Beyond the Bid: How to Evaluate AV Integrators for Quality and Value

Tradesman pricing a job

 
When choosing an AV integrator, you want to find someone who offers the best finished product for the best possible price. Yet, value is a hard thing to asses simply from bid alone.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the choice easier. Here’s how to evaluate AV integrators for skill, quality and value when sorting through project bids.

Assess the Integrator Bid Pool

From the beginning, you should clearly define your needs and project scope. This makes it easier for integrators to understand what you want and need, AV design and integration firm Illuminated Integration explains. It also helps you weed out potential integrators that aren’t a good fit for your company.

Even after this initial phase, however, multiple integrators might still be left on the table. At this point, it might not be obvious which integrator is best for you.

When this happens, it’s important to look beyond the bid. There are some fundamental qualities that separate a good integrator from a bad integrator.

If an integrator refuses to engage in a consultation, for example, this might be a red flag. “Performing a thorough consultation and site survey allows both your organization and the integrator to better understand your organization’s specific needs and facilitates the open discussion of potential project options” says AV provider IGI.

You should also look for integrators who believe in a hands-on approach during the pre-project phase. Experienced integrators should involve IT/Network teams early in the process, Unified AV business development director Mike White notes. This is because, White explains, experienced integrators understand the importance of working hand in hand with your IT department. Look for integrators who create an open relationship with your team members, involving them in each and every discussion.

If an AV integrator is more hands-off, they might not have what it takes to create a personalized system outfitted just for you.

These elimination factors will help you create a shortlist of high-quality providers. Then, you need to focus on choosing the one that’s best suited your company’s needs.

team working on evaluating AV integrators

Interview for Qualifications and Skill

It isn’t enough to select a company based on their product descriptions alone. Even the world’s best technology will be rendered useless if it isn’t used to meet specific business objectives.

Your integrator should understand what you want and why you want it. In turn, this will help them select the technology that will best help you achieve your goals. As this video from AVISPLinfo puts it: “You don’t need a solution. You need a partner.”

AV integrators should be committed to overcoming problems and solving challenges. And, you need an integrator who is willing to work with you to create a customized project, according to ID Solutions. “When it comes to audio visual solutions, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.”

A discovery interview is one of the best ways to assess your fit with a new integrator, Todd Spell at Synergy CT says. “It’s important for key stakeholders in your organization to meet with the integrator’s upper management, engineers, project managers, service team, and account executives, all of whom are vital to your project’s success.”

These interviews will help dispel any lingering concerns or worries. It will also help confirm that these integrators work well as partners for your business.

Systems integrator Phillips Pro Systems LLC notes that it’s important to be thorough during these interviews. “When choosing a Systems Integrator, it is helpful to ask a lot of questions and actually interview the integrators. It is imperative to get it done right the first time, especially when it comes to design.”

Video conferencing and AC solutions company VSGI suggests that you ask about their partnerships with top technology partners. This will help you get a feel for the resources at their disposal, and how they meet up with your needs.

visual office evaluating AV integrators

Assess Past Customers and Projects

It’s important to ask AV Integrators about their qualifications and past successes. Technology supplier Camera Corner Connecting Point notes the importance of asking AV integrators things like how long they’ve been in business, their process for completing the project and whether or not they provide training on the system they install.

Asking who the integrator has worked with in the past might also help you assess their abilities. This can help you understand if they’re prepared for a long-term relationship and how they meet core business objectives, Skylark AV adds.

Then, you might consider asking for testimonials directly from past clients, suggests AV provider Data Projections. “The company should have plenty of testimonials that demonstrate a commitment to outstanding customer service.” This is also a nod to the company’s relationship-building abilities.

Reaching out to past customers directly can also help you get to the bottom of tough questions and concerns. It’s one of the best ways to uncover a first-hand account regarding the candidate’s quality. Specifically, you’ll want to look for a good track record, a strong skill set and business stability, corporate AV integration specialist Stefan Mayer adds.

Consider the same things you’d look for when evaluating a new employee or partner. Did they show up on time? Did they solve problems quickly, creatively and efficiently? Did they understand client needs? These are just a few things you should be looking for from testimonials.

Regardless of how complex the project is, technology writer Tony Bove says that the integrator should have a high level of expertise. This doesn’t mean that the provider has to be more expensive, however. There’s no need to hire a more elite AV integrator if a simpler one will get the job done. Be honest about your needs and what you’re hoping to achieve — this will be easier on both your integrator and your pocketbook.

Lastly, usability is a key concern. While an AV system might look cool, it must be practical for your day-to-day use. How easily will you and your team be able to use it? Will there be a detailed tutorial? How often will you be able to reach out to IT? What is the process for troubleshooting?

AV integration provider H&H Audio Visual stresses that these kinds of questions are always a top priority. From the planning stages to final system handover, understanding usability is essential.

Following these steps can help you select the right integrator for your business, ensuring that you get the best AV system possible to meet your needs.

Images by: auremar/©123RF.com, Christina Morillo, CDU445

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