Making the Most of Small-Budget Custom Installs

5/15/2013 3:27:00 PM
Months ago, I wrote in this space about not judging a customer by how they dress or what they drive. Last week, I described ways to build partnerships with other firms in the industry. This week, I want to bring it all together. The bottom line is focusing on customer service as the priority. Make the customer happy, work with each other as peers, and we will all not only grow the industry but make more money and be more successful.

Too many times I see service providers in our business scoff at a smaller job just because it doesn’t seem worth the time to them. Just last week, a woman called because she wanted a top-of-the-line system for her boyfriend and told me she’d been saving up all year. I started to salivate. Then she dropped the bomb of how much she’d saved: $1,500. Internally, I was deflated, but of course I never let it show. Maybe that’s my background in retail coming into play, where closing the sale is what counts, no matter the size.

I knew that for what she was looking for in that price range, my company wouldn’t be able to help her, but I didn’t want to disappoint her either. I remember the days when I didn’t have a lot of money but I would scrimp and save to buy something for someone I loved on their birthday or Christmas. Even though it was a small amount (maybe $30), they were ecstatic because they knew how hard it was for me to earn that money and how much thought I put into the gift. I was proud to be able to get them something they enjoyed and appreciated. So I spent time with the client to understand her needs and pulled in one of my Home Theater Rebuild referral network companies to help her with a system at her price point. While it isn’t something most integrators would consider high-end, for $1,500 you can still get a solid receiver, 5.1 surround sound, and a media-streaming device.

We have to keep several points in mind with every customer interaction:

1. Build the Industry/Grow the Pie.

We don’t want to lose the customers to big box or online retailers. It would have been easy to turn this client away, and she could have gone and bought a Sonos Play5 for $600 and been done, but she would have lost the experience of a custom integration. Build partnerships both up and down the value chain, so you can satisfy the needs of any customer by bringing in the appropriate resources.

2. Always Make the Customer Happy.

Part of our job is being a psychologist, listening to the customer and figuring out what they want even when they can’t put it into words. When my wife was planning our wedding, she made me spend way more than what I wanted on flowers because there was only one florist who could take what she had in her head and make it a reality. Many people are willing to pay for that kind of vision.

3. Avoid Saying No.

While sometimes it makes sense when a customer is just trying to “showroom” you, 99 percent of the time we can find a way to meet our customer’s needs, whether it’s through our own resources or partnering with a peer.

4. Sell Solutions, Not Products.

We need to sell the added value. Come up with a solution, no matter the price point or the need. Don’t get arrogant. In fact, I’m trying to stop using the term “integrator” with clients and instead use the words “solution provider.”

I always make sure every client who calls us feels respected, heard, and taken care of. Not only is that just the right thing to do, but it is good business. You never know where hidden gems lie. Maybe she doesn’t make a lot of money, but her father does, and she will refer him in the future. Or maybe her husband is in Medical School and in two years will be a doctor making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and they’ll want to upgrade. It’s also just good karma. Treat people the way you want to be treated. I don’t necessarily measure my success just by dollars and cents, but by the client’s reaction and overall satisfaction, regardless of their budget or their sophistication.
 
 

+Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City. 

 
 
 

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