By now, most readers have heard the term SaaS, or Software as a Service, a new trend in the business of software. Instead of investing large sums every time you upgrade, you pay as you go, by the month. Some common examples include Dropbox or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Some readers may have heard of XaaS, which stands for everything as a service. So what about AVaaS? Audio/Video or Audiovisual as a Service, delivering software (DSP, videoconferencing, collaboration, and control code), professional services, monitoring, for a monthly fee. That’s right, I said a monthly fee for AV.
I am not the first blogger to write about AV as a Service. My online colleague Nermina Miller attacked the subject way back in July 2015 when she worked for Infocomm, in her article Redefining AV as a Service. More recently, rAVepubs blog squad writer Mark Coxon defined three areas to start selling AV as a Service: video conferencing, engineering, and digital signage. Gary Kayye suggested audiovisual integrators start selling digital signage content years ago. Some followed his advice, and the money, while others stuck with the traditional model, sell the equipment and installation, and then watched their flat panel margins shrink as the displays got thinner and thinner.
rAVepubs also recently interviewed the CEO of ZOOM, who has quietly snuck into the AV industry under the guise of videoconferencing Software as a Service. But ZOOM is more than just SaaS, ZOOM has a professional services department, providing engineering and installation services. If you are worried about ZOOM taking your business clients, Gary Kayye of rAVepubs asked the CEO directly about their policy:
If an AV integrator has an existing client relationship, all they need to do is register that client and ZOOM will not go or talk directly to the client without the integrator’s assistance. But, if ZOOM establishes the relationship directly, they will potentially sell the ZOOM system directly….But customers will purchase hardware by themselves […]
But customers will purchase hardware by themselves? You heard right, the leading collaboration software company will sell them the AV system, but minus the hardware. The clients purchase the hardware directly from CDW, or Amazon, and ZOOM does the installation, commissioning, training, and then charges a monthly fee for the ZOOM software. Boom, ZOOM! That is how AVaaS is done, people. Readers, take notes.
AVaaS is the OPPOSITE of what most AV companies call “Service”. Say the word “service” to most integrators, and they will think “some old client called, they must have broke something, or they are otherwise unhappy, now someone has to drive over there and see what needs to be repaired, replaced, or just rebooted”
I try to explain AV as a Service using the cell phone model. The average American cell phone user often spends a few hundred dollars on their phone, plus a monthly fee for service. Ok, I know, they mean cell service, aka coverage, but it’s the same model.
You need cell service or wifi to use your mobile devices, right? You need the calling or chatting software, plus the other apps, to run on your phone, or it is worthless, right? Some of those apps are free, some are a one time fee, others you might pay monthly. Some SaaS sales models will offer the first month free, then a monthly fee, or a discount if you pay annually. This is how you need to structure you AVaaS business.
OLD WAY: Integrator sells client conference room hardware, installation, and one time programming fee for the DSP and Control System. Annual service plan is optional.
NEW WAY: Integrator sells the client the hardware once, or leases it to them. For the hardware to work, the client pays the integrator a monthly fee, which includes all service calls and software upgrades. The client pay a monthly fee per room, just like you pay a monthly fee for your cell phone. In return, they get free reports because you are now monitoring their AV systems for bulb life, energy usage, and downtime.
Savvy programmers will figure out a way to lock the AV systems if the client misses payment, just imagine the touchscreen and wall-mounted flat panel display saying…
But most importantly, please remember that AV as a Service, is just that, a service! We are now in a service industry, not a sales industry. Customers can buy AV gear with a click of a mouse; what we offer our clients is our professional services. Keep that in mind the next time you get a “service call”. Instead of being annoyed, be glad your services are still needed. -pk
Like this post? You also may enjoy “We Used To Be Heroes” by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D
We’re sorry. Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line, and the next available customer service representative will be with you shortly.
Sound familiar? Well, it should, as many telephone systems have similar recordings that usually repeat every 30 seconds while you wait on hold for 3 minutes… or 30 minutes… it really depends on who you are, and reason you are “on hold”.
