By Corey Moss
For so many years in the audio visual industry, we who are the integrators – the sales, engineering, project management, programmers and installation people – have always had the singular task of winning the job, and completing the integration to the satisfaction of the customer along with the company’s standards.
For those so many years, the hard working and committed to quality integrator has always had to deal with that company, that person as they say operating out of the trunk of his car (ye olde “trunk slammer”) and doing it for less, non-certified and all. Equate it to the plumber who is less costly, likely cuts corners, and presents more headaches for you than the true professional with a boatload of experience who, yes, costs some more to do the job but gets it done right every time.
I had written a piece two years back where part of the title was ‘Losing to Lowballers?’ and a good friend in the industry was quoted in it stating:
It’s like looking for a dentist. I could look in the yellow pages and call 20 different guys. There might be someone out there who can yank out my teeth and dig out my cavities (or give me a root canal) who does not possess the DDS credential. He might have studied dentistry for 100 years under “the masters.” But I would not be able to distinguish him from a hobo with a drill until it was too late.
The guys with the DDS behind their name – no gamble there. I KNOW they will do it correctly. It might not be as good as the guy who studied with “the master,” but it will definitely be better than the hobo.”
And guaranteed the DDS costs more, but sends you home in a lot less pain.
Certifications – in most cases they’re your guarantee that there is someone doing the job who is bringing the necessary backing and experience. There has been the long time conversation concerning CTS certifications and the true meaning for the customer, however let me see a company full of CTS’s, and especially duals, and that will represent my comfort zone. Look at InfoComm APEx – the statement Make Your AV Integration or Consulting Firm Stand Above the Rest would be as far as one needs to go to determine if you are dealing with a seriously dedicated company.
A set of questions is asked about the company:
- Make sure installations perform to their expectations?
- Provide clear designs and offer world-class service to your customers?
- Train your people well and make sure they earn industry and manufacturer certifications?
- Work in a collaborative manner to assess your customers’ needs?
For me, as a former commercial integration sales rep who lived through it all, every one of these answers absolutely needs to be — YES, in caps. I’ll settle for outstanding where it says world-class, however for those who like the statement “white glove,” that certainly works. Label your integration and services as white glove, back it up of course, and that speaks volumes.
I wrote Does Your Client Say Thank You for the Experience? — is that possible? Would a client use the word “experience” to go along with thank you for a job well done? It could well be if your installation was clean and properly representative of the design, system racks wired properly, training done professionally. I say a client should be shown everything, including the rack wiring. And don’t you as the integrator want to take full pride in your work?
And that is where the true problem lies, where the disreputables – who cares how big or small they are – leave exactly that for the next guy who ends up fixing the job when the system goes down. The new integrator show the client all of the problems then (along with the requisite inadequate “chance of falling on one’s head” projector hang), as the customer pours more money out of their pocket after an original job poorly done is properly integrated.
Who in integration hasn’t seen a mess like this in their travels…?
I tell a story of a customer, when I was in commercial integration sales in NJ, who called out looking to fix a botch job left by a company ill-suited to do the install, who of course got in on a low-ball bid through a GC. After we received the 100 plus item punch list (no kidding), I wanted to find and talk to that company who did this job and expose them – but of course they were unreachable as happens in many of these cases with these hit and run operations. We sent the quote and then billed the customer for the work after we completed the job, and I’m sure they grimaced from start to finish – while thanking us for a job well done.
Look at the Association for Quality in Audio Visual Technology, Inc (AQAV), a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that is dedicated to improving the operational art of designing and installing audio visual technology. Their statement:
Engineered audio visual systems continue to become more complex and difficult to integrate. By focusing on the quality management of these systems, and of those who design and install them, we can benefit the AV industry and all its stakeholders: including clients and users of AV technology, AV designers and installers, equipment manufacturers, related construction and architectural firms, and the environment.
The Home Technology Association (HTA), the first independent organization to educate and empower homeowners in their technology purchases, recognize exceptional businesses, and elevate the technology integration industry’s status and stature with a rigorous third-party certification process. It was founded by integration professionals and is supported by industry veterans who serve on the HTA Board of Advisors. revealing HTA Certification, a new mark of excellence for home technology professionals.
One of their goals is to help qualified integrators grow their business, and why shouldn’t this be the case in every aspect of AV/technology integration. They state:
We help homeowners and home design and building professionals find qualified home technology installation firms for their home construction projects.
This, however, is the critical statement:
Home technology professionals, builders, architects, and interior designers agree: the barriers to entry in the residential low-voltage market are too low and there are too many disreputable firms taking business away from quality integrators.
With no third-party rating or endorsement system to classify and certify integration firms, consumers often make decisions based on price alone, which leads them to become cynical and distrustful when the result is not what they expected. Homeowners and builders often become frustrated with their home technology systems, blame the manufacturers, and request their next project include “less technology.” Though this harms the entire industry, it hits technology integrators the hardest. That is what the HTA intends to resolve, as a complementary certification that differentiates integrators and validates their offering.
And there again is certification, quality, integration – defining the technology integrator and leading to an exceptional experience.
It all goes hand in hand — or it damn well should in every instance.
As a former integration sales rep who crossed the t’s, dotted the i’s and went above and beyond for the customer, losing certain high profile jobs to the low-ball pretenders, I feel I have every right to make that statement. I once lost a high end education AV integration job to a security company who dabbled in AV, where the sales guy I was sitting in the room with had little clue of what he was talking about – and I was seething for weeks afterward.
My hope is that one day soon, we can say good bye to these disreputables, the “trunk slammers.” Clients will become more knowledgeable to what they should be looking for in a qualified integrator – so they can avoid this from happening:
Call me a dreamer, I’ve been through it all. Sure qualified integrators may still lose out on some bids. Or do the customers lose out?
Makes you think now, eh?
Listen to Convergent Tech Talk: A Discussion with the Home Technology Association (HTA) and a Certified Integrator – a discussion with Josh Christian, Director of Certification at HTA and Jason Voorhees, President at Cantara (co-hosted with Katye McGregor Bennett).
Josh Christian stated on LinkedIn (where I had posted the podcast): “We look forward to the day when “takeover” projects are a thing of the past. We look forward to elevating the home technology integration industry.”
Oh, and that good friend in the industry who supplied the DDS quote – none other than the @madsoundguy Chuck Espinoza.
With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, Convergent Tech Talk and Making a Marketer. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers.