Warranties Redux?

In order to differentiate themselves from the big box stores on the one side and the trunk-slammers on the other AV pros set themselves up as systems specialists.

They present themselves to clients as consultants who will deliver a complete solution. People who just want to watch TV can go to a big box store (or, more commonly, Amazon). People who just want to watch a TV that’s hung on a wall can go to a trunk slammer for a hang-n-bang special.

But people who want AV distribution (that actually works), automation and control (that actually works), and/or a cinema room experience that pulls out all the stops need systems specialists who can, wait for it, actually make it all work.

Part and parcel of that specialization is the degree of ownership of that system. Just like how they take their car to the dealership for service, the client calls you to deal with problems, both in warranty and out.

From a business standpoint this is where it always gets complicated.

When a video display breaks down, the vendor’s warranty for larger sizes typically specifies in-home service from an authorized service center.

However, pretty much every large flat panel TV ever sold, installed and integrated by AV Pros are mounted, whether on a wall or on a motorized lift. In my experience none of the vendor-authorized TV repair centers will dismount a TV in order to service it. So, you, the AV pro, are going to have to get involved because it’s YOUR system.

So who’s paying for you to roll a truck, dismount a display, drive it to a service depot, and then pick it up later and remount it?

The client? Unless you’ve specified that in either the system’s contract or in a maintenance agreement that’s not going to happen.

The TV vendor? You’re hilarious. Good luck with that.

It’s easy to pick on the video category as an example of this type of service conundrum, and I could list examples from experience all day, but every kind of product presents the risk of unrecoverable costs surround warranty replacement.

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TheDaVinciGroupLogo-0314Most vendor warranties are rock-solid, and some are even better than that. So AV Pros seldom have trouble getting hardware repaired or replaced. Yet warranty costs remain.

This is a problem that I’ve pondered for years, poking at it like a loose tooth. Yet unlike dentistry, there didn’t seem to be a direct solution.

So imagine my surprise when a press release hit my inbox (back in November, I admit — sorry, I’ve been busy) from a young, small AV audio company called The DaVinci Group.

You can read the press release in full here.

But to summarize, the company offer warranties on its brands of two-years parts and labor on all wireless products, five-years parts and labor on all amplifiers, and lifetime replacement warranty on all architectural speakers, volume controls and speaker selectors.

WarrantyPLUS-Logo-0314On top of that, it’s rolled out a program called WarrantyPLUS. According to the press release: “Any time a product fails during the warranty period, the company will not only provide the customer with a replacement unit, it will also issue the dealer or installer a full $75.00 credit to offset the cost of uninstalling the defective unit and installing a replacement.”

That’s a bold move, and cuts right to the heart of the problem that’s vexed me for so long. According to the press release, as far as the company can ascertain, it’s the only company in the industry offering this type of warranty program regularly. And to my knowledge, that isn’t wrong.

Two things occur to me here. The first is that The DaVinci Group is a young company, and it remains to be seen whether this move will allow them to grow, and prosper. The second is whether or not any larger, more established distributors will see this as a competitive advantage and follow their lead.