The Difference

Customer Disservice

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(****Update*****2/6/2014.  I received a couple comments that sediment in older wines is normal, which is entirely true.  This wine was not a 7 year+ bottle, so the yeast/protein sediment they referred to would not be normal for a 2011 bottle.  Crystalline sediment may be normal if they use a more traditional process that doesn’t filter that out as most wineries today do.  I get that.  I think they missed an opportunity here to say, 1) that’s not normal in that vintage, or 2) we use a traditional process to create our wine and sell that fact. I asked them the question to get an eduacted answer, not to play gotcha, but felt like I was treated a little like a dummy. 

It’s about tact as much as fact. 

I responded to them saying I knew sediment could be normal but hadn’t experienced it with other wines of this type/age, to which there was no response, hence my lasting impression).

I had an experience earlier this week with a bottle of wine.  I was down at my local Sprouts picking up some Coho salmon that was on special, in an effort to keep some “better eating” New Year’s Resolutions alive and well.  As I do many times when I am cooking a more “formal” dinner, I decided to go and peruse the wine section.

My wife has come to like red wine now, being slowly weaned off of the sweeter styles like Muscato, and we gravitate toward some more fruitforward styles of Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, and as of late, Malbec as well.  In looking through the wine, I found a Malbec that I hadn’t tried yet, one from Red Diamond.

We ate dinner and enjoyed a glass.  Later that evening, not wanting the rest of the bottle to sit too long, I took a second glass as part of the evening “catch up on the day and watch TV” time with my wife.  At the end of that glass, I found myself chewing something, and when I looked into the glass, I found quite a large amount of sediment.  I returned to the bottle and poured the remainder out into another glass, finding the same thing.

I decided to message the winery on Facebook (I didn’t post publicly on their page as I wanted to be fair in letting them respond first), to see if this was a normal occurence with their wines.  I have screen captured my original FB message below.

Red Diamond 1

To which, I got this response from Red Diamond.

Red Diamond 2


Their response was timely, it came within a day.  Their response was factually correct.

They were indeed “right”. And here is where I assert that. . .

There is a big difference between being right and “doing the right thing”.

Now of course I related my experience as a consumer in buying a bottle of wine.  I compared that experience to all of the others I have had with a similar purchases of wine in the same price range, ones that did not leave we with a mouthfull of red, tannic crystals.  In doing so, I felt the experience was sub par, hence my desire to relate it to the winemaker.  They responded with an explanation that was completely correct and at the same time in a way that I will never buy another bottle of their wine.

Now think of your integrator clients in the same way.  As consumers who have purchased your services and have most likely had experiences with other firms that provide similar services at similar prices.

How did you earn their business?  I would wager you either

1) Did some great work in the sales process (better explanations, demo, empathy with the client’s needs).

2) Provided better value through specifying the proper equipment.

3) Left money on the table by undercutting every responsible bid and will be out of business next year if you keep it up. (let’s hope this wasn’t the reason)

4) Benefited from the mistakes of the past integrator’s failure to do the right thing in the last job.

I’ll tell you, that as an integrator for 12 years, I won jobs based on all 4 of the above throughout my career.  I learned to avoid #3, and to focus on doing #1 and #2, but would be lying if I said that #4 didn’t play into the equation often and give me an advantage.  I’d like to win everything on my own merit, but sometimes I was given a boost by others lack of follow through.

There are many times in an AV Integration project when we have the chance to step up and do what is right, or pass the buck under the guise of it being “Someone Else’s Problem“.  We may be 100% right in our assesment and at the same time lose a life long customer in the process.

Let me give one example that I remember from a job I did with a large commercial chemical company.

We were hired to do AV integration in a few boardrooms at the new corporate office.  I gave a bid on everything from cabling to the monitors to an advanced control system.  I made all the intelligent arguments one could make about digital video, commercial grade displays, etc.  At the end of the day, they opted for a middle of the road solution as most do.  As part of their cost cutting efforts, they decided that they wanted to provide the 60″ displays for the boardrooms.

On install day, we found ourselves looking at a few 60″ consumer grade LG sets still adorned with their Costco Wholesale markings.

We performed our install as discussed.  We provided the mounts, hung the displays, used the existing 5 wire RGBHV cabling for VGA, and ran some new Cat5e for HDMI extension, terminating everything in some nice Extron Cable Cubbies at the conference table for easy connection and access.

Everything was done according to our contract.  We tested a few signals and witheeverything functioning we did our handover and left.

The next day we received a call from the customer’s IT department and they were having an issue with getting the VGA signals to appear from their new laptops. 

We did the normal over the phone assesment to determine whether or not they were on the correct source input.  They were, so we dispatched a technician. 

We found the same issue, and started running through alternate resolutions on the laptop, some of which appeared, and others of which didn’t.  We then consulted the user manual and voila!  There in the manual was a chart of the resolutions and refresh rates  supported by the VGA port.  It turns out, the consumer grade set used a chipset that supported some but not all of the common resolutions (whereas a commercial set typically supports many more). 

We told the consumer that the sets they purchased only supported certain resolutions, and that the laptops would need to be set to display one of those when connected.  I was told that this was not an acceptable situation, as many executives used these rooms, some traveling from other offices, many with different laptop models, and that they could not be expected to do that each time.

So this is where as Robert Frost put it. . .

“Two roads diverged in a wood…”

I could “be right” telling the customer this was their fault as they bought displays I did not recommend and that did not support the other hardware they were using.


I could “do the right thing” by offering a solution.

“…and I_

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

I found a switcher/scaler that accepted both VGA and HDMI  as inputs and then scaled them to a common HDMI output.  The scaler had a priority switch that gave HDMI priority over VGA, so there was no need to add any external control system or any extra step to the connection process for the executives.

I didn’t do this for free.  This was not scope creep.  I sold the switcher/scalers at near cost (ironically the cost switcher/scaler when added to the cost of the Costco display came out to about the same investment as buying the commercial grade displays we origianlly recommended) and I charged labor at a discounted rate that still covered our costs while satisfying the customer.

The end result was a customer that called us every time they had a new project, and also a customer that thought twice about taking shortcuts with hardware to save a couple bucks.  If I had decided to “be right”, someone else would’ve picked up the work and benefited from both my mistake, as well as by the education that customer got in the process, one that made them a better client to have going forward.

I imagine the $11 bottle of wine I bought from Red Diamond costs them $2-3 to produce.  I would argue that sending out a bottle with a $5 decanter would have made a huge difference in my future wine decisions and in my impression of the company.  All at the cost of $8.  (In fact I have a decanter, so they wouldn’t even have had to send that, I’d just know to use it on their wine gong forward).  It seems however that The Show, Alamos, or Bodega Norton will be getting my Malbec dollars instead.

So at the end of the day, as integrators and manufactures in the AV space, we have these choices every day.  The next time you have come to a decision to say “no” to a customer, make sure you are doing it because it is the right thing to do, and not just because you want to be right.