Why I Like InfoComm’s New APEx Program

likeI actually heard about InfoComm’s new APEx program about three weeks before InfoComm announced it formally. I attended an InfoComm roundtable event in Irvine, Calif. where Duffy Wilbert , SVP of member services, described how the organization intended to raise the bar on customer experience and thought leadership.

Duffy related that InfoComm had come to the conclusion that the CAVSP (Certified Audiovisual Service Provider) Program just wasn’t creating the end results they wanted and had become irrelevant. In his words, they told him it either needed to be “killed” or “revamped.”  The result of that realization led InfoComm’s team to create this new program, APEx.

Gary Kayye put out a brief description of the program already, so instead of rewriting that, I’ll just give you the link here.

The part of Gary’s article I want to comment on though is summed up in one of his paragraphs.

The InfoComm International Audiovisual Providers of Excellence program also mandates the use of two industry standards to foster better communication between the AV provider and the client. Because both the ANSI/INFOCOMM Standard Guide for Audiovisual Systems Design and Coordination Processes and the AV System Performance Verification Standard were developed in an open, consensus-based process, approved by an independent outside body, and are aimed at providing proper communication and documentation between the AV industry and the client, using both on several projects is a requirement.

What exactly does this mean?

Well in a nutshell, it means that integrators will be required to get report cards from their clients to stay in the program.

InfoComm states this clearly in their FAQ:

You will ask your customer to expect an online survey on your firm’s work. The completed form is sent to InfoComm. Only surveys with an overall positive rating will count toward InfoComm APEx status.

The online customer surveys are a required element of the program. Small companies must provide two positive customer response surveys annually, while medium companies are required to provide four, and large companies must provide six.

I remember in the roundtable event that Duffy seemed a bit tentative when relating that APEx would include a client rating system and the room was completely silent other than my exclamation of “Yes!”

So why did InfoComm decide to take this long overdue step? According to them:

 It was also decided that the AV customer should have a role in determining whether or not customer satisfaction was achieved.

Wow! Really? The CUSTOMER should have something to say about CUSTOMER SATISFACTION???  What a novel idea!

All snark aside, I applaud InfoComm for finally making this a part of its programs. This is something I have a history of fighting for over time, and a change I have been actively campaigning for.

Back in May of 2012, I wrote an article that asked if the lack of some measure of real world performance in InfoComm’s programs decreased their value. At the time I got some scathing comments on the subject and it was rumored the article was even mentioned by InfoComm in a closed door meeting that year.

At InfoComm 2013, I was a guest on a RedBand Radio podcast that addressed the subject as well and I reasserted the need for some type of customer rating system for CAVSP, again to mixed reactions by the other panelists.

That discussion spurred a follow up article in June 2013, in which I asserted that CTS was nothing like a driver’s license.

I finally joined in a discussion group on LinkedIn that questioned the value of CTS and made similar comments that were met with mixed reactions.

I have also been known to poke at InfoComm on Twitter about the subject. All this aside, my emotional outburst at the roundtable was due to some sense of accomplishment in hearing that something I had been campaigning for so long had finally been brought to fruition.

It would be hubris to assume I am the only one who made this happen, but if my vocalization of the thoughts of others helped to bring this requirement into APEx, than I am proud to be a small part of it.

What do you think of a client survey system in the APEx program? Chime in in the comments!

About Mark Coxon

Mark Coxon is an AV industry native and blogger for the rAVe BlogSquad. You can reach him directly at mark@marketexplosion.me.

  • Paul Self

    How interesting. The customer gets to say they are satisfied? That is AMAZING.

    It would be my opinion that this could be turned into a scored card for the industry’s performance and customer overall satisfaction.

    • Mark Coxon

      Yes Paul! A novel idea huh? I think this is a great way for dealers to differentiate themselves in an Angie’s list sort of way.

      It’s a great sales tool as well. Just ask your potential clients if the competition is in the APEx program, and if not, why wouldn’t they want their customers to rate them?

      • Paul Self

        I think Infocomm has a great opportunity to determine if the consumer is happy or wants something else from the industry. I would love to see CEDIA do something like this.

  • ravepubs

    I wonder if there are going to be issues with Negative Response Bias, pushing results towards the strong and negative. The world is saturated with surveys, and being angry is a good reason to put up with the hassle – verses being satisfied and busy with other things.

    At least companies in the program will be on an even playing field in that regard – although those better at gently pushing clients for better reviews will do well.

  • Matt C.

    I wonder if there are going to be issues with Negative Response Bias, pushing results towards the strong and negative. The world is saturated with surveys, and being angry is a good reason to put up with the hassle – verses being satisfied and busy with other things.

    At least companies in the program will be on an even playing field in that regard – although those better at gently pushing clients for better reviews will do well.

    • Mark Coxon

      Yes Matt, I agree there can be a negative bias in those who voluntarily make comments, especially anonymously in public forums.
      I believe however that APEx firms select the clients that InfoComm will send surveys to. They dont get to see the survey responses as they go directly to InfoComm. Firms would want to make sure they prepped clients about the surveys and resolved all issues before releasing their info.
      Throwing in at least one random survey may be even more valuable and a better measure of what happens when a firm thinks no one is watching.
      The best business practice? Communicate clearly and treat everyone the same at a high standard of quality and you won’t have anything to worry about.

      • Leonard Suskin

        It’s interesting. We’ll have to see how it goes.

        One trouble-spot could be cherry-picking whom you send the survey to. Then again, I have seen firms use jobs as part of their portfolio, only to contact someone there and find that the job went so poorly that the client would never even want to look at that particular contractor again. I don’t know if this is cluelessness or deliberate sleight of hand,

        • Mark Coxon

          Great comment Leonard. I have seen the same thing with an integrator touting a project as a referral that went very poorly. I honestly think they just never think to ask what the client thinks at the end.

  • Mark Coxon

    There are some great comments here that spurred a follow up post. . .

    http://www.ravepubs.com/survey-says-surveys-infocomms-apex/

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