Unless you are strictly a consultant in this AV world of ours, you probably sell some gear. Albeit with your margins getting thinner, you might be thinking about getting a nice little consulting gig. But hey, where's the fun in that?
So back to the subject at hand: You sell GEAR! Hopefully lots of gear, a good chunk of labor, maybe even some service contracts, and that about sums up your business. Every project moves along like this, or something pretty similar:
1. You meet the client and go over a project spec. You ask them some pointed questions about what they want to achieve, what's on their needs list and what's on their wants list (more on this conversation in an upcoming post), and the hardest question to get a direct and truthful answer to... what is their budget?
2. You create a proposal and utilize all your vast AV experience to create a most excellent proposal that your client has ever seen. You know the one, it's even got some amazing 3D renders and an incredible amount of CAD drawings, at which your client won't look.
3. You sign that client due to not only your company rep, but your amazing AV skills that are perfectly described in your kicking project proposal. Once they sign the dotted line, you pick up one of the most important things: the deposit check (or cheque, if you're reading this in Canada).
4. You send out your best crew and even do a little bit of overseeing yourself as the project enters the installation and finishing phase. You and the crew finish up and you train the client on the system and how they control it. Now if you've really done your job right, your client can teach YOU the demo!
5. You leave the client very happy with their new system, and you leave extremely happy with a check for final payment, without any holdbacks because you and your guys really know your stuff! The client’s happy and you got paid! Sounds like just another one of your perfect jobs to me.
Here's where it gets entertaining. You've got that final payment, there's no arbitration, no holdbacks, just money in your account and a satisfied client who is still enjoying the honeymoon phase of their project with you. Now what do you do? If the client unfortunately declined your company’s great offer of one of your fabulous service plans, will you ever see them again? Do you have to? Do you want to? That last one may be the most important question. Although I'm sure you love all your clients and your clients all love you, they're all wanting to name their firstborn after you due to your epic AV prowess! That's not what happens with your clients? It must just be mine...
So where's your follow up? Maybe you send them a holiday card, or they get the occasional email blast from your office. But normally, you don't see them again unless they call you with another project or (and I'm sure this never happens with your clients) they call you with a problem. Now I ask you, is this the way you run your business? Waiting for your client to call you only when they discover there's a problem?
You're probably asking where this is all coming from. On what job did I learn this wonderful concept that I'm about to teach you. Well it wasn't one of ours, but it was a project that an integrator completed at my local bank branch. You see, our branch just completed a wonderful little digital signage upgrade. They installed three Panasonic digital signage screens on a nice little Chief micro adjust three-panel mount. It looks great and they've got some really good content.
Here's where that "Where's your follow up?" question comes from. As I'm in this branch just about every week, I've been able to watch and observe this install. It looked great right out of the box, the integrator did a wonderful job of ensuring that the display’s color rendering matched right across all three screens. As a few months passed, on my weekly bank branch visits, I started to notice some minor blooming in the center of the middle display. After I first noticed it, it became the only thing I noticed yet at the same time it's getting progressively worse. I decided I'd be that guy and on my next visit to the branch I'd start up a little DS conversation.
We covered some basics: How long have you had the digital signage displays; Do you like them; How's the response been; (here comes the kicker) How's the color rendering, did you notice the blooming of the middle display, and did you mention it to the integrator?
Let's just say the teller and her manager weren't really ready for that last question. But when asked off the cuff about the blooming, they hadn't noticed and didn't really completely see what I was seeing and more importantly didn't really see the need to bother the integrator with such a minor issue. Which brings me back to my first question — "where's your follow up?"
On a project such as this one with digital signage, especially one with multiple displays set up in a video wall configuration, having the screens color matched and all calibrated properly is key to a good product and application. So again I ask: "where's your follow up?" On an installation such as this one, you should have a pre-scheduled follow up appointment to ensure the project is still looking the way that you, the integrator, envisioned. Maybe this appointment is scheduled for three months after project completion, maybe it's six months down the road. But it should be booked! Now don't think I want you to cover this quick service call out of your own pocket. No, this should be built into your initial proposal and billed at proper rates, but non-negotiable. Every project that could or should require a follow up appointment should have said appointment built into your proposal.
Why? Because your client will really appreciate the forethought that you put into your system design and project proposal. You've once again shown how much of an AV rock star you are as you continue to make their job easier. You've put them at the top of your list, and you've taken care of something that most other integrators that don't follow my amazing blog posts never even think about. By predetermining that you are going to be providing a follow-up to ensure that their project is running smoothly, you've given that client some peace of mind that they don't get from any other integrator. Hence you get this job, and more jobs down the road! Yup, that just happened. You're welcome!
Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of OMEGA Audio Video, in London, Ontario, Canada.