projects are awarded on a first-come, first-serve method—whoever accepts the scope of the project and its associated payment first gets the job. Upon completion of the job, the installer goes online and enters the work order number as complete and payment is received within seven minutes via electronic funds transfer (EFT)—eliminating all billing and associated paperwork.

Zip’s network of installers opt-in to specific services that match their areas of expertise—including tabletop TV setup, wall and over-the-fireplace TV mounting, home-theater setup, computer and digital camera networking, furniture assembly, and even electronics recycling. As with any business, customer service is key, so Zip technicians take away all packaging trash when they leave and give each customer a brief training session on their new equipment.

Arizona-based installer, Ray Jones of CRAVElectronics, joined the Zip network when it first launched. While he and his crew focus mainly on custom home installations, he has seen such success from the unique installer-focused business model that he reserves time in his weekly schedule for Zip work orders. As a 12-year veteran in the industry, Jones notes that the streamlined process of Zip, with its online work orders and billing, makes is easy for him to do everything remotely.

“Everything goes straight to my phone, so I could operate without an office or staff if I needed or wanted to,” Jones says. “With the online billing, the system also allows me to get paid faster than any other company I’ve worked with and saves me from having to reconcile bills.”

In addition to installer benefits, Zip Express provides and manages an inhouse service and installation infrastructure for its retail partners. Offering quick and convenient installation for customers allows for decreased return rates, as inability to properly set up a new piece of equipment is a frequent reason for returns. As prices for major electronic products continue to go down, Zip Express also provides attractive margins for retailers by offering additional sales revenue on top of the product at checkout.

Additionally, customers can take advantage of Zip Express in three ways: in-store at participating retailers, online through participating e-tailers such as Target, and directly at By allowing consumers to purchase installation packages regardless of where the items are purchased, Zip Express is changing how consumers purchase home electronics and installation. Instead of purchasing electronics from a major, usually more expensive, retailer and using its affiliated installers, customers can purchase major electronics items from less-expensive retailers and log on to Zip’s website immediately to purchase a flat-rate installation package that fits their needs.

As the consumer electronics industry continues to change and expand, Zip is looking to change how retailers provide installation services and how installers work within, and benefit from, those changes. The economy will continue to ebb and flow, and the news may not always be good, so having innovative ways to keep business strong is vital.

Chris Mauzy is President and CEO, Zip Express Installation.

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