REDBAND: My Magical Twitter Wish By Mark Coxon

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My Magical Twitter Wish By Mark Coxon

It was awesome to be able to go to the AVNation TweetUp, and finally put some faces to the Twitter handles I see every day on my feed.  I met quite a few of the people that I follow, and was amazed that not one disappointed in person.  In fact, the personalities were amazing, and I found myself thinking that I wish Twitter could magically relate some of their qualities in more than text.  Based on that thought, I thought I’d list some AVTweeps I met, and what unique qualities they showed that I wished could come through in a written 140 words.

1)      @chris_neto- Chris Neto- Demeanor.  Reading Chris’s blogs and tweets you know he was a subversive streak, and a no nonsense style.  You also know he has an affinity for some aggressive an dark music, and used to work the night club scene.  All this combined to create an image of Chris that was much like a lovable but rowdy insomniac.  Not even close.  Chris is the epitome of Bruce Lee’s method of staying relaxed all the way until the point of impact.  He is low key and collected.  He blogs first, drinks later and goes to bed at a reasonable hour.  Beware however, because he could clinch his literary fist at any time with a pinpoint devastating RedBand blow to the solar plexus that leaves you breathless.

2)      @tuckertues- George Tucker- Contrast.  Reading George’s Tweets, you KNOW he has been around the AV Block.  His commentary can be very technical, or he can boil his analysis down using analogies that are easy to understand but not oversimplified.  This comes through in all of his online conduits, from Twitter, to AVNation podcasts, to his Tucker Tuesday and Tech Decisions blogs.  What I found out about meeting George in person though, is that he is an artist.  We have all seen those black and white pictures where the black forms an obvious image, but if you shift your eyes slightly, you notice that the white space makes a completely different image as well.  George does this with words.  If you speak to him in person, listen closely, as he will tell you just as much in his pauses and white spaces as he does in his spoken commentary.  It is genius, as it allows him to say whatever he wants, without ever speaking it, and without ever being guilty of it if accused.  He is a prime student of Polonius’ advice in Hamlet- “By indirections we find directions out.”

3)      @WomeninAV- Jennifer Willard- Accent.  You may have seen Jennifer’s stand on booth babes at electronics shows or her back and forth taunting of me about kicking my butt in #TheGame4 at InfoComm on Twitter.  To survive and prosper as a woman in the Y chromosome saturated world of AV takes guts and tenacity, so that has always come through in her online persona.  However, when I first heard Jennifer speak at the WAVE reception Wednesday night, I heard he Boston accent, and it all came rushing in.  Being cheeky and voracious is one thing, but hearing it come from a northeasterner breaks you down in a whole new way.  I read a few of her taunts again on Twitter, and suddenly realized I could not hold my own with this lady.  I was running fairly even in our exchange in my head, but the accent closed the deal.  Anyone who already knew Jennifer knew I had NO chance.  I love it!

4)      @TheAVPro- Phil Cordell- Southern Charm.  HiPhi didn’t actually come to the TweetUp that I saw, but I did see him on the floor, and met him last year as well.  If you’ve heard his album or seen his infamous “AV Professional” YouTube video you might get the impression that Phil could become funny to a fault, and may even be a little too much for some in person.  Nothing is farther from the truth.  Phil’s Tennessee charm, (I’m very familiar as my mom is from there) is the first thing you will notice when you meet him.  He is very warm and gracious.  He is extremely polite and humble, and dresses in a way that makes you want to put on some matching jeans, loafers, and a button down shirt and grab a sweet tea and some chicken and dumplings for Supper after church.  Phil is too classy to rock a mullet haircut, but I think he embodies that attitude of “Business in the front, and party in the back.”  Great balance!

5)      @mikebrandesAV- Mike Brandes- Wisdom.  OK, so that may first be thought of as a slam on Mike but it is not.  His tweets are always funny and smart, and you can tell that he is a real “connector”.   His subjects range from AV to jokes to politics and he a very active supporter of many on this list already.  In meeting Mike though, I found him to have a professorial quality that gives him a dignified presence.  Maybe it’s his dress or the manly beard, (a good beard like his can always evoke some of these impressions), but when he talks, you want to listen, because you feel like you are going to learn something new.  It is fitting that he is in the higher education space professionally.  His personality is a great bridge between the quirky and sometimes ragtag world of AV professionals and the collegiate Deans of the world.  I really enjoyed meeting you Mike!

I wish I had time enough to have had conversations with every single one of the over 100 #AVTweeps that made the #TweetUp.  I know that I would have been equally impressed with unique qualities of each of them.  Oh well, there is always next year!  See you then AVTweeps!

Mark C

REDBAND_Coxon

Mark has been in the IT & AV field for over 12 years. He currently works as an Account manager with  Horizon Display and is a contributor with various AV industry publications. You can follow Mark on Twitter @AVPhenom.  The expressed opinions are his own…You have been warned!

REDBAND: Five Tips to Delivering Outstanding Customer Service By Mike Brandes

Whether you’re in the rental/staging markets, home theater, enterprise level integrator or and IT Manager; offering superior customer service is imperative to the success of your organization. Customer Service is more than just responding to negative feedback, following up on customers’ needs and satisfying requests. Consistently excellent customer service is creating experiences for clients that cause them to become cheerleaders and advertisers for your business. There are five easy ways to create excellent customer service experiences, position your company to have repeat high dollar transactions and leave your organization well poised to be recommended by your clients.

1. Do What the Customer Doesn’t Expect

It’s common sense, and simple business etiquette to completely satisfy customers’ requests. Exceeding Customer expectations is what makes the difference. Having worked in higher-ed I’ve worked with multiple integrators and resellers, what stood out for me, are the little things. I hired an integrator to implement an AV design for an 11-classroom building, I created a detailed scope of work with highly specific requirements, I expected it to be filled. This integrator fulfilled each requirement and they also provided me with substantial information I didn’t request such as all pieces of equipment’s serial numbers, warranty date and estimated end of life date in a convenient, easy-to-read spreadsheet, and applied the asset tags I was going to have to add to each piece of equipment. This small, unrequested, task saved me a good number (20+) of hours in recording and inventory management. Though I didn’t specifically ask for this information the provision of it was incredibly valuable to me as a customer.

2. Be Honest with Your Customer, But Respectful

Joshua Stackhouse wrote an article recently with this as the first point; but it bears repeating. Customers and clients often have a vague or broad idea of what they want in their project. Clients may want the latest and greatest, while not knowing exactly how that will impact their environment. While I love to give my clients everything they ask for, especially if they have the budget to afford it; I can’t, in good conscience, recommend they move forward with anything that doesn’t fit in their existing environment. Exceeding customer expectations can mean considering the whole of the existing environment.

It’s also imperative to be honest with your clients when communicating expectations regarding timeframe. A few years ago, I designed a system, sent it out to bid and asked the integrators to provide a detailed timeframe for completion. The vendor I selected timeframe was XX days. Imagine my surprise when two weeks after XX days had passed and we were still going back on forth on systems not functioning as they were described in the scope of work. It is imperative, in order to deliver exceptional customer service, to complete projects on time, and to be honest about timeframes…

Continue reading this article by clicking the link Below:

http://mikebrandesav.com/2013/06/06/five-tips-to-delivering-outstanding-customer-service/

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’s website http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND Welcomes new Blogger Mike Brandes

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Honored to have Mike Brandes join the “Band”. I’m looking forward to his unique perspective on Business, Leadership and AV Technology. If you don’t know Mike you will soon.

Welcome to REDBAND!

Chris

 

 

REDBAND: Paying It Forward to Other Service Providers by Todd Anthony Puma

Several times in this space I’ve mentioned the Home Theater Rebuild. This is an organization I started a couple of years ago to give back to the industry that gave so much to me. It also has helped develop new service providers in the industry and assisted those who need a little guidance or advice on taking their business to the next level. It’s been a labor of love, and I’ve been rewarded several-fold in with new friendships, business relationships, and just knowing I’m doing the right thing by my AV community.

