How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

Jul 9

Written by: Heather L. Sidorowicz
7/9/2014 12:30 PM  RssIcon

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.
 
 

5 comment(s) so far...


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Re: How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

Heather,

I agree with every part of this article. I am glad that more people are starting to bring attention to this topic. All electronics eventually fail and no one has a perfect system. We had these problems when I wa an AV Integrator. Even if clients are OK with failure they always called and said "Nothing" is working. In 99% of all cases this was not true. But what was happening is the "One" thing they wanted to work was not working. This communication caused havoc on my service department. So my partner and I wanted to find a solution that would take care of this problem. With few options out there, and those were expensive and complex to setup, we decided to create our own system that would remote monitor and notify us of any system failures and we call it Greenlight. After using Greenlight for two years and completely changing our relationships with all of our clients we decided to commercialize the product and open it up to all AV Dealers. If it changed my company that much I will love to see what it can do for everyone else.

With the talk of Apple and other large manufacturers getting into automation I will warn fellow installers that we must stand above these new threats. We cannot compete with Apple on price. They will come out with cool products that will be cheaper than the gear that we put in. The only way to stay ahead of them will to have great support and relationships with all of our clients. Can you imagine a wealthy home owner calling Apple Tech Support on Super Bowl Sunday because the TV will not turn on? With Greenlight the client would never have to call because the dealer would know that the system had actually broken a couple days before. By Super Bowl Sunday the failure was repaired and the client never knew anything.

Thanks,
Steve Hosterman
CEO | Greenlight LLC

By Steve Hosterman on   7/13/2014 5:03 PM
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Re: How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

I will make 4 important points here:

1. This statement of yours is INCORRECT & very ARROGANT: "We do not work 'for' them." If someone PAYS YOU FOR YOUR SERVICES; then, YOU DO WORK ‘FOR’ THEM. It is extremely frustrating, as a long-time AV Customer who has dealt with 15 different A/V Companies over the last 30 years, to always have to deal with this ARROGANCE among all A/V Companies. For some strange reason, just because they THINK that they know more than their Customer, they always have this attitude that I AM KING; THEREFORE, I WILL HELP YOU, IF I WANT TO, WHEN I WANT TO & IN MY OWN WAY. If you don't like MY SCHEDULE, MY COSTS, MY RECOMMENDATIONS & MY LACK OF PROFESSIONALISM, TOO BAD. Sadly, as an Electronics Engineer with an MBA, I have learned that MOST OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE ZERO ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING EDUCATION, LET ALONE even a basic 2-YEAR TECHNICAL DEGREE, yet they usually represent themselves as being THE MOST TECHNICALLY EDUCATED & EXPERIENCED PERSON AROUND. In fact, most of them do not even have a CEDIA CERTIFICATE, which is useless anyway, because IT DOES NOT VERIFY ANY REAL OUTCOMES FROM WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE TEACHING. So, step #1 for all of you is to realize that "You DO WORK FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS" & "YOUR EDUCATION & EXPERIENCE MAY, OR MAY NOT BE, LESS THAN YOUR CUSTOMER'S." Thus, DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOUR CUSTOMER ABOUT ANYTHING. If you cannot tell just by talking with them, actually discuss THEIR EXPERIENCE & THEIR EDUCATION with them, before you intentionally, or unintentionally, offend them; because, “YOU DO WORK FOR THEM.”

2. This next statement of yours is also INCORRECT & very STUPID: “….remember they do not NEED what we have to sell." Of course they NEED what you have to sell……..WHY ELSE WOULD THEY BE PAYING YOU FOR IT………because THEY DON’T NEED IT? D’oh! I’ve never heard anything so RIDICULOUS in all my life. People BUY WHAT THEY NEED, or what they WANT. They are not just paying you for the fun of it. They are PAYING YOU FOR EXPERTISE, PRODUCTS, INSTALLATIONS & SERVICE. Now, if you are unethical and do SELL THEM SOMETHING THAT THEY DO NOT NEED; then, that is your problem to discuss with St. Peter at the appropriate time. The only time you should ever sell something to somebody that they do not need, is if you clearly explain that to them & they WANT it anyway because it is a LUXURY for them. In summary, DO NOT SELL CUSTOMERS SOMETHING THEY DO NOT NEED, UNLESS THEY HONESTLY WANT IT. It is NOT UP TO YOU to determine their WANTS. IT IS YOUR JOB TO DETERMINE WHAT THEY DO NEED, unless they already know; and then, come to an agreement WITH THEM ON IT. So, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS, at a minimum, SELL THEM WHAT THEY REALLY NEED & CAN ACTUALLY AFFORD. Anything else is either UNETHICAL, and therefore WRONG; or, A LUXURY.

3. I submit that INSTEAD OF EXPLAINING THE PROCESS, IT IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ACTUALLY FIX THE PROBLEM ASAP, instead of trying to TRAIN THE CUSTOMER ABOUT SOMETHING THAT HE/SHE MAY NOT BE INTERESTED IN. Customers EXPECT FAST RESULTS, NOT DISCUSSIONS ABOUT YOUR PROCESSES. FIX THE PROBLEM FIRST, which, in my experience, is usually caused by POOR INSTALLATIONS in the first place.

4. As I mentioned in #1 above, my experience with all these Companies is that NONE OF THEM HAVE ANY FORMAL ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING EDUCATION. To me, THIS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THIS INDUSTRY; &, it is also why most people would rather buy on-line or at Wal-Mart, instead of enduring the pain, expense or hassle of hiring an A/V Installer. This is because, IT COSTS MUCH MORE, THERE ARE ALWAYS PROBLEMS; &, most Companies never represent themselves honestly or actually perform a PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION anyway. This is mostly because, THEY HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED TO PERFORM PROPERLY. In fact, my experience has been that THEY HIDE THE FACT THAT THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY EDUCATED OR TRAINED to do this very complex Electronics work. Also, to make things worse, since they are always rushing to correct all the problems that SHOULD NOT BE THERE IF THE JOB HAD BEEN DONE PROPERLY IN THE FIRST PLACE, they just end-up creating more problems.

I could go on, but I won’t. The bottom line is this: Until this industry REQUIRES AT LEAST ONE PERSON IN THE COMPANY TO HAVE A MINIMUM OF AN ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING DEGREE, BEFORE ANY MINIMUM CEDIA CERTIFICATION CAN BE GIVEN, IT REMAINS A JOKE! Also, this QUALIFIED ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING VERIFICATION must be EASY TO CHECK-OUT ON-LINE & REQUIRED TO BE RE-VERIFIED & RE-ISSUED AT LEAST ONCE PER YEAR.

This is WHAT IS REQUIRED to REPAIR THIS INDUSTRY:

A. ACTUAL HIGH PERFORMANCE STANDARDS & VERIFICATIONS.
B. HONEST & REAL CERTIFICATIONS, THAT ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING; &, are also EASILY VERIFIED.
C. HIGHLY ETHICAL BUSINESS PRACTICES that always emphasize CUSTOMER SERVICE OVER SALES & PROFITS.
D. TRUE & FAST CUSTOMER SERVICE, especially AFTER INSTALLATION & PAYMENT.

If you actually FIX these things, everyone else will be put out of this business; &, YOU ALL, WILL BECOME THE CHAMPIONS.

By William F. Jakobi on   7/14/2014 6:13 PM

Re: How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

William, why not write your entire response in caps? I can't gauge the sincerity of your comments unless I am getting yelled at the entire time.

No need to attack the writer of a great article.

PS: Next time you go get your car serviced, ask the 18 year old kid who fixes your brakes for his Mechanical Engineering degree.

Grow up.

By Jim on   7/15/2014 4:22 PM
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Re: How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

I always enjoy your articles Heather, this one is no different. We do play a unique role as integrators and I think you hit the nail on the head defining it in such clear terms. I wonder why William has had the misfortune of running into 15 "bad" A/V companies?

Keep em coming.

By Terry Gowing on   7/29/2014 9:41 AM
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Re: How to Handle AV System Failure and Client Expectations

To clarify Mr. Jakobi,

What I am attempting to get across in your first point is that we as AV integrators need to form partnerships with our clients. The relationship must foster more than just order-taking and a paycheck; it must have more depth than 'paint my wall blue and then go home.'

As for your second remarks, you are incorrect. The only things human beings NEED are air, shelter, water and food. No one NEEDS a TV. This does reflect on the arrogance of our industry as we must change our approach. Our goal is to make the client's life better with technology, and with this approach we can (and have been) extremely successful.

As for the degrees and level of knowledge, you're right, We all need training, but it goes deeper than a degree. We must keep a finger on the pulse of our industry, too, which is why CEDIA is so important. It is also the ability to deal with fellow humans without yelling and name calling. You can be the smartest person in the world with all of the technical degrees imaginable, yet without the ability to successfully communicate with other people, that knowledge is useless.

Much success to you and I do thank you for your thoughts and opinions.

By Heather on   7/29/2014 11:55 AM

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