Every custom integration business owner wants to start their day off strong, anticipating all the good things and big sales to come. You listen to your favorite song in the car on the ride into the office, whistling the tune as you sit behind your desk and hit the “play” button on your voice mail. Then your great day is stopped dead in its tracks as you hear message after message from angry clients who can’t play music through the system you installed. You spend half your day on the phone troubleshooting and the other half running to as many of their homes and businesses as you can to try to fix these problems. It’s not until late that night when you finally receive an email informing you that Pandora had performed an update that many receiver manufacturers could not support.
When Pandora’s most recent update went into effect, some manufacturers were on top of it, coming up with a solution (even if it was just a temporary Band-Aid), while many others are STILL looking for a solution.
Many AV receivers are now designed with integrated internet radio services built in, but unfortunately not every manufacturer can support the firmware updates that come along later. Because it’s not “theirs” to own, AVR manufacturers can’t always predict what direction a music service will take. In efforts to take responsibility and “own” the network as much as possible, I now assign IP addresses to each individual device or source so there is less margin for error should the system go down, or should updates need to be performed.
Because that solution could not help my clients struggling with the latest Pandora update, I suggested it be best to use on a hard-wired, stable connection like an iPod doc or CD player instead. Yes, this would be a step back, but it’s a good solution until we are able to test internet radio features and find that they are fully functional. This idea worked fine for my residential clients because they play music more for pleasure. However, it was not an acceptable option for my commercial clients.
My commercial clients either stopped downloading music because they used Pandora or their music was stored on their phones, which they could not afford to have plugged into the system all day. In these scenarios I recommended using Apple TV in place of Pandora. The iCloud allows for music to stream to the system wirelessly and is a totally different kind of animal than Pandora or Rhapsody with less chance of disconnect—although there is still a possibility of the network choking due to an over-crowded streaming platform.
Cutting-edge technology is a huge part of our business and for the most part, it can be very exciting. It is the essence of our industry. Situations like this, on the other hand, can be detrimental to our success. When a system goes down because of a Pandora update, clients won’t know at first if the issue is from an outside source or an update that wasn’t performed properly. They might automatically think there is something wrong with the system that we installed (same as when we get the blame when the cable goes out.) If they do see that there is an update available, many of them are either not confident enough to perform it themselves or won’t know how to go about it.
A lot of the time, updates can be a way to increase revenue and get you back into a client’s home or place of business. In this case, however, I found that I did not feel right charging them for a visit that was out of their control (and mine, for that matter.) I actually found that this issue ended up costing me money to keep my clients happy; I purchased Rhapsody accounts or Apple TVs for them to use in the interim while the Pandora issues are worked out.
I still believe that internet radio is the way to go, but at this point, is not the most stable solution for those who rely heavily on music. Through some trial and error, I have found that instituting service agreements with certain clients can help me to be more proactive and avoid problems like this. I visit my clients’ homes on a quarterly basis, perform the necessary updates, and test the equipment thoroughly before the updates throw a wrench into my entire system. This way I have minimized my service calls, increased my revenue and continue to maintain a great relationship with my clients.
Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.