If I am ordering a pizza, for instance, and I get put on hold for more than 5 minutes, I know they are busy, and I will often just hang up and dial another establishment. But if I am trying to reach my credit card company or cable provider, I usually have a reason that I need to call them in particular, not someone else. Oftentimes, it does not matter when I call, I will be put on hold.
In the old days, you would be put on hold and hear nothing. Silence. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But I guess some people did not know if they were still on hold after hearing silence for a few minutes, so someone invented “music on hold”. The music source could be a service like Muzak but usually, it was just a short loop recording of classical music that would repeat.
Then one day, someone (let’s call him or her The Devil) got the bright idea to add the “We’re sorry. Your call is very important to us…” and made it REPEAT OVER AND OVER. Does this really help anyone? Seriously, I swear, it was The Devil, Bobby Boucher, The Devil!
The last time I was put on hold, it was even worse: in between the verbal lashings of digitally remastered sarcasm mentioned above, they had inter-weaved advertisements for their services! It was at that moment that I realized we need a revolution. If We, The People, have to be put on hold, we demand respect; I personally think we should be educated and/or entertained while on hold. Here is what I think should happen:
You have been put on hold and you are listening to an automated telephone system. I will try to make it as painless as possible by speaking to you in a polite, personal tone.
First, push 1 to mute me at anytime; push 1 to un-mute me.
You will be on hold for approximately 10 minutes. That is a estimate, and I will try to keep you updated if that amount of time changes significantly. You can press 2 at any time to find out the estimated time you will still be on hold.
Now for some entertainment, if you are in the mood for it…
Press 3 for local news, sports, traffic, and weather forecasts
Press 4 to listen to light classical music
Press 5 for jazz, funk, and r&b music
Press 6 for rock or indie music
Press 7 for rap and hip hop music
Press 8 for country music
Press 9 to hear these options again
Otherwise, I will leave you to wait in silence, ok? Just speak up if you need something. Sorry about putting you on hold. I know its really rude, but we do it to keep our internal expenses to a minimum, which in the end, should mean cheaper prices for you. Thanks for waiting.
Five Alternative Uses For Your Infocomm CTS, CTS-D, and/or CTS-I Certification Pins
By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D
Earlier this week, CEPro reported that Infocomm was changing the CTS, CTS-D, and CTS-I certification tests as of July 1, 2013 “to reflect changes in the AV Industry”. I am not surprised they are changing the tests; not that there was anything particularly wrong with the old tests. But I saw it coming…
About a year ago, Infocomm asked me and a dozen other CTS-D holders to attend a one day round table discussion about the current CTS-D test, and what could be improved. The biggest topic of the day seemed to be LAN infrastructure, and how more and more AV devices need to be on public or private data networks. There was also a larger need for trade coordination that should be evident in the new tests.
Well, all this talk of CTS, CTS-I and CTS-D tests got me thinking about the whole process, including the lovely gold lapel pins that Infocomm sends you when you pass one of the tests.
I wore my CTS pin to at least one interview. I wear the CTS-D pin to trade shows sometimes, but I think I am in the minority because I rarely see them. Yet Infocomm still sends them out every 3 years, assuming you have earned the proper RUs and renewed your certification.
So I started to wonder what everyone does with their “unused” pins; and I came up with the following Five alternate uses for your Infocomm CTS, CTS-D, or CTS-I pins:
1. Infocomm Certified Golf Ball Marker
2. Infocomm Certified Miniature Belt Buckle
3. Infocomm Certified Bottle Opener
4. Infocomm Certified Ear Piercing
5. Infocomm Certified Letters With Wax Seal
What alternative ways have you used your CTS, CTS-D, or CTS-I certification pin? Any crazy ideas? Send them to email@example.com.
ps- One reader wrote me an email and said “I have always used my pins as a tie tack behind the tie to hold the tail in place. That way you see nothing on the front of the tie.” Another reader suggestions included using their CTS-D pins as tacks on their corkboard. Keep the suggestions coming!