The message at the SCN SYMCO panel in NYC last week couldn’t be any clearer: the AV industry is changing. A group of technology managers from various backgrounds and markets, including banking, finance, and higher education, shared their needs and expectations, as well as what they look for from service providers like integrators and programmers. Their insight was reassuring to some, and shocking to others.
Technology managers have become a strong voice in our industry. Their voice is important on many levels. Not only do technology managers represent the “customer” for service providers and manufacturers, many have the experience, education, and understanding to design, install, program, troubleshoot, commission, and maintain AV systems on their own. Whether a technology manager has worked previously as an integrator, consultant, programmer, or technician, or they have developed knowledge through formal industry training and on-the-job experience, today’s technology managers establish expectations and can ensure that they are receiving the quality of product and level of service appropriate to meet those expectations.
So what does this mean to the rest of us in the industry?
In years past, the magic possessed by industry service providers included products, specialized skills, and unique technical knowledge. Equipment, systems, and audiovisual knowledge were pushed to a less technologically savvy customer. Fast forward to recent years and, like many other industries, the digital world has empowered customers with access to information, knowledge, accessibility, and e-commerce. With these changes comes a new breed of customer that is at once comfortable with technology and demanding more from technology, spurring a demand for a high quality solution.
This is the new climate in which technology managers, control system programmers, integrators, and consultants operate. What had once been unique selling points are now no longer valid. One aspect, however, has not changed, and that is the value of a quality, loyal relationship.
As discussed in the panel session, technology managers are looking to work with providers who are invested in their success, committed to excellence, are able to provide insight and knowledge, and are willing to act as a partner. Like the rest of us making decisions for our businesses, technology managers don't want to be sold and they do not make decisions solely on lowest bid. Simply put, they are looking for the value provided by a relationship with an honest, knowledgeable expert.
How do you build the relationships technology managers want?
Time and again panel members shared how much they valued the service providers who act as true partners, rather than pitchmen. With no prompting and nothing to gain, the panel members called out control system solutions providers, consultants, and integrators with whom they had worked and zeroed in on the tangible value that partnerships with these industry professionals brought to their large scale projects. Reliability, honesty and expertise, the panelists noted, made doing their difficult jobs easier. And that is the crux of it.
Service providers who give the real value that comes with expert-level work and strong, trusted relationships, stand out. They bridge segments of an industry that have at times been unnecessarily at odds and move our respective knowledge out of silos. With a focus on coming together to share knowledge and value, TechTalk[www.techtalkav.com], launched at InfoComm 2014, is committed to building community for technology managers, so that they can share their ideas regularly, learn and network with their peers, and have their voices heard.
Technology managers are a great asset to our industry! Take the time to listen to their needs, respect their insight, and seeks ways to add value to a relationship that will help them accomplish their goals. In turn, you will find that your goals will become much easier to achieve.
Steve Greenblatt is founder and president of Control Concepts.