It’s something of an understatement to say that the pandemic changed everything about how we all do business. The Pro AV industry saw shipping costs skyrocket, supply chains impacted by runs on crucial components, and a live event and install market ground to a halt by ongoing lockdowns. Despite all these potential setbacks however, the pandemic also gave way to critical innovations in digital communication and remote collaboration technologies that allowed us to stay connected and keep working together under these circumstances. It allowed us to survive. and perhaps even thrive, under some very difficult conditions. These advances have made it possible for our industry to get back on its feet, and in the post-pandemic landscape have become inexorably woven into how we operate.
Centering all of this on the human experience without becoming dependent on the technology is of paramount importance
What’s been most interesting to see as we’ve adapted to these new digital workflows is the impact that it can have on the human element of what we do. In the realm of Pro AV distribution that AVL Media Group occupies, our entire business model relies on human interaction and connection. Our customers are skilled professionals in live event production and the fixed install market who rely on us for our knowledge and support to help them create technological solutions that ultimately serve this same need. Given all of this and with technology driving post-pandemic service models, how can we keep the basic humanity intact that ultimately drives our industry?
Firstly, I think it’s important for us to remember what we are using this technology for. As the “middlemen” of the industry, our added value to the customer is our experience, product knowledge, and direct support when a need arises. Around our office, we always say, “we’re not selling the box,” and what that means is that the service doesn’t stop with the sale, it begins. We’re providing a long-term solution that may serve a venue, touring production, or commercial installation for decades, so this technology should be used to expedite that connection and strengthen the relationships. ZOOM meetings may have replaced phone calls, but they should offer us the same opportunities to develop trusting relationships with our customers.
Secondly, knowing how best to implement this technology into the service workflow is paramount. No one likes being given the runaround in an impersonal customer service system or feeling like their communications are unimportant. The proliferation of reliable video conferencing and the ability to remotely work alongside our customers using shared project management tools, file-sharing services, and online apps can help them ‘feel’ our presence in their times of need. We’ve also seen success by optimizing our online customer service systems to create the shortest path between registering an issue and speaking to another human being. ‘Ticket’ systems can allow us to quickly diagnose an issue, categorize the problem, and connect the customer to the correct person on our team to ensure the issue is addressed quickly. All the brands we distribute serve as critical pieces of equipment for our customers, so ensuring that they are never more than a phone call away gives confidence in an investment like this. Being attentive to how we design these systems allows us to strengthen those relationships with expedient, accurate communication and a ‘can-do’ approach to problem-solving and customer education.
Finally, centering all of this on the human experience without becoming dependent on the technology is of paramount importance. There will always be room for a healthy amount of gear talk in our industry but at the end of the day this technology serves experiences—it powers the sound of beloved artists and musical groups, ensures that live theater and event productions have evocative, experience-enhancing lighting, and gives us the ability to capture them for posterity. It’s a human business that we’re in, and by continuing to center on that we can keep it that way!