We’re continuing with our theme of providing corresponding blog posts to go with our LAVNCH WEEK coverage! Scott Tiner, director of client services at Bates College and member of the rAVe BlogSquad, delivered our Tech Talk about the interesting and symbiotic relationship between a vendor and customer.
Below are his tips and advice for cultivating and maintaining a lasting work relationship between manufacturers, integrators, end users, etc.
Tiner included some tweet screenshots to give context to why customers have problems with different vendors — and to show how vendors are sometimes missing the mark.
However, is the customer always giving back to the industry when they write things like this? Scott noted his blog post where he wrote to vendors about what works and what doesn’t.
According to him, the key is contributing positively to the AV industry.
Tiner also included the below screenshots of some Tweets showcasing that sometimes customers aren’t always right. (Some were fake Tweets created by him, others real.)
Instead of scolding one another, Tiner encouraged vendors and customers to look to AV in the past first — and then understand how the relationship can grow in the future.
Hierarchy of AV Circa 2000
Tiner expanded upon how AV used to work.
“There’s kind of a tornado going on here with relationships.”
Back then, manufacturers struggled to deal with end users and vice versa. The future will be about jumping the hierarchy and instead managing the relationship as a circle of life. How can we rely on the future of the industry if key communities don’t know how to communicate needs?
Tiner spent time on this subject because many are considering this — and only this — as their method of motivation. Tiner pushed back on this idea, by including that no one should want to work with someone — vendor or customer — who only thinks about money and cost.
“You want to be dealing with people who think of the yellow brick road — [people who] think about today’s project, next year’s project, and the project five years down the road. [These are] the people who think about relationships.”
Vendors: Are You Minding Your Business?
Meaning, are you thinking about the core business you work with? Things can look different, depending on this. Whether you work in education, HOW, government, healthcare, finance, etc. — you should be researching trends in your industry. According to Tiner, you should be working with end users in your firm and supporting, maintaining and training on tech in your firm, too.
Understanding the Food Chain
Tiner mentioned this several times. To create lasting relationships with any person in the AV food chain, one has to understand their purpose!
- Manufacturers — Create products.
- Integrators — Create services.
- End Users — Supply the cash.
How End Users Can Contribute
Tiner first noted that end users have a unique understanding of what needs to be included in products — and can leverage that knowledge to help manufacturers.
“[We have a] clear understanding of what they need to put in their products. We allow the manufacturer to build their product roadmaps.”
Tiner told a story about how a manufacturer confided in him about a conversation they had had with an end user. Because of this conversation, they altogether scrapped a product line. Therefore, it should be the end user’s responsibility to give manufacturers feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
“We have influence, and we have power, and if we use it in a good way … it makes a lot of sense.”
Tiner noted that there is a history of friction between end users and integrators. The way to start to create trust is with three key factors:
There have been times in the past when end users wouldn’t give integrators a budget for their project. Tiner noted, “you aren’t helping your business, yourself or the industry. [If you don’t trust this integrator with your budget,] go get an integrator you can trust, then.”
Integrators or Value-Added Resellers
In a job position like Tiner’s, you occasionally find yourself toeing the line between AV and IT. He mentioned that with VARs, although their job is similar to integrators, they focus on how they aren’t just selling the end user a box. Instead, they’re “adding value” to the equipment they sell.
“Add value to the work that you’re doing — let [integrators] do that and focus on the work you could only do for your organization.”
Tiner noted that all integrators and manufacturers he talks to watch and learn from social media. He encouraged end users to build robust social media presences as well.
“It’s a great tool to reach out with these people and let them know what’s going on.”
It’s impossible to discuss any industry and not discuss the pandemic the world is currently facing. How does this affect developing relationships? What’s going to happen after COVID?
“Have complete honesty, let manufacturers and integrators know exactly where you stand. It helps them develop their fiscal plans moving forward. Whether it’s people working from home or building home offices — let them know [what your plans and expectations are], so they can set those plans for when the time comes.”
Even though you might want to skip the integrator and buy online, don’t buy from the internet. There are companies right now who understand as customers we have issues at the moment packaging things — look to your integrator to buy some of that. They might offer white-glove support for your office workers.
“Give some thought about contributing back and putting money back in our own industry.”
If you missed LAVNCH WEEK, don’t fear — LAVNCH 2.0 is coming the week of June 22. Go ahead and join the list here; spots are limited. Also, you can check out our LAVNCH WEEK microsite to see all the articles (like this one) and public videos from the week and more.