DISH satellite services
Like many of his good ideas, the one for Dish Network’s Smart Home Services began in Erik Carlson’s shower.
“The aha moment for me was several years back. We touch thousands of TVs every day, and I didn’t think we did a good job cleaning those, ” recalled Carlson, Dish’s executive vice president for in-home service and manufacturing operations. “The idea of the screen cleaner was born.”
Today, Dish technicians wipe their fingerprints off TVs with a Dish-branded HDTV Cleaning Kit and then ask customers if they’d like a kit of their own. The $15 kit is one of the most popular items sold by technicians, who, besides installing satellite dishes, can set up a home’s wireless network, hang big-screen TVs on the wall and even untangle a mess of cords.
Smart Home Services has become a “multimillion-dollar business, ” Carlson added. Last year, technicians completed 1.5 million installations beyond the satellite dish.
“Not only do we add a little revenue to the company, but it provides a great service and an opportunity for our technicians, ” he said.
Dish has quietly expanded its Smart Home division to pick up where others no longer tread. More than a decade ago, upstarts with their cute little cars visited customer homes to fix computers. Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which still has its mobile VW Bug force, is one of the few still standing.
Since the last decade, in-home tech support has morphed away from fixing computers and more to installing equipment, like home-theater systems and wireless networks.
“I don’t think there’s enough demand for a national company to offer installation. Most (computer support) is do-it-yourself because the value of the service you would provide is going to far exceed the cost of the product, ” said Steve Baker, an analyst with market researcher NPD. “The tools are online and chat tools are obviously infinitely better than they were 10 years ago.”
It’s much easier for a company in a related niche, like Dish or a home appliance store, to offer in-home service and visits.
“There’s always going to be demand (for in-home tech support) for some people who can’t, won’t or aren’t able to do those things, ” Baker said.
Just west of the South Platte River in Englewood, a Dish field office is stocked with Bluetooth headsets (including a Broncos edition), Seagate hard drives and GE surge protectors. Technicians drive vans right into the building to restock.
“These surge protectors are warranted by GE. They will actually protect your equipment, ” explained Justin Preziosi, a field service manager. He points out things he feels would benefit customers while he’s working in their home.
“We’re not pushy salesmen. We’re just telling them what’s available, ” said Preziosi, who is dressed in Dish attire that includes khakis with the company’s red logo. “I think it surprises the customer that we can do more than just (satellite) TV.”
The company also serves non-Dish customers through Amazon Local Services. When Amazon customers buy a TV, they can at the same time hire Dish to install it. It must be doing something right — Amazon customers have rated Dish a 4.7 out of 5.
Preziosi said that in his five years, he’s been able to expand his knowledge into all sorts of technology, including home security. And with Smart Home in the name, he said Dish is constantly expanding into new technologies, like home automation.
The most popular customer requests are for mounting TVs (about $199), adding a surge protector ($29) and the screen cleaner. But he’ll help out in other ways, too, if the customer requests it. Organizing cables is definitely worth $49 to some customers.
“I’ve been asked to assemble furniture and move stuff around, ” he said. “Those would be some of the things I can tell you about.”