Just this week, the best thing happened. One of the members of the Rebuild “paid it forward” and took on another service provider to help them out.

Home Theater Advisors (HTA) has been in the Rebuild for about a year, and has grown from a brand-new company operating “nights and weekends” to a full-time business that is set to exceed its annual revenue target in the next two to three months.

Another provider reached out to HTA because they were asked to re-install an unfamiliar remote control brand for a new client that was moving into a new residence. The owner of HTA was more than happy to help out and lend a hand to get a fellow company out of a jam and to delight a client. While HTA did get a little bit of revenue, the owner, Mark, told me that wasn’t why he did it. He said he had gotten so much from the networking opportunities and help from other providers in the Rebuild, that he “owed” it to the community to help out someone else in need….

To continue reading click the link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=598

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

 

REDBAND: 3 Things I Learned About A/V from Watching Restaurant Stakeout By Stackhouse

I absolutely love food. It is truly one of my great passions. For a long time when I was younger I wanted to become a chef, which lead to me working as a server, a line cook and a manager before I became a technology professional. A few nights ago I was sitting in my home watching an episode of Restaurant Stakeout. It’s one of my favorite TV shows and even though I have seen the show many times, something in this episode made me sit up and pay attention to the uncanny parallels between our world and the food service industry. The world of A/V professionals is usually considered to be a part of the technology sector but we are actually a part of the hospitality business as well. This may not be obvious so grab a seat and get comfortable. I’ll be your server today and show you with these three tasty appetizers what some of those parallels are.

Flank Steak
Good training is absolutely critical to executing at 110% with every client. Imagine you’re out to dinner with your friends at the hottest new restaurant in town. Though you haven’t had it before you’ve heard that this place has amazing flank steak. The waiter asks you how you would like that cooked and you say “well done” while the waiter just says “OK” and puts your order in with the kitchen. The only problem is that flank steak is a different kind of steak that is best served medium well at most or it’s going to taste leathery and overly chewy. This experience is going leave a bad taste in the customers mouth and could have been prevented if the waiter had educated their guest. The problem here is that the waiter didn’t know, which is the restaurant managers fault.

Customers are three times more likely to talk about a bad experience than a good one and in this situation the waiter should have helped their guest to find the memorable dining experience they were seeking. Our roles as A/V professionals aren’t any different. Our clients trust us to be experts and know all of the subtleties of our trade. For A/V business owners execution is key to success and this means understanding that your front line people have to be sharp. Remember, the best staff are well trained staff and your company is only as good as the least educated and trained member of it’s team, so make sure you invest time, energy and money into keeping your installers, technicians and customer assistance people well trained and well informed….

Tonight’s Our Anniversary
Imagine that you’re out on the town on a Friday night looking for a special way to celebrate your love for your partner. You go to a restaurant that is supposed to have great food and amazing drink specials. When you arrive it’s particularly busy and once you get a table (after waiting 25 minutes) things start to go downhill. Your waiter isn’t around when you need him, he put your order in wrong completely ignoring your request for the chicken parmigiana to be unbreaded, and he didn’t even offer you a complimentary drink for your anniversary or comp your check for messing up your order. You feel like your special night was ruined and you won’t be coming back again or recommending this place to your friends and family.

If you approach A/V with an understanding that we are really hospitality driven, since our product is a luxury in many instances, you quickly see how this restaurant experience isn’t really any different from what we do on a daily basis. Whether you’re a commercial or residential company your clients are really looking for someone to make them feel special just as a good restaurant would. They want to feel as if you really care about them. Successful restaurateurs understand and help their people to understand that they are serving love on a plate. Why should a luxury product like A/V be any different? Remember that simple things make a big difference for your clients. Accommodate special requests, focus on the guest experience. Blow your customers away and you’ll not only make them feel obligated to come back to your company again and again, but you’ll also make them want to refer people to you.

