How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

7/9/2014 4:30:00 PM
You’ve installed the right equipment, you’ve done your research, and you’ve tested your connections. You’ve calibrated the system, and it works flawlessly. You contently hand the remote over, train the client, and go home.

That night, you receive an email or text informing you of their disappointment in the system, as it is not working.

Is it user error? Did an IR eye fall off? Did the cable box crash (again)? Maybe they were trying to use the system from their iPad and the Wi-Fi glitched? Even the biggest, baddest, most well designed systems will fail at some point.

How we handle the process both before we ever begin a project and after we hand over the keys to the kingdom greatly determines how these flaws will be felt. Here is how you can attempt to avoid frustration and mass hysteria.

Explain the process: I now start with the exact phrase, “technology is not a perfect science,” and then explain to the client that what separates us from the competitors is that we are there to answer the call, email, or text after the job is complete. This is when the real relationship begins and starts to bloom.

We were recently contacted to quote a new projector for a potential client. The dead projector was connected with component video. We certainly could quote and install a new projector with component inputs, but we took a step back to let the client know that this type of video was a dying breed. We suggested he upgrade his AVR as well. Even if he decides to only upgrade the projector, he will move forward knowing that he is making a short term commitment and is more likely to come back when he is ready to upgrade further.

Explain the difference of our ‘trade’:
Unlike a drywall contractor, or painter, or plumber, the relationship with our client should be long term. We become their technology experts for years to come; not just a ‘service-call.’ The public is no longer used to thinking in these terms. This is the Wal-Mart generation where they can open the box, watch TV for 29 days and then bring it back. It is our job to re-teach them how to be a ‘proper’ client—as partners in the entire process. We do not work 'for' them. We are there to make their lives better; remember they do not NEED what we have to sell. Without the gates of communication open and well-oiled, the system, the project, and the relationship will fail.

Follow up: If you do not ask, you’ll never know how the client feels. Follow up with each and every client to see if they understand the system (also make sure your installers are doing a good job). I would suggest you do this directly after you finish the job, no matter how small, but then again in few months. This will remind them that you are out there, for you’ve already proved yourself a worthy partner. Now you just need to stay fresh in their mind when they are ready to move forward with the next project.

We do this every day and forget that most people do not know what a real universal remote is, or what radio frequency is, and how these simple things can improve their world. Train your installers to talk to the client and let them know what exists, and arm your showroom with the tools to demonstrate the experience.

Technology, when if fails, is extremely frustrating, and at some point it will fail. Let your clients know this upfront and confirm that you will be there for them when it does. Build them the most robust system they will afford you to, and if they take shortcuts, let them know. Keeping the lines of communication open will build you a happy clientele bringing you business for years to come.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.


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