Even Apple Sees the Future Is Services – Not Just Products

I have been harping on this for years. I have been telling everyone in the AV industry that to survive the future of AV, services need to be front and center, along with the products.

Sure, a good mix of products with both established technology as well as future-forward, emerging technology is a giant part of the story of the evolution of AV into or part of IT, but just as important is a host of services.

Like what? Well, the low-hanging fruit is obviously service contracts, proactive maintenance contracts, systems monitoring contracts [Let me get off on a tangent on this one — I was at the AVI Systems LIVE show in Chicago a few weeks ago and I saw something they are calling AVI INSIGHT — genius! The company has developed a universal systems-monitoring software dashboard to monitor (and control) disparate systems from any manufacturer. Again, genius. This is a service AVI Systems can pretty much charge whatever it wants for it because the purchaser (i.e., the client) is basically buying job security from AVI Systems], creative services, digital signage network management, collaboration network management, training, etc.

You get the point. Services are way, way more profitable than products. But the truth is that not everyone can sell an intangible. The same salesperson who can sell a $100K system can’t always sell that $7K service contract. But someone can! And, if not, you’d better figure our how to or “they’ll” find someone who can.

Selling intangibles — or at a minimum, giving away intangibles to ensure both client loyalty and customer satisfaction — is the the future. But, selling something you can’t hold, touch, demo or ship isn’t as easy as selling a widget. It just isn’t.

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Take a look at this from Apple — it’s called TODAY at APPLE and it launched last week with very little fanfare — but you can bet it will be big. Apple knows it. I know it.

In the video, you saw an Apple Store that looks more like a cross between a private concert venue, a Starbucks and a classroom lab. No product commercial, no tech specs. Just people hanging out in the Apple Store having fun, getting educated, learning a new skill, just meeting people or just living the Apple life.

That’s not only a glimpse into the Apple future — a future where Apple will likely, inexpensively turn their mall-based stores into gathering places for all-of-the-above — but this video is also a glimpse into the tech future too. A future where people buy what they feel more comfortable with — not what they are sold. A future where people value services over products. A future where peer influence is the strongest factor in purchasing decisions — what your buddies say and do becomes what you trust.

I can go on and on about this, but this should be lighting bulbs inside of your head, reader. The ideas are (and should be) endless.

But the lesson here is one of how important the true service is — not just talking about service or assuming the product (or the salesperson, for that matter) will garner the loyalty.

Good, fun, interesting, educational, job-saving service will.

Gary Kayye

About Gary Kayye

Gary Kayye, founder of rAVe Publications, is one of the most prominent personalities in the audiovisual industry. He has been a contributor to WIRED magazine and a technical advisor and columnist for Sound & Communications magazine as well as an opinionated columnist for rAVe [Publications] since 2003. In addition to his writing and market analysis, Gary has been a product, marketing and business operations consultant to dozens of AV companies in the U.S. and overseas. Clients have included companies such as Sony, Sharp, Epson, Lutron, InFocus, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, NEC and Philips.   Gary, who has been involved with the audiovisual market for over 20 years, was the recipient of the InfoComm 2003 Educator of the Year Award and the 2007 NSCA Instructor of the Year Award. Over the years, he has donated much of his time as an active volunteer in the AV industry’s trade association and served as chairman of InfoComm’s Professional Education & Training Committee (PETC), chairman of the ICIA Design School Committee and chairman of InfoComm’s Installation School Committee. In addition, he has served on the InfoComm board of governors. He also helped grow the InfoComm Projection Shoot-Out as the premiere AV industry trade show special event serving on the committee from 1991 through 1997, and was instrumental in launching the Shoot-Out in the European market at the Photokina Expo in 1994 and 1996 as well as the Asian market at the 1995 and 1997 INFOCOMM Asia shows.   Prior to founding his own company, Gary was vice president of sales and marketing for AMX Corporation (www.amx.com), a manufacturer specializing in professional AV and residential AV control systems. Prior to AMX, Gary spent nine years at Extron Electronics (www.extron.com), rising to the position of vice president of sales and marketing. Gary earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1987 from the University of North Carolina and is currently Adjunct Faculty at UNC in the School of Journalism teaching a class on how future technologies will affect the future of advertising, PR and marketing.   He is also the founder of Swim for Smiles, a non-profit that raises money for the N.C. Children’s Hospital through swimming and other fitness-related events for kids. You can contact him at gary@ravepubs.com..