When ‘Charity’ Becomes an AV Client’s Expectation

I always try to do right by my customers. Any promotion that is being run by my vendors, whether it be a discount or a free product, I make sure to pass on to my clients, so they get the most bang for their buck. But sometimes it comes back to bite me. There are times when there are no discounts to offer, and I get the “Can’t you do any better?” speech. I want to respond, “Didn’t I ‘do better’ for you the last time?”
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I always try to do right by my customers. Any promotion that is being run by my vendors, whether it be a discount or a free product, I make sure to pass on to my clients, so they get the most bang for their buck. But sometimes it comes back to bite me. There are times when there are no discounts to offer, and I get the “Can’t you do any better?” speech. I want to respond, “Didn’t I ‘do better’ for you the last time?”

At Almo’s E4 AV tour event yesterday at the Meadowlands Expo Center in New Jersey, I spoke with some of my peers about how, in some cases, you work so closely with clients that it is almost like making new friends. As you share every promotion that your vendors offer, your client/friends love you for it (for the moment). When making their contracts, however, you begin to believe that you are such great buds and that you don’t have to document the promotion. Of course they will remember you for it, you think. And then after the installation is finished, your clients, who are suddenly not so “friendly,” never recognize you for the promotions that you gave them, and you never hear from them again.

I don’t always feel the need to document on paper what discounts or promotions I’ve given a client. Mostly, I don’t want to be portrayed as saying, “Look what I did for you!” But how quickly they can forget. The first time you show up empty handed, you’re treated like the guy in church who let the donation basket pass by. Everyone looks at you like you committed a mortal sin, but they don’t know that last week you gave $100.

I have found that as much as I don’t WANT to document my vendor “donations,” I have to do it. Just like you don’t want to document on your taxes how much you gave to charity; it’s just something you have to do.

Instead of just getting to share the excitement of the promotion or the promotional product with my client, I actually add it to the contract with the item, the promotion, what the item should have cost, and then zero out the price. This way, the next time around I have something to reference to show how I tried to help them out.

Something I’ve learned along the way is that “business is business,” and it needs to be treated that way. None of us ever wants to be the guy who points out every nice thing that we do for our customers. But, unfortunately we live in an era of “What have you done for me lately?” So, it’s important to protect your own dignity as an integrator (and just as a human being in some cases). Keep clear and accurate documentation of any vendor promotion that you offer your customers, for your records and theirs. It will help keep your business relationships solid when that donation basket comes your way again.

Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City. 

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