When Things Go Wrong

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Think about it. Our job is to provide the complete package of design, installation, project management and coordination of every single detail of the A/V systems that we sell. Why should a homeowner pay us thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for our services unless we perform on time, on budget and 100 percent as promised?

It all begins when Mr. Jones first meets with our salesman. The salesman listens intently, making notes on everything that Mr. Jones desires in his A/V system. He explains to the client how our systems start out as mere boxes of wires and gadgets, and then he tells a grand story about how our design and installation team will transform these parts into the perfect system solution for his new home system.

When the salesman returns to the office with the signed order in hand, we have a check and we have made a promise. If the promise is, We will deliver and install a large plasma TV on Friday, then that is pretty doable, even for Best Buy. If, however, the promise is, Within five weeks, we will design and install a complete home automation and home theater system in your 100-year-old historic home before the vice president visits for the holidays, then that can cause sudden ulcers. The bigger the price, the bigger the promise is for your customer.

If the Best Buy client doesnt like his TV he can just take it back in a few weeks. Have you ever thought of one of your clients wanting to return their $500,000 home theater to you because their wife didnt like the color?

All CI companies run into problem installations once in a while. Part of the problem is that technology is changing so fast. Of course, our savvy clients read about all of the newest gadgets almost as soon as we do. They are right to think twice about spending a small fortune on electronic systems that may quickly be outdated. They want the latest and greatest.

In our imperfect world, each new product is guaranteed to have imperfections. Until we fully test new products in our own market, we can never be sure if these imperfections will cause problems in our installations. No manufacture can promise us that we can install their products without interface issues. Yet we must stick our necks out and promise our customers that, because they hire us, we will work out all of the bugs, so that their system will be flawless. Can you imagine telling your client that the CD button on their touchpad will not work because it is the manufacturers fault? Forget it; the buck stops with us.

We face so many diverse challenges in delivering a complete home theater and home automation package that any number of complications can occur. We have to carefully navigate through construction problems, product problems, interface problems, employee problems, scheduling problems, human errors, programming problems, back-order problems, etc.

This business is called custom installation. If you are in this business, then you already know that no matter how good you are, you will run into problems. Things will go wrong. How you handle client problems will ultimately determine the success or failure of your company. When things go wrong and we cannot deliver what we promised, it can hit the fan. Our companys name and future reputation is on the line. What can you do? On a really big system with big problems it can get so bad that you feel like youre in a nuclear war. You cant duck and cover. You cant run and hide. You cant dump on a client just because his check is already in your bank.

When things get tough, it is time to put ourselves on the line and do whatever it takes to solve the problem. If something in the system doesnt work, then fix it! If you cant fix it, then fly in replacement gear overnight...or fly in the manufacturers lead tech overnight... or fly in an alternate product. Fix it, right now. If it costs lots of money to fix it, then spend the money. If your job profits will be eaten up, do it anyway.

Go to the client and dont feed him any excuses or mislead him to cover up your problem. Admit to him that you have a problem. Explain to him exactly what the problem is, what you are doing to fix it, and when you expect the problem to be fully resolved. Dont tell him that you will have it right in two days if you know it will take two weeks. Your honesty and integrity is your best partner.

I believe that our clients deserve the finest customer service in the world. They are very special and should expect and receive red carpet service from us. If we have one customer out of 100 whom is unhappy, we have not done our jobs. That is the nature of this business. Each client is a small part of your success. Your client trusts you, and that trust is the future of your business.