Transitioning to a New AV Vendor: How to Evaluate Your Options

May 28, 2020 7:27:00 AM

corporate av

So you have an AV system in place, but it’s falling short of expectations. The best way to describe your situation is: you need more cowbell

Some of the most common reasons for switching audiovisual vendors include:

  1. Poor customer service or support
  2. Lack of improvement ideas
  3. Unqualified technicians

Whether you have a current vendor and need to find a new one, or you are looking to outsource the management of your system, here are the most important attributes to assess to find a successful audio/visual vendor. 

#1: National Coverage & Service 

Wherever your locations are - or planned locations will be - your AV vendor needs to be able to be there. This doesn’t mean they need a physical office location near each of your sites, but their team, including designers, suppliers, service techs, and sales representatives, needs to be willing and able to get to your location. Apart from service technicians, most of this team will only make one or two visits to your locations as they assess your space and requirements for your AV system, and install any technology needed. The rest of their work happens behind the scenes. 

Service Technicians, Specifically

Service techs, on the other hand, may make more frequent visits to resolve and repair any challenges that arise with your system (when they can’t be handled electronically). Because of this, the proximity and availability of techs near your locations is important; they should be able to arrive at your location within 24-48 hours so your issue can be resolved in a timely manner. 

Beyond proximity, I’d also recommend asking about the qualification of the service technicians that will be sent to your aid. As noted above, one of the most common reasons for switching AV vendors is ongoing experiences with unqualified techs - it doesn’t do any good to have a tech in your neighborhood if they can’t get the job done. 

To give you an example, here is how our network of 700+ techs is managed: first, all techs we deploy are required to be certified technology specialists. Then, there is a grading system in place that notes which types of AV systems and level of service they are capable of providing. This enables our customer service team to assign a rep with the qualifications needed to provide the service you require. 

Helpful questions to ask get the information you need:

  • Can you provide for all of my locations (current and planned)?
  • What does your tech network look like and how quickly can they get to us? 
  • Are your techs certified?

audio visual vendors

#2: The Finer SLA Details & Transition Process

Change is hard, regardless of why it needs to happen. We’ve found a few ways to make the transition between audio visual vendors as smooth as possible. The first is to make sure you have all the information you need upfront - you don’t want to get into an agreement with a new vendor and later find out their off-hours support team is only equipped to create a support ticket that won’t get handled until the next business day (at the earliest) - or any other types of surprises. 

Here are a few of the key topics you should be sure to ask about and test where possible:

  1. Support Line Response
    During your initial assessment, ask for their support team’s contact information, and connect (via email, phone, or both) and see what type of response you get. Does the response time and communication style meet your expectations?

  2. 24/7 Support Accessibility & Capability
    Again, test this where possible to determine what their after-business hours support looks like. 24/7 can mean that your call will be answered - but is it someone from your AV vendor’s company capable of providing a solution? 

  3. Warranty Support
    If you are transitioning from another vendor, ask how warranties on existing and new technology are managed. Will your new vendor take over the warranty management and maintenance of the technology you have in place? And what is their role in executing a warranty if needed? 

  4. Swap Pool
    In the instance where you don’t have two weeks to wait for maintenance and repair - ask about what options they offer so you can remain up and running. Technology swaps are a great solution to permanently or temporarily replace the equipment that needs maintenance so you don’t experience any interruption in your system. 

  5. Network Health Monitoring
    Today’s AV systems require network connectivity to function, so it is essential that your network remains healthy. Discuss your options for monitoring your network health with your potential vendors - do they do it? Do you have to do it? What does this service look like?

Secondly, because getting started is usually the biggest hurdle, a robust and proven process that is thorough and efficient is key to a successful transition. Before committing to a new audio/visual vendor, make sure you understand the timeline and process to transition. Clarifying expectations early on can help mitigate many frustrations that may arise when the transition begins. 

office AV

The best way for me to explain this is to give you a glimpse into our process, to share what we’ve seen be successful. At a high level, here are the steps we’ve built into our process to successfully take over for another AV vendor: 

  • Content Development
    Having technology in place is one step, but the content you feature on this technology is just as important. If you are in need of adding to or improving the audio content for your system, here is how we make this happen:
    • Brand Consultation
    • Build and Present a Demo Based on Consultation Discussion
    • Make Adjustments Based on Your Feedback
    • Get Approval on Content
    • Develop Content Library

  • Rollout
    Perhaps more of a priority when you are assessing a new vendor, is how we work to understand your current system and needs and work to take over its management, maintenance, and support:
    • Site Surveys & Technology Assessment
      *Based on this survey of your current system and the challenges you are hoping to resolve, some, all, or none of the following steps may be required. 
    • Installation Document & Kitting*
    • Players Configured & Packaged*
    • Techs Assigns & Installations Tracked*
    • QC Check*

At the end of the day, it isn’t about the specific steps in the process - it’s about your confidence in the potential AV vendors’ services and plans for transition. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make a decision. 

#3: Measurement and Transparency

Communication and information - the good and the bad - are key to keeping customers happy. In fact, I’d be willing to bet inadequacy in one of these two things contributed to your interest in switching to a new AV vendor. 

Quality audio-visual vendors have tools, systems, and processes that they use to effectively support you and your AV system. Here are a few you should be sure to ask about in your assessment:

  1. What is your process for documenting support requests and assigning a service technician? 
  2. When installing new technology, how do you make sure it was done correctly and everything is working properly? 
  3. How do you monitor systems and equipment to make sure they are working properly? 
  4. Do you monitor network health? If yes, how?
  5. What reports can we access to see how our systems and partnership is working?
  6. How do you communicate with us if you notice an issue with our system?

While the goal of all AV vendors is to provide fool-proof technology and error-free service, this isn’t always possible. So when bumps in the road do occur, you want to make sure they are prepared to respond in a way that meets your expectations. 

Armed with this information and list of questions, you are ready to begin researching and engaging with potential AV vendors to find one that better suits your needs and is equipped to meet your expectations. My last parting advice is this: ask too many questions. I’ll say it again, the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make your transition decision. 

Good luck!

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Deborah Zupancic

Written by Deborah Zupancic

Deb is the Director of Training & Development at PTG. She is responsible for employee engagement initiatives, change management, and employee training development. In her role, she also drives learning and development plans, and leads internal teams to design, develop, and implement new initiatives that improve all aspects of the customer experience at PTG.

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