Recently I was attending a nonprofit meeting, where the discussion turned to the non-profit group’s outdated website and our desire to get it updated. Fortunately one of our members owned a website design company, and we asked him if he could make our drab site look a little better.
Maybe he was too excited about providing pro bono work, so the president of the association said that he would hire Mr. Website’s company to make the changes.
“How much would it cost to get us up to date?” the president asked.
“Ummmm… It is hard to say,” came Mr. Website’s response.
Now, as custom integrator I often pretend that I’m a superhero with the power to see through walls and offer perfect estimates. I will guess how much a job will cost; I like to believe that this is an educated guess, based on my many years of experience, but it is still just a guess. But I have never gone to a client’s house and said, “I just don’t know,” or, “Until I spend a few hours getting into this, I won’t know where we’re at.”
Turns out Mr. Website felt that updating the website would only be a Band-Aid for a bigger problem and this made him uncomfortable making a commitment. What he really wanted was to rebuild the website in a newer “format” (a format that this group just didn’t have the funding for).
You’ve been there right? You’ve gone to a house where the system was run with S-video cables, analog audio, and a spaghetti-like pile of wires. You’re told to just “make it work,” but of course you make a great pitch to the client to upgrade everything. You explain how much easier the system will be to use. You tell them about the better audio decoding and superior picture quality. Mostly this works, and they follow your expert advice. But sometimes the pitch falls on deaf ears. Sometimes they just want you to “make it work.”
Do you? Will you Band-Aid a system knowing that it isn’t the best solution? Some times I will. Sometimes I won’t. It depends on the situation.
When is a Band-Aid the Right Solution?
When the future depends on it.
Okay, I don’t mean the future of mankind or anything dramatic like that. It can be worth a quick fix if it means future business. For example, one of my best clients came to me via his builder. We had never met before, and he didn’t know me. I was quoting him an expensive remote for a new system in a newly built home, and he didn’t see the value. So I gave him the remote, programmed for his current residence. I didn’t fix a wire or sell him a new TV. And guess what? He liked it. We have been working on projects with him for over a year now. He is an excellent client who trusts our company and the suggestions that we make.
When the client understands what they’re getting.
We’ve hung a few flat screens that I would never ever own. At times the install must have cost more than the TV itself. The client understands that should his TV die, he can upgrade (to hopefully a better flat panel, hopefully from me) and the install would stand.
When is it Not Alright to Use the Band-Aid?
When it makes your company look bad.
We ask all our clients if they would recommend us to their friends. I will not do a job that would make us look bad. We will refuse to let wires drape. You never know who will see it.
When you know it will fail.
If you’re just reconnecting an AVR that you know is going to pop back into protect mode the next time Mr. Client cranks the system – don’t do it. (Yes, this should be common sense). If you’re providing a temporary fix in the case of an emergency (relatively speaking), then make sure you put it in writing. Let them know that you provided them a Band-Aid and schedule the proper fix for later.
You may have to turn down a job or two to make sure you’re around in the long run. Remember the best advertising is word-of-mouth. That will only happen if they client is happy with a long-term solution. Use your best judgment and use your Band-Aids wisely.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.