Who’s In Charge?
Restaurant owners often mistakenly think that their staff performs up to their expectations when they aren’t around . Often this isn’t true but it’s not because people don’t want to work hard. In fact it’s usually the opposite and has more to do with absentee owners and managers who don’t practice solid leadership skills.

Imagine that you’re the manager of a busy restaurant but your often hiding away back in the office. It’s likely that without constant communication and feedback from you that your people wouldn’t meet your expectations of them. Worse yet you won’t understand what they need from you to succeed.

The world of A/V isn’t any different. Project managers need to be present and remember to lead their people. Remember they not only need to be directed they WANT you to do so, and when you do you help your bottom line and your people to stay happy.

 

 

Check out Joshua Stackhouse’s profile on LinkedIn and follow him on his Blog: Massive Stack . Oh yeah he’s on  Twitter too: @StackhouseAV

REDBAND: Install Like It’s For You (The Remix) by Mark Coxon

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Install Like It’s For You- The Remix

I have to tell you that I was rather excited a couple weeks ago when fellow RedBand Blogger John Sciacca (@SciaccaTweets) tweeted about his upcoming article in Residential Systems that would include a Taylor Swift song parody about the install business.

I quickly asked him to alert me when it went live, which he did (Thanks John), and I hurried to check it out.  I wasn’t familiar with the Swifty song before seeing this, so I watched the Vevo link and then read his interpretation, smiling the whole time.  If you missed the original article, click here.

I promptly complimented John, and then made the mistake of saying I was going to lay this down for him, lol.  I quickly attempted to suggest John’s friend Jelly Dee (@AnjelicaDee), with her talent, was much more suited to do this than I, but it was too late!  John didn’t give me an easy exit (Thanks Again John) and now I was stuck.

I then went “all in” by also telling Todd Anthony Puma (@ToddAnthonyPuma), another RedBander, that I was preparing to tackle John’s parody.  Now I was committed, like it or not.

So I took my 1 year of self-taught acoustic guitar lessons, combined those with probably the most Pink-like Taylor Swift song I have ever heard, added in John’s lyrics, and this is what came out the other end.

Obviously I do not record at home.  I don’t have microphones, mixers, garage band software or anything like that.  This was captured with all the glory of an HTC front facing camera and microphone J

I wanted to give John’s lyrics a voice.  I hope you get a kick out of it.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33cWGUcVCCo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Best and God Bless!

Mark C

REDBAND_Coxon

Mark has been in the IT & AV field for over 12 years. He currently works as an Account manager with  Horizon Display and is a contributor with various AV industry publications. You can follow Mark on Twitter @AVPhenom.  The expressed opinions are his own…You have been warned!

 

REDBAND: Five Ways to Help Monetize Systems Integration Service Calls by Todd Anthony Puma

One of the challenges of doing many, smaller projects is that service calls can become a large drain on profitability. Even with fewer, larger jobs, the more complex a job gets, the more visits are required to service it.

Just a few months ago, we installed a small six-zone NuVo music system and a few URC remotes for a client. At the time, it was a straightforward job, but it already begun draining the profits we made. First, the clients pushed one zone too hard and blew one of the amps on the music system, requiring two return visits (one to diagnose the program and one to install the replacement part). We also have returned a couple of times due to RF interference with the remote base station.

To help maintain profits when service calls arise, we have clearly set expectations upfront and early on in the process with our customers. They know when they will incur a service fee and when they won’t. That way, there is less likely to be pushback or consternation when we bill a client for a call. We have put a five-prong strategy in place to make sure communications are clear and expectations are appropriately managed…

To continue reading Click the Link Below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=592

 

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: Making the Most of Small-Budget Custom Installs By Todd Anthony Puma

Months ago, I wrote in this space about not judging a customer by how they dress or what they drive. Last week, I described ways to build partnerships with other firms in the industry. This week, I want to bring it all together. The bottom line is focusing on customer service as the priority. Make the customer happy, work with each other as peers, and we will all not only grow the industry but make more money and be more successful.

