Give Them What They Want

When Martelle Marty Markey founded Markeys Ideal Pictures in 1959, he established three main rules to live by: provide exceptional customer service, quote a fair price, and, as previously stated, give the customer what they want.

That was 45 years ago. The company has long since changed its name to Markeys Audio Visual, but when it comes to customer relations the original business model remains relevant.

Customer service for us is not just about being friendly to a customer; its also about our appearance, the appearance of our equipment, and the appearance of our support staff, said Mark Miller, the companys general manager. We think about our customers on a long-term basis, so we try to emulate what Marty started more than 45 years ago.

What has changed is the technology. Long before the advent of high-end video projection systems, Markeys Ideal Pictures was renting 16-millimeter films to schools and churches.

One thing led to another, and customers started saying, Marty, I would be happy to rent a 16-millimeter film from you, but I dont have a projector, Miller explained. She bought a projector, and then eventually she got a screen, and that led to the purchase of other types of projection devices. Obviously we changed our focus as that industry faded away and our last film rental was in the mid 1980s.

Growing the Company
Miller joined the company in 1986, when Markeys Audio Visual employed 16 staff members. At the time we didnt have any branch offices or in-house hotel contracts. We were basically just doing drop-off audiovisual work, he recalled. We were doing set-ups in some hotels. About six or eight months before I started with the company, we started the sales division in audiovisual systems design and box sales.

Today, Markeys Audio Visual employs 242 staff members that work out of the headquarters and a second location in Indianapolis, as well as branch offices in Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Merrillville, Valparaiso, and Muncie, Indiana; Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo, Ohio; Daytona, Gainesville, and Orlando, Florida; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Miller emphasized that Markeys extensive service offering is the key to the companys success. One of our key strengths is our diversity, he said. Due to our clientele--which is mostly made up of corporations, associations, hotels, meeting facilities and convention centers--we have a very wide variety of services available to meet the clients needs. We do everything from corporate and in-house services in hotels and convention centers to event staging for corporate theater throughout the United States.

Our event staging services have grown substantially over the past 10 years. We offer our customers highly experienced and customer focused technical support, outstanding equipment in all areas and exceptional overall value in all we do. We are very fortunate to have employees who have such strong convictions about their work and owners who are willing to invest continually in the products we provide.

Markeys Audio Visual also offers systems design, integration, and installation to many corporations and educational institutions. We also have box sales, a service department providing maintenance contracts and equipment repair, duplication and production services, and computer rentals. We cover a wide portion of our industry.

All of these services are offered out of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Columbus, and Dayton, and the rest of our offices provide a more scaled-back version of our services depending on the clients we have in those markets, Miller explains.

Miller noted that these different areas add to the companys overall knowledge base. Computer rental was something that we werent sure we would get into, but about 10 years ago we did, he said. It has worked to our advantage because it adds another area of expertise to the company. Our diversity brings us a wider variety of knowledge that, as a company, we can draw upon.

It also enables professionals in one department to refer customers to another when the need arises. Our different departments share information and communicate very well, so they are able to share knowledge and our customer base with each other, Miller said. We are always communicating to our clients about all of our services so that they are aware of our rental and staging department as well as our sales, integration/installation department. It creates a more solid customer base for us.

Adapting to New Challenges
As hotels and meeting facilities purchase their own systems, Miller admits that companies like Markeys Audio Visual face a greater challenge. Specialty hotels and meeting facilities are getting into the audiovisual business themselves, he said. They do more and more themselves without contracting out a supplier. They buy their own equipment, so the amount of business that they are providing to rental departments like ours is getting smaller.

This requires some repositioning on the part of rental and staging businesses. We have to continue to adapt and look at what kind of company we want to be and what kind of services we want to provide, Miller said. Fifteen years ago, probably 50 percent of our business came from the hotel and meeting facilities industry; now its closer to 10 or 15 percent. We must continue to adapt to what the customer is looking for, and what we can offer customers so that we can find a match.

In terms of the technology, Miller noted that data projectors do not offer the favorable margins that they once did. Projectors, as we all know, are getting brighter, smaller, and cheaper, and so in our industry we must find other ways to create revenue because we cant just make it on data projectors. Ten years ago, we all made a lot of money in the sale and rental of data projectors, but that money has declined in our daily business.

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.