At some point, even the best-designed system will run into some kind of glitch. Maybe it will be from a power outage, maybe it will be due to a guest with button jab-itis, or maybe it will come from a Stuxnet virus attack. But no matter how it happens, when it happens, you’ll be getting a phone call or email from a client wanting to get things back on track.
And when that call comes, having a client that is willing to help fix the problem can be like having an entry-level tech in the home that not only saves you a truck roll and them an invoice, but likely gets the system back up and running in the fastest manner possible.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, then you know that there are clients that fall into three basic categories: the total can-do, the will-do, and the can’t-do.
How can you best work with each of these client types to get the system back on track in the fastest manner possible?
The Total Can-Do
There’s not much you need to do to enable this type of client; if anything, you might find that you need to (politely) tell them to settle down a bit because they are so willing to jump in and work on stuff, often to their own detriment. This person will pre-emptively try to fix things, getting into setup menus, checking connections and settings, power cycling components, etc. But sometimes, in their zeal to be proactive in a fix, they will actually cause other problems. This guy will change network settings and try and find a copy of your programming software on the internet so he can constantly tinker with your code, adjusting macro delays, and adding buttons and whatnot. This person often calls with a list of, “I’ve already tried…” or “the front panel says…” and is ready and willing to provide whatever information is needed to help. This person will gladly grab a flashlight, pull out his rack, and jump in and start diagnosing and do whatever you ask. In fact, you’ll often have to say, “OK, wait…hang on just a second. Please don’t press any buttons or change anything until I ask you to.”
On the plus side, this customer will do almost anything to avoid a truck roll and a service call. On the downside, because of this desire to avoid the truck roll, when they do call, it will likely be a lengthy troubleshooting session as they ask you to exhaust every possibility.
This person lies in the middle ground and is probably the best type of customer to have if something goes sideways on a job. Because they aren’t totally comfortable getting into the bowels of their system, they often won’t do any pre-call button jabbing and settings changing, so you likely only have the one problem to contend with. Also, they will do exactly what—and only what—you walk them through doing, making it easy to guide them through a remote fix. My go-to move with this kind of client is to look up the components that we sold them and then Google images of the model numbers so I can be looking at the front and rear panels of what they are working with. Then with pointed questions of, “What does this say?” and “Is this button lit?” you can narrow down what the issue is. This person will usually not want to get behind the gear, but you can guide them into a remove-the-power-cord-reach-around to reboot something like a modem, router or cable box. You can help enable this person by making sure they are familiar with their system during the installation; showing them all of the components and explaining what each one is and what it does and how they work.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: this is the toughest customer to win over. This is often the spouse of the person who bought the system, and they probably didn’t want any of it in the first place. Unfortunately, through some horrible bit of serendipity, they’re the only one around when it breaks and now they are forced to deal with it. Even so, they will often refuse to do even the littlest bit of troubleshooting even if it will A) save them a service call and B) get the problem resolved sooner. They are often intimidated by technology, thinking that every wire is an electricity-filled cobra with the singular goal in life of striking them. And, they are convinced that their system runs on a delicate balance of pixie dust and witchcraft that can be easily upset resulting in some form of unspoken malevolence to be visited upon them and following generations.
The good thing about dealing with this customer is that the problem is usually super simple to resolve—something like a component didn’t turn on, or is on the wrong input. Even so, getting this person to the point where they will actually let you help them can be a bit like trying to summit Everest. Give this person the most simple and specific instructions, while also offering praise, encouragement and the constant reassurance that they aren’t going to break anything or get electrocuted. Again, the best bet for working with this client is the pre-emptive education session that you give them during install. And kind of like the Navy SEAL’s motto “the more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in combat,” the time you put in up front will reduce the headaches down the road. Put the control into their hands and encourage them to use the system, letting them see how it works and explaining what happens as they press a command such as “Watch TV” or “Watch Movie.” This client is also a great candidate for things like IP-controlled surge protection that allows you to remotely reboot co
mponents for them.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.