I remember a time long before entering the world of “Custom Install”, as I walked aisle after aisle of endless audio and video equipment, being amazed by the pictures, and enthralled by the sounds. I remember looking at mail flyers touting the latest in “home theater in a box” technology, and longing to have that in my home. I remember installing an ancient Kenwood audio video receiver sporting the latest in Dolby Pro Logic 4 channel sound, and hanging two Pioneer speakers from old motion detector mounts on my ceiling for rear speakers. Those were the days. Oblivious bliss. Things have changed in the industry a little bit over the past few years. I saw a $250k projector, and a $167k stereo system this past year at Cedia. The TV’s are boasting higher resolution than ever, and the manufactures vie for our every penny with the latest in gidgets, and gadgets. The displays have grown, the equipment has shrunk, and the whole time all of this is happening, one thing remains the same. Our customer.

I looked at my schedule this past year, and figure I spent one whole business month in training. I want to be informative for my customers, and I want to be able to offer them the latest in technology, and entertainment. The only way to do this is to devote a portion of my time to this goal in the form of seminars, and intensive training. It’s not that the customer is not smart enough to keep up with the changes; it’s just that they don’t have the time! I get asked all the time about the difference “LDP” technology, or 20″ plasmas. I have to explain it’s DLP, and the 20″ you saw was probably a LCD. With the advent of all this information everyone wants to have the latest and greatest, but no one wants to learn how it works. What do I mean?

I look back to my time installing, and remembered the looks on the customer’s faces as I turned on “Jurassic Park” for the first time. I never watched the screen. I had seen that movie so many times I lost count, but the looks on their faces were what made my job worthwhile. Then came the dreaded question. “How does it all work?” I would grab each of the remotes, the home theater receiver, the TV, the VCR, the DVD, the CD player, the satellite box, and any thing else they might have. It was almost sad how quickly that look of pride, and joy left their face, and was replaced by a look of frustration and disgust. Over the next hour, I would repeat myself, and each step on operation until I’m sure the look on my face matched theirs. Finally, the customer would take some notes, and release me to my next job. One of two things would happen. Either they would call back with the next 24 hours to schedule a service call to re-show them the system, or they never turned it on again. We can install the most elaborate, and best sounding system, but if the customer can’t figure out how it works, they will never turn it on.

I made up my mind a long time ago that if I ever made it into a design position my customers would not have to go through this rollercoaster of emotions. I dove into the world of custom remotes with much help from the professionals on remotecentral.com looking for answers. In the last two years I can count the number of systems on one hand sold without a custom remote. I just can’t do that to my customer, or my technician. I call it “baby sitter proofing”. If you can show the first time baby sitter how to turn on the DVD, or Disney channel inside of one minute without messing up the AV system; that’s a pretty functional system. My customers love the remotes because they make their systems so much easier to use. My technicians love the remotes because they save so much time on explaining use of the new system. My service department loves the remote because it eliminates go-backs on these system we install every day. My boss loves the remotes because I estimate we have sold over 300 of them in the past 2 years, and they add to the bottom line of each sale. My wife loves the remote because she can operate our system at the house to play media for the kids, and I love the remotes because she now calls to see how my days going, instead of angry at me and my stack of “stuff”.

Bottom line is this. We have a responsibility to our customers and co-workers to not make their lives harder. By giving them control of these systems, in a manner they can easily understand, we can make long term customers, and long time friends.