As a matter of course, I like to investigate certain things in order to acquire material for writing, or even to disseminate information in other ways. As we like to talk about the integrators and what they need to pay specific attention to, sometimes that direction needs to be turned to the industry manufacturers and some of the things that are necessary to help the integrators to perform their jobs seamlessly.
My years in AV integration sales, I worked very closely with the manufacturers that I dealt with on a regular basis – NEC, Draper, Extron, SMART Technologies, Marshall Furniture to name just a few. I have to admit that I did go the extra mile to deal with the people that I determined to be the best to handle any particular situation, rarely having to say “can I speak to tech” or “can I speak with your supervisor.” Yes, these were the people in the know and if I did need to get in a little deeper technically, they knew exactly where to send me if I didn’t know already. If I was out of the office at a meeting or taking care of a customer service issue, the more ready information I could acquire, the better.
Now I hear from sales people, engineers and others about how difficult it is at times to get the details they need. Next time you want to blame the programmer, maybe consider that their struggle is as real as yours is at times with manufacturers they have to deal with, I have certainly heard the stories. There are those manufacturers out there that have always been integrator friendly (many newer manufacturers seem to already build this into their models), those that have progressed, and those that need to, well, listen up.
I saw a post on LinkedIn recently about manufacturers providing certain things on their websites and making them easy to find for the engineer. A representative of one manufacturer then responded that they did have what he was looking for on their website. Another person posted “I’m with you.” I’ll stop short of calling them requirements, though in essence they really should be. In integration sales there was certainly some reliance for me on the internet for certain charts, calculators and materials, however now I see the need for as much as is possible to be on the manufacturer’s website for engineering, sales, project managers, programmers and others. Trust me, I’ve had those 20 minute waits on hold while the client is sitting on the other end waiting for the answer from me. Finding the information online can indeed be instantaneous, and how much would a client appreciate quicker answers.
It has often been stated that the manufacturer’s client is not just the integrator, it is also the end user themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the manufacturer working with and selling directly to the end user, I’m talking about how the manufacturer should be imagining the client/end user in the room with the integrators as well when presenting to them, or even when discussing solutions at an event or trade show. Do they care as much about the specs vs. the overall solution and how it will benefit them? When we discuss the details, it should be noted that we’re not just talking specs, we’re talking about acquiring as much information that’s possible to do the job right for the customer and extend that thought to information being readily available via those things that many of us carry daily – a laptop, tablet and smartphone accessing the internet. As we continue to speak mobility/BYOD, it should apply here as well.
I have worked on all devices, including my phone at trade shows (going back as far as my trusty Blackberry days) when I needed information in an instant for the customer. Phone support is of course necessary, however I’d say more for semi- or full-escalation situations, that goes beyond what’s possible to do online, although online chat as a resource has shown great advantage these days as well. For all of those who use the internet on a daily basis, it’s no doubt that the integrator’s as well as the consultant’s job is made easier with access to as much as possible via the web.
The post I saw made a great point where since the product did have to be manufactured, there must exist certain information that could be placed online, information made available that will help engineers and others in integration in the most concentrated manner to perform in the best way possible, wherever they may be at the time – on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
It’s all in the details, or at least it should be for the client’s sake – and we all know who that ultimately is. The more the manufacturer provides through ready access to those who deal directly with the end user, the better.