Too many times I see service providers in our business scoff at a smaller job just because it doesn’t seem worth the time to them. Just last week, a woman called because she wanted a top-of-the-line system for her boyfriend and told me she’d been saving up all year. I started to salivate. Then she dropped the bomb of how much she’d saved: $1,500. Internally, I was deflated, but of course I never let it show. Maybe that’s my background in retail coming into play, where closing the sale is what counts, no matter the size.

I knew that for what she was looking for in that price range, my company wouldn’t be able to help her, but I didn’t want to disappoint her either. I remember the days when I didn’t have a lot of money but I would scrimp and save to buy something for someone I loved on their birthday or Christmas. Even though it was a small amount (maybe $30), they were ecstatic because they knew how hard it was for me to earn that money and how much thought I put into the gift. I was proud to be able to get them something they enjoyed and appreciated. So I spent time with the client to understand her needs and pulled in one of my Home Theater Rebuild referral network companies to help her with a system at her price point. While it isn’t something most integrators would consider high-end, for $1,500 you can still get a solid receiver, 5.1 surround sound, and a media-streaming device.

We have to keep several points in mind with every customer interaction:…

To continue reading Click the link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=588

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

 

REDBAND: Getting IT Right by Mark Coxon

Getting IT Right

I was required to make 65 calls per day. My book of business was 300 accounts, so I was through my book in a week. That means I was making nearly 1000 cold calls . . .per month for almost 2 years. Close to 24,000 cold calls in my time there.

Who were they to? What was I selling?  They were primarily to IT directors, as I worked for IBM.

I lay down the introduction here to simply state that what I am about to relate, has a very sturdy foundation.  The reason the AV industry is losing the battle to install our own equipment may be that we haven’t made the proper investment into learning how to navigate our clients’ IT Departments.

1)  Talk the Talk

Based on some basic historical differences between AV and IT, there is often a disconnect that happens when AV firms interface with IT Directors.

I was given 2 weeks of “training” when I joined the IBM sales team, 1.9 weeks of which was learning how to use the inventory and shipping system. The other hour was an overview of how computers work.

The only computer experience I had was accidentally dumping the BIOS on my first PC and that PC never worked again (worked being a loose term for what an 88MHZ 386 PC could do, even with the Turbo button depressed).

I learned real quickly my first piece of advice to AV firms, “You can’t fool an IT director.”

If you don’t have a background in IT, don’t be discouraged. It took you a little time to learn about HDMI, RGBHV, Scaling, Switching, and VTC bandwidth requirements, so this will take a little investment in time as well. However, it is IMPERATIVE that it is made.

If you think an IT director is going to let you install a system on his network without knowing about VLANs, QOS, Harmonic Mitigating Transformers, or any other of the crucial issues you two will ultimately end up navigating together, you are dead wrong.

These folks spent time and money on an education and have paid their dues as IT assistants showing people how to find the Excel file they just saved and create a mail merge for their address labels . . . for the 3rd time.  They expect you to know your business, and if your system connects to their network, they expect you to know the ins and outs of mitigating any issues. They can smell indecision like dogs and bees smell fear, and they will choose a vendor who has put in the time and can speak their language.

2)  Respect the Culture

Now you have a head brimming with terms you can’t wait to use. You’ve scheduled back to back appointments all next week with IT Directors, and you are going full steam ahead. You may want to put on the brakes.

Knowing the Lingo is one thing, using it appropriately is another.

The IT Director is ultimately responsible for all web presence and e-commerce for the company. He is held accountable. He is not going to hire just anyone. He also doesn’t need anyone steal his thunder either.

Even if you are working with another party in a different division of the company like the Architect or the Marketing Department, make sure you isolate and reach out to the IT department. Make them aware that you are there to help them look good, not to take any credit for their work. At some point, the person you are working with will ask the IT Director’s opinion. If he is unaware that anything was in the works and has not been involved, he will feel like you are trying to sneak something by him and become a barrier to the sale.

