Customization: Bending Over Backwards or Smart Product Development?

If you’re a small business and hang in there lonavteq-0110g enough, at some point you face burnout. A down economy like the one we’re in now feels like a rollercoaster, customer requests sound more like complaints, and the motivation needed to keep innovating seems far and away. Maybe it was because I’ve had some pretty downer conversations with independent shops lately that I was particularly intrigued by a small videoconferencing cart manufacturer called AVTEQ.

Based in Dallas, Texas, with fewer than 100 employees, AVTEQ is one of those small companies that has been around for a while but you might not have heard of them unless you needed one of their products. AVTEQ specializes in carts, furniture and wall mounts for videoconferencing systems. Their biggest differentiator is that they can customize anything for their customer, an offering they are quite proud of and are happy to promote.

While it’s been my experience that customization isn’t exactly embraced and touted by manufacturers, AVTEQ takes a different attitude. “Our customer motto is: Yes, we can help you with that,” says Wes Burkett, VP of sales for the company. “Carts are usually an afterthought and that’s where customization is important. We do custom sizes, colors, can add logos, and do custom cutouts in addition to our regular product line.”


 

Videoconferencing carts have an inherent need for customization more than other traditional furniture. Carts, and the systems they contain, need ventilation; there are weight considerations. The cart must be sturdy enough to move around and have lockable doors, IR capabilities, and cable outlets for all devices. “Customization brings us new business and fosters customer loyalty,” says Burkett. “They know we’re listening and can deliver what they need.”

AVTEQ aims to compete on price too, and isn’t in it to jack up the prices just because a customer asked for a customization. Their core business is mobile and wall mount videoconferencing solutions, an area where they’re seeing increased competition from larger competitors. Products are designed and manufactured in-house, including the powder coating process. No OEMs are used so no items are shipped in or out incomplete. They will also pre-install equipment in the carts for their customers.

Okay, so before I start wandering too far into the “Rah Rah!” wilderness, there are several reasons why AVTEQ makes a positive impression on me. The first is literally their attitude. They aren’t grumpy or bitter or mad that the economy sucks. Burkett says that the company is maintaining for this year – no crazy growth numbers but no big losses either – and he seemed pretty happy about that.

Second, they listen to their customers. They execute customization requests but also use that knowledge to improve their product line. The customer gets their customization; AVTEQ takes that idea, implements it in their product line and everyone benefits. Another customer feedback was the request for complete pricing. So AVTEQ now offers 100 percent complete pricing including all parts like locks, shelves, rails, brackets etc.  That type of closed loop implementation is smart.

Third, and possibly most important, they’re willing to go outside their core market but not outside their capabilities. AVTEQ’s been trying to make headway into the government market. They secured a contract for military dorm furniture based on a design that takes the traditional footlocker away to save space, but offers the same storage volume under the bed. They also designed a piece of furniture that acts as a microwave stand and a display stand, saving even more space in the small dorm rooms.

They can manufacture this dorm furniture using the same machines they use to build the videoconferencing carts. Burkett also says that working with the military’s needs – furniture that is easy to assemble but tough to break – has also benefited their regular product line in the same way.

He also says that AVTEQ will see a 40 percent growth in the government space this year and expects the same for next. “If you can meet their price point, their timeline, and meet their needs, they will keep coming back to you,” he explains.

Linda_Seid_Frembes-0909Overall, the company’s focus on customer service and their willingness to help the customer close a sale has helped their business, even in a tough economy. I know that talking with AVTEQ has made me think about how I interpret feedback from readers. I have to ask myself: Am I hearing a complaint, or am I hearing the next great idea that will improve my product?

Linda Seid Frembes is a rAVe columnist who covers AV technology, installs, market trends and industry news. Linda has worked with high profile AV manufacturers, trade organization, systems integrators, rep firms and dealer/distributors in the industry including John Lyons Systems, Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), Northern Sound & Light (NSL), andInfoComm International, among others. Reach her at linda@ravepubs.com