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  • Selecting an Outdoor Lighting System Installer

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    One of the most difficult challenges of purchasing an installed outdoor lighting system is selecting an installer or installation company to complete the task. There are a variety of companies that install outdoor lighting from landscape design, hardscape construction, Audio/Video solutions, automation companies, companies that specialize in outdoor lighting only, and many more. These various types of companies all have the capability to accomplish the job and there is not a general answer if one is better than another. This means we need to establish other criteria to help us select the proper company for us to accomplish our outdoor lighting goals.

    Whether you are just getting started in the process of finding an installer or are in the middle or near the end of the process, there is a good chance that you are trying to determine how to select the best solution provider for your project. In our opinion, the most important factor when it comes to the selection of your contractor is trust and transparency. Once you feel comfortable with the trust and transparency of a lighting installer, the decision and the project will go very smoothly.

    Trust and Transparency

    Your lighting contractor should want to understand your goals and WHY you are considering outdoor lighting.
    The first step in helping to establish that trust and transparency is determining if they have your goals in mind at all times when providing you with a solution offering. Oddly enough, we are not talking about your lighting goals. We are talking about why lighting interests you in the first place. We are pretty sure you are not buying outdoor lighting because you saw a picture of a lighting fixture on an advertisement and decided to buy outdoor lighting. We believe you are wanting lighting for other much more significant reasons ranging from enhancing your home’s aesthetic appeal to creating an inviting backyard for gathering family and friends. There are many reasons for wanting an outdoor lighting system and it is important that the installer understands yours.

    Transparency in the Solution

    We believe that complete transparency in the solution you are being provided is critical to a successful relationship. It is important for you to know the brand of the manufacturer of every component in the lighting system. Many people at this stage do not want this type of detail but we will lay out here why it is vital to the trust and transparency of the relationship. It should only take one request from the potential installer/company to get this information. This knowledge will help you during this process and in the future.

    Art They Providing a Solution or Fixtures?

    One of the best indicators to help you determine if the installer has your lighting goals in mind is how quickly the conversation turns to the lighting fixtures themselves. The initial conversations should be centered all around your goals and what you want to accomplish with the lighting system. If the conversation moves quickly to "look at this fixture" (unless you are buying a chandelier), this could be an indicator that this installer might be looking to sell product versus provide a solution to your needs.

    Understanding each product’s manufacturer will help you in many ways. If you want to gather more information about the product this will give you the ability to do that. It will give you some insight into the product and should allow you to check reviews on that brand.

    Many professional installers will only sell brands that do not have public pricing. This should be a pinkish-red flag and we will give more detail into this outlined in the pricing section.

    Receiving the manufacturing brand will also help you determine the levels of support you will be able to receive. At this point, you should start thinking about the different support levels and what happens if your installer is no longer available. In this scenario, it is important that you still have access to support of the product and warranty. You will want to understand how this works from the manufacturer's point of view (in reality, the installer’s point of view for this is inconsequential so it is up to you to do your homework).

    A key question here is: Are there multi-levels of support available and if so, what are they?

    Ask For and Call References

    Once you have narrowed your list down to one or two lighting installers, we highly suggest that you call some references that the installer gives you. It is important to learn about their customers’ experiences and more importantly, if their original goal of why they wanted lighting in the first place was accomplished. Of course, most installers or companies will give you references of very happy customers. However, it is important that you ask for at least one (the more the better) customer reference that had an issue during or shortly after the installation process and one that has had a system for a couple years. These will be your most important conversations with any of the references. If the installer says no one has really had any issues so they can't give you a reference for that, it is a huge red flag and should most likely eliminate that installer or company from your list. We all make mistakes. It is very important to learn how that individual or company has handled their mistakes. They will likely handle any mistakes in the future in the same manner.

    Many people think they will be bothering other people by calling them for a reference. The fact of the matter is that if they are happy with their results, they will be excited to help the installer by providing a great reference. And you will gladly do the same when your successful project is complete!

    Important Questions to Ask Every Reference

    1. Did the company accomplish your original goal?
    2. Did the company do what they said they were going to do and when/if they couldn't handle it in a professional, communicative manner?
    3. When an issue arose, did the company respond in a professional manner and remedy the situation?

    Pricing

    While price is important, it cannot be the only factor and likely is not the most significant factor. We would argue that all of the factors listed above revolve around value which determines what you are actually getting for the money you ultimately exchange for the solution.

    As with any profession there are ways to install correctly and there are ways to cut corners. If there are corners being cut that ultimately will cost you more money at some point. This is why references are such an important part of the process.

    We discussed transparency earlier and it is time to be transparent about how the industry pricing models work. As with any reseller of a product, there are costs involved with handling, promoting, and selling a product. Therefore, it is important that these costs get covered (along with a little profit to help the business re-invest and thrive) with some discounting to the reseller. The reseller is providing value to both the customer (in providing the product to them) and the manufacturer (by helping promote/ market the product). This cost incurred to the installer should be understood and covered by a discounting structure). We are all for this and believe this is fair and honest commerce. However, in parts of the industry there are some exorbitant practices happening. Let us explain...

    Buyer Beware

    There are many cases where the pricing model, in our view, is out of whack. This primarily has evolved in the outdoor lighting industry in an effort by manufacturers to keep their existing customers (the installers) from moving to other manufacturers. In an effort to “protect” their customer (the installer) the manufacturers, in some cases, have chosen to either: A.) not make pricing public or B.) discount hundreds of percent allowing the installer to make triple what the manufacturer is making on that same product. We don’t think this is in alignment with consumer desires.

    A couple things we should take-away here:

    1. Isn't it odd that some manufacturers believe their true customer is the installer and not the consumer/user?
    2. When products are not differentiated (featureless white lights are a commodity at this point) price becomes the only differentiator. In most industries and markets this results in a reduction of prices. However, that is under a free market system. By not making pricing or products available to the consumer directly, they have removed the “free market” from the system and thus pricing actually went in the opposite direction.

    There are many fair and transparent manufacturer and installation companies out there so the good news is that you have options if you do your homework. Our goal is to partner with like-minded companies that provide great value to our joint customers (the consumer).

    By not making pricing or products available to the consumer directly, they have removed the “free market” from the system and thus pricing actually went up instead of down.

    Summary

    Selecting the right installation company is critical in getting the best value for your outdoor lighting system. Establishing trust and transparency with your selected installer and asking the right questions with a little bit of effort on your end will provide the comfort you need to make the best decision. Take the time. Make a couple calls. You will love the results!

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