Exclusive in-house support is one of the legacies of audiovisual “media services” groups. As technology evolves and becomes much more complex, many organizations find themselves in the position of reconsidering the cost of maintaining an expanding stable of technology specialists.
In-house specialists require regular knowledge upgrades (to preserve efficiency) and salary increases (to ensure retention).
Given these costs, it is little wonder that many organizations have arranged for outboard services in conjunction with large projects that represent workload increases that cannot be absorbed by existing support infrastructure. (According to this survey, more than 62% of the respondents had at least considered managed services.) However, from time to time, most of us have relied upon services on-demand from local integrators, especially when pinched for time or manpower.
What serves the customer best
[easychart type="pie" title="What type of outside support do you use?" groupnames="38% On-Demand (pay by the hour),8% Service Contract,25% Combination of both,25% We never use outside support" group1values="20" group2values="4" group3values="13" group4values="13" chartfadecolor="FFFFFF" hidechartdata="true"]
Only 25% of the respondents do all their work internally. The majority rely on some level of on-demand service, perhaps expecting that outside support is called in only to off-load the few complex technical issues not easily resolved internally.
Do you think that the availability of on-call technicians who can tackle most any problem is a trend for most institutions?
[easychart type="pie" title="What is the biggest disadvantage to having a service contract?" groupnames="15% Too expensive,64% Not immediate enough,8% Uncertain quality,6% Less staff for major events" group1values="8" group2values="34" group3values="4" group4values="3" chartfadecolor="FFFFFF" hidechartdata="true"]
For most respondents, customer service trumps budget-savings. 64% indicated that they need to have someone in their rooms within five-minutes of any reported problems. Simply logging the problems for an outside technician to fix a some later point, would not work.
“After running AV departments in Universities for 20+ years, I have found that having on hand technicians spread out over a campus is crucial, for optimal support and efficiency when something goes wrong or technical assistance to no technical people is required. If the support staff were contracted from a supplier, they would still need to be there full time, either in busy periods for on hand support or in quiet for maintenance and upgrades, the cost factor is almost balanced out.”
While answers to the question, “What would be the biggest advantage of a service contract?” proved to be quite diverse, we believe they follow a similar customer-service-centric theme. For example, without having to worry about training and time off, we could simply focus on getting things working properly.
[easychart type="pie" title="What do you consider the biggest advantage of a service contract?" groupnames="28% Less staff + lower costs,28% highly qualified techs,13% no staff leave-days,15% someone to blame" group1values="15" group2values="15" group3values="7" group4values="8" chartfadecolor="FFFFFF" hidechartdata="true"]
As usual, some of the best thoughts and comments came directly from you, when you were not pushed into a multiple choice question. Here are some of those comments:
“I think there is a break-even point in which the volume of equipment justifies an in-house staff to provide on-demand responses for support, operations and maintenance. At lower levels, it would depend large on competencies of your system integrators.”
“Maybe I am a control freak, but I know the systems and I know what my clients want/need. I can not imagine an outsourced support group provide the “personal” touch and have our innate knowledge of each room.”
“For me to use an outside vendor, I have to play ringleader, where I have to coordinate that service department with the Registrar’s office for access to the classrooms. It’s less downtime and coordination to provide the support ourselves.”
“We have always used on demand service but with the increase of technology rooms, 280+, no increase in staff, equipment reaching its warranty limit, & availability of technology fee funds we are moving toward service contracts this FY July 2010.”
“When we looked at a service contract for 70+ rooms, the contract cost was more than double what we had actually spent on time & material repairs over the past 3 years.”
“Our department of three has been cut to a department of two, so now we’re increasingly finding ourselves short-handed for larger events and without the expertise of the missing employee. Management doesn’t offer any solutions other than vague references to service contracts for upcoming building renovations. Our concern is that we’re in a smaller market which means the contract would go to a local provider who we don’t trust (they’ve goofed up several previous installations) or to a non-local crew who flies in, installs, and then leaves. I’m a big supporter of having in house staff, but cross-training them so they can perform other tasks when A/V needs aren’t paramount.”
“My service contacts consists of warranties and replacement schedules within a 24-hour period. The techs install, program and do trouble calls. If the problem is more that they can handle, we call the vendors who honor the warranties and send the defective equipment out for repair.”
If you missed our survey or have additional ideas and experiences you would like to share, please use the comments section below or start a conversation on the AV-1.forum.