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Archives > July 2014 > Protecting Your AV Investment: Why Service Contracts Work

Protecting Your AV Investment: Why Service Contracts Work

In a previous article (Coordinating your AV Team) I outlined some key players to consider adding to your team when effectively and efficiently renovating or installing technology in a new space. As the second installment in the AV technology series, the focus will be on protecting that technology investment and the benefits of keeping service and maintenance contracts with an AV expert.

By: Gina Sansivero

An audiovisual installation at any level is not a small investment. Sometimes trying to swallow the initial cost overshadows the importance of putting into perspective the long-term care necessary to prevent any degradation in performance (and therefore usage). The amount of attention the equipment needs can range from simple to extensive depending upon the complexity of the installation, the amount of use and the environment. Those best equipped to handle the service and maintenance of a technology installation are experienced AV contractors or technicians. They can be technical (in-house) staff or outsourced. Either way, the level of priority and attention placed on the care of technology systems can be the difference between a highly effective and often used classroom tool or an unfortunate tech install failure.

A typical AV installation is covered by the installer for one year. After that, a new service contract should be signed. When looking for a company to maintain the equipment, many start with the original installer. This may or may not be the best fit based on the dependability, competency, professionalism and availability of the contractor. However, he knows the equipment, he knows the installation and he knows your staff. My suggestion-consider how the first year went, and decide from there.

What type of service contract is the right fit?
There are generally many levels and flavors of contracts that are available, again depending on the AV contractor. A service retainer means that a monthly allotment of service hours are pre-determined. Each hour and each dollar is accounted for and overages are billed accordingly. Usually there is a <48 hour turn-around on service calls for this type of contract.

A service agreement can come in customizable configurations from robust to bare-bones (think bronze, silver, gold agreement levels) but generally includes an annual fee for a pre-determined amount of service. It could include break-fix services, replacement parts or emergency 24/7 availability for minimal down time on mission critical installations to name a few. It almost always includes regularly scheduled preventative maintenance.

When the system installed has an accessible control system, a remote monitoring agreement may be an option. Chris Turner, Services Account Executive with West Chester, PA based systems integrator Advanced AV, thinks pro-active monitoring is a great fit for many educational facilities because "it can easily save the cost on a contract." Remotely monitoring the system can provide an idea of how the system is being used, of any problems with the system and "then many times we can fix the problem without even setting foot on the campus," saving the cost of a support or service call.

Most AV systems integrators are willing to customize an agreement to fit any budget. Having an experienced employee dedicated to AV on staff also reduces some costly support requirements for the higher-end service agreements. Just like with a car, regularly scheduled maintenance on technology installations can also reduce costly service calls later on by helping the system to run well for a longer time. Whichever type of contract you choose, Turner believes the service provider should maintain a "no meeting missed" approach to customer support.

Why do I need a service contract?
Turner often sees costly AV systems not being used because equipment goes down and the client doesn't know what to do. Yet, he says, "the biggest hurdle is trying to convince the school that some sort of proactive maintenance or service agreement will save in the long run. Usually they see it as a budgetary drain." But when a large, $500,000 multi-room installation starts malfunctioning, the cost for multiple service calls can start to add up and could exceed the cost of an annual agreement. When this happens, the mad dash to find room in the budget (and possibly make cuts from system upgrades or renovations) and the need to free up the technical staff's time begins.

Don't take my word for it. James DeDominic, Equipment Systems Specialist at Oregon State University, has his own opinion about the value of service contracts. OSU has a full variety of AV experts on staff, seemingly having little need for a service contract. However, DeDominic confirms that he and his colleagues do "see inherent value with a highly qualified service/maintenance contract for various aspects of the equipment we use. Oregon State University likes to keep things in house as much as possible, so for most installs.the service is generally kept in-house (call us and we'll respond). Where it becomes a real value to me is when I am playing intermediary between a non-technical person (i.e. many clients/final end-users) and certain manufacturers for RMA or unique troubleshooting assistance. The value comes in saving me time either in the troubleshooting process (during and after commissioning) or even possibly doing an RMA."

Why AV needs to work.
AV is a key component in today's immersive classroom. Clearly, the expectations of today's students and faculty is that data must be immediately retrievable as well as intuitively accessible and presentable. Often, the amount and type of technology available to students is a deciding factor when choosing one college over another. Further research indicates that technology rich classroom environments enhance retention and motivation in students. The ability to bring into the classroom multiple types of media, collaborate with students locally and remotely, provide examples of real-life applications to previously only theoretical problems is priceless for students and professors. They only hope those making the tech decisions feel the same way.

 

 

About The Author
Gina Sansivero

is Director of Educational Sales at FSR, Inc (www.fsrinc.com) in Woodland Park, NJ. FSR is a US manufacturer which offers connectivity, infrastructure, AV, and collaborative technology products worldwide. Gina is a member of InfoComm International and a team member of the Long Island Volunteer Enterprise. Reach Gina at gsansivero@fsr.com or on twitter @GinaSans.

 

 


 

 

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