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Questions to ask when hiring AV integrator

Weeding Out the Audiovisual Integrator Herd: 7 Blunt Questions You Need to Ask Before You Hire

We’ve all heard the horror stories.  A customer has made a substantial investment in audiovisual technology, but the systems never quite functioned as described, the integrator never returns their service calls, or users haven’t been educated on how to operate the system.  While it’s true the integrator didn’t hold up their end of the agreement, the customer also holds some responsibility for ensuring understanding and completeness of the system.
As a customer, taking the time to hire a qualified integrator should be at the top of your list. You wouldn’t hire a contractor to work on your home without clarity of understanding and vision. You wouldn’t see a doctor if you didn’t feel they could help keep you healthy. In both case you invest the effort to get the best, why wouldn’t you do the same for the tools you’ll be using in your professional life?
Sure, it’s possible the salesman may have pulled the wool over your eyes and convinced you their company was a great fit for your project, but if you don’t ask the right questions during the interview process then how can you be sure which is the best option for you and your company?  Here are seven questions that will help you to avoid hiring a subpar integrator.
1. How many full-time dedicated audiovisual employees does your company have?

Many large firms that previously were not in the audiovisual field are now competing for audiovisual projects. The common question “how many people are in your company?” seems like an adequate prescreen question to eliminate companies that are too small to complete your project. The truth is this question does not provide enough insight.

For example, a technology provider might respond that they have 100 employees.  However, out of those 100 employees, forty do structured cabling, twenty do phone systems, twenty do network switches, fifteen are office personnel (HR, accounting, etc), and only five are in the audiovisual group.  Five qualified people for my specific project is much different than the company total of 100.

 2. How many LOCAL audiovisual employees does your company have?

This is an important because an audiovisual company may have 200 audiovisual employees across the globe but only a handful in the local office.  I’ve worked for an extremely large audiovisual firm with over sixty offices and hundreds of employees, but by no means does that mean we could complete a $20M project from our local office of eight people.
While it would be nice to believe that every office can pool resources and complete the project as one large entity, that just doesn’t happen.  Local offices have their own clients to worry about.  While the other offices may do their best to help with man power, the truth is helping the other offices is lower priority than working with their local recurring clients.

3.  Can you provide me a list of employee resumes that will be actively working on my project?

 An audiovisual integration firm may have completed some of the coolest, most unique projects in the world, but if the individuals responsible for that successful work are not part of the team on your job, that project should mean diddlysquat to you.  You should only be concerned with the skill set of the individuals working for you on this specific project.
Just because Peyton Manning and Geno Smith are both NFL quarterbacks doesn’t mean they will both deliver star performances on your team. The individual quality differences are obvious.

4. What is the average salary of your audiovisual technicians, project managers, and programmers?

 Low-cost, low-quality integrators pay low hourly wages or salaries. Economics suggests that higher-quality individuals will garner higher wages due to the demand for their skill set.  If you hire a firm whose technicians make minimum wage, don’t act surprised when you get minimum-wage quality of work.

5. What is your guaranteed onsite response time?

While almost all audiovisual integrators provide a warranty period for their work, it’s important to know the guaranteed response time if you have an audiovisual emergency.  A one-year warranty with a 72 hour response time is much less valuable than a one-year warranty with an eight hour response time.

6. Can you provide a list of audiovisual projects and references that were completed in the last two years by your local office?

People in organizations come and go.  You should be interested in the skill set of the current team.  If you have a number of successful projects that were completed three years ago, it’s possible that a number of the key players on these successful projects are no longer part of that team.  Ask for references of recent projects where individuals that will be on your project team were a major participant in the success of those projects.  Then don’t be lazy. Call the references and ask the tough questions

7. There actually is no 7th question. I read that if you have an odd number in your blog title there is a higher likelihood of your blog being read.  

The bottom line is this: if you do your due diligence there is a significantly higher probability of a successful project.

About the Author:
—Bill McIntosh, President and CEO of Synergy Media Group and BrightTree Studios
Bill McIntosh is recognized as a Top 40 CI Influencer Under 40.  His design-build audiovisual firm, Synergy Media Group, is renowned as a “Top Five Higher Education Integrator” in the US in 2013 and 2014.  Bill holds a MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Featured Image Copyright Katie Brady. https://www.flickr.com/photos/cliche/  Used under  Creative commons license

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