Respect the Chain of Command and involve the IT Director. Position yourself as a resource, not a ring leader, and defer to his judgment. Make yourself heard, but reassure him that you are there to help his business communicate more effectively.

IT departments have an organizational hierarchy and you are the new guy in the room. Where do you think you rank in that hierarchy?

The IT culture is one that values this organizational structure. Ignoring that is suicide.

3)  Know Their Concerns

The best way to endear yourself with someone in charge of network security and integrity is to show them you know how your product affects their world. Cloud based streaming media services increase the bandwidth requirements of the network. IP based CCTV systems devour valuable network resources.

Remote monitoring and control can require some intricate port and security setups, depending on the confidentiality of the company’s data.

Other scenarios can include things like scenarios on military bases where special approvals are needed for any hardware that touches the network via an ethernet port and even devices that touch a networked PC via USB or Firewire.

Some facilities cannot have RF transmissions, or even IR transmissions if the room has windows where intercepting commands, or sending them in longer range, may be a possibility.

So how do you demonstrate the knowledge? Ask the right questions. Asking questions of the IT Director as to their base bandwidth expectations for data, their bandwidth with their ISP, the brand of switches, available ports, and network and site security all help in 3 ways:

1) They position you as a resource that understands their concerns.

2) It allows you to isolate many unexpected requirements early on, and build your system and scope of work appropriately, assuring success without various change orders.

3) It gives the IT Director or Business owner the information needed to budget for and provision the network hardware and bandwidth appropriately up front, saving them time and money later.

Do your part to educate yourself on any piece of the network that the success of your devices hinges. Just because a gigabit switch has 48 ports, doesn’t mean it can support 48Gbps of simultaneous throughput, (and in most cases they can’t). Make sure you include provisions to keep your system on a completely separate backbone if necessary, and that your bandwidth requirements are approved by the IT Director, so that later down the road, you don’t become the scapegoat when the CEO can’t download files.

Conclusion

I feel like Shoeless Joe whispering to Ray Consella from the corn field, “Talk the Talk” . . . “Respect the Culture”. . . “Know their Concerns”.  So what are the main take-aways if you want to succeed in speaking with an IT manager?

Learn their language, so you can speak to them in a manner they understand fully. Use insights into their culture to know the correct approach to take, and how you can become a credible resource. Then ask the right questions to fully understand their specific IT environment, its limitations as well as strengths, and the importance of their valuable system resources.

It is not a ploy.  It is developing a true relationship, one that will be valued by both you and the IT Director for years to come

Mark C.

REDBAND_Coxon Mark has been in the IT & AV field for over 12 years. He currently works as an Account manager with  Horizon Display and is a contributor with Commercial Integrator magazine. You can follow Mark on Twitter @AVPhenom.  The expressed opinions are his own…You have been warned.

REDBAND: Partnering with Competitors When Work Piles Up by Todd Anthony Puma

We currently have the “problem” everyone wishes they had: more work than our small company can handle. Every business has its busy season and right now, we have an influx of new projects coming in daily. Trust me, I am not complaining. But while I’m excited for all the new opportunities, I also want to make sure that I am giving every client my utmost attention.

In fact, last week we got a call from a vendor referral, and the client needed new remotes to replace their old Harmony’s that were no longer working. It would be a very small job, especially given that we are currently working on three large installations simultaneously. My company’s workload would have pushed out the smaller job at least two weeks and, to me, that would be poor customer service.

What we needed was a way to either expand or contract our company, according to business cycle, without incurring hiring, training, overhead, and downsizing costs. That is where my partnerships and relationships with other integrators have come into play. A few weeks ago I wrote about building relationships with other integrators (read that here) that you trust to your company to handle the load while you are on vacation. But these partners are important in so many other ways, too….

To continue reading click the Link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=584

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .