In the first part of this feature on AV and experiences we outlined the industry's new vision geared towards delivering 'exceptional experiences'. Here we consider the pros and cons of this new approach.
“I followed the launch of the AVIXA brand/rebrand and was intrigued at how they were looking to move the focus away from the technology to the solutions the technology delivers,” says Jason Cremins, founder and CEO, Signagelive. “This is very much how we position our platform and business.”
“I was very aware of what AVIXA was doing,” notes Emma Bigg, managing director of AV consultancy Octavius RE. “It was a well-promoted rebranding, and it felt very well timed as it reflected the direction the AV industry was going and how they as an organisation needed to adapt.”
“I think I was the first in my organisation to spot the AVIXA name change – on social media – and shared it internally immediately,” smiles Jennifer Üner director, of communications at collaboration technologies specialist Oblong Industries. “I applaud the change, because it feels fresh and forward looking.”
So far so good: the majority of the AV industry appears to be aware of what AVIXA is doing. But: does the industry see itself as a provider of exceptional integrated experiences? Has AVIXA got that right?
Jon Sidwick, vice president, global, Maverick AV Solutions – and an AVIXA board director – thinks it has. “The industry’s value-add is in creating a great experience,” he believes. “We work in a world where it could be easy to lose focus on the material benefit of ensuring the AV experience matches the user’s requirement. This applies as much to the meeting room as it does to a live event and we – the industry – are uniquely positioned to deliver this.”
Jon Dew-Stanley, who is director of technical at distributor Midwich, sees things slightly differently.
“I don’t feel we are striving as an industry to always create exceptional experiences,” he says. “Not all clients want this. That said: we can ensure, through best practice and training, that all systems are delivered exceptionally and clients get what they ask for. This falls beyond manufacturers on to integrators, consultants, resellers and distribution to ensure that we all provide value and knowledge that supports a client in understanding what they can do with AV equipment to meet their business needs.”
Reframing the conversation
“I think there are both good and not-so-good sides to the initiative,” says Spiros Andreou, service delivery manager at UK integrator CDEC. “There is definitely something to be said for trying to re-frame the conversation about AV to focus more on the customer experience and away from the technology-centric approach. There are a lot of technologists in the sector who could take a leaf out of the book and see technology as the enabler rather than the ‘be all and end all’. There are also some customers who focus overly on the specification of equipment – ‘it must be 4K’ or ‘I need the XI version of that box’ and so on – and forget that they are working on behalf of their end users for whom the technology should be seamless and transparent.”
He has an ally in Cremins, who also sees an AV industry whose comfort zone has traditionally been the technology, and that all too easily lapses into jargon and discussion of product features. “The more we all move away from ‘tech speak’ and focus on the ‘problem’ we are trying to solve, the more prospective customers will understand the value of AV solutions to their business,” he says.
“On the other hand,” continues Andreou, “AVIXA can often ‘over-Americanise’ – and that doesn’t translate well in the UK. The AVIXA approach to project design and execution is a good example where there is still some work to do in order to integrate with how companies here like to see work carried out. Overly focusing on the ‘user experience’ might turn off some customers who have perhaps already undertaken design and requirements gathering work, and are just looking for a capable provider to deliver the solution and support.”
On the right track
“I do think AVIXA are on the right track and, as an AV company, our drive is to provide the best integrated solutions we can,” says Stewart Maynard, a director of custom installer Knektd. “Having a trade body also push this is of course a massive advantage. That said: an increasing proportion of our business is also IT works, given the high reliance on IT infrastructure that the AV systems we deliver need – particularly when they need to be ‘exceptional’. This is work that may have been traditionally carried out by an IT specialist, but is now packaged with our works. Any initiative therefore needs to be careful not to alienate IT works that CIs can do.”
Justin Dawson of AllThingsTech.ie is no less enthusiastic. “The name change from InfoComm to AVIXA was crucial to highlight the future of audiovisual globally,” he says. “End users didn’t understand the name ‘InfoComm’: it was dated. Placing AV back in the title of AVIXA with integrated experiences means that, as a member of AVIXA, we get to explain to our end users what an integrated experience should be and strive to achieve a working environment that is purely about ease of use for the end user. End users should not be intimidated by using AV applications inside a room. They should be able to control the lighting, the audio, the visuals and the projection with ease and comfort. AVIXA’s future relies on its members being able to deliver this experience.”
It would appear that the AVIXA message about what the industry is and can be has fallen on receptive ears, and the organisation’s senior director of communications Brad Grimes confirms that his colleagues have been gratified to see many companies in the AV industry talking in terms of experiences.
“But even when AV companies aren’t talking about experiences, they’re emphasising solutions over products – integrated pieces that, as a whole, align more perfectly with customers’ needs,” he adds. “At events around the world, exhibitors have been telling us the industry needs to pivot the conversation away from boxes and specs and toward the solutions and outcomes, which are the experiences that lead to better communication.”