AV integrators and HOW leaders are among the many of us that have been presented with extreme challenges since the onset of the pandemic. For the next four to five minutes of your time, I plan to share my thoughts with you on how the HOW market needs help, how HOW integrators should prioritize customer success and how AVaaS (oh, god — did he say “AVaaS”) has had to adapt, and will continue to need to adapt.
But first, a personal note: You may have noticed a brief interruption in my byline on rAVePUBS.com. I shifted professionally ever-so-slightly and am now working at a mission-driven SaaS technology company, K4Connect. We build and integrate technology solutions for senior living communities: things that help both community staff users and residents engage with each other, stay healthy and remain happy.
With this being said, I have kept my finger on the pulse of ProAV. So when my good friend and rAVe [PUBS] managing editor, Steph Beckett, asked me if I’d be interested in sharing my thoughts on the live events and house of worship markets, I jumped at the opportunity.
The primary goal for the leader of a house of worship is to create and inspire community among their congregation. To no surprise to you or any other reader, this was, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, done in person. Group gatherings, services of worship, communal activities and more are treasured by those belonging to a community of faith. Technology simply augmented the in-person experience. Here are some examples:
- A HOW has an audio system to amplify the voices amongst a physical space.
- A HOW incorporates multimedia (song lyrics, videos, etc.) into gatherings using displays.
- A HOW livestreams a worship service for those that can’t attend in-person with the full understanding that if one could attend in-person, they would.
There was a paradigm shift, obviously, when public health leaders around the world encouraged houses of worship to move their gatherings to a virtual format. House of worship leaders were challenged, not unlike many others, to shift a large portion of their activities — and therefore the work required to prepare and execute said activity — to rely on tools that they previously saw as a support beam and not a concrete foundation. I speak generally when I say that this rocked their world. Technology is now driving a community-based experience:
- A congregation joins a Zoom meeting to take part in their weekly service of worship.
- A HOW shifts its in-person experience to an outside venue and broadcasts audio to car radios or podcast platforms.
- A worship service has attendees present in multiple forms, to include in-person and virtual.
The good integrators helped out HOW leaders. Instead of simply arriving, installing and leaving, they sat and worked with their often-older customer and walked them through how the system that was just integrated would make their life easier. Not to mention their sourcing and installing products that consider the end-user experience and not just the end-user customer experience, but that is a conversation for another day. Remember, the goal of the leader of a house of worship is to build community. I commend these integrators.
We are at the point in which the market will begin to demand a shift. What used to be a professional consulting service (i.e. training and ongoing consulting support) will now need to become a part of an included AVaaS offering. The optimist in me will even argue that our society will become nicer, and leaders of integration companies will want to offer a hand in their service to their customers. There’s a gap that I think HOW integrators should be filling, and here are some of the questions that live in that gap:
- How do I connect my microphone to my Zoom meeting?
- The band’s audio is too loud on the livestream and the speaker’s voice is too soft, but it is the opposite in the physical space.
- I need more than one camera but I don’t know how to even think about when to switch between them.
- YouTube updated its requirements for livestreaming and I don’t know how to update my encoder.
Answering these questions follows the customer-success-focused aaS model. Think of any SaaS company that you have recently worked with. Your customer success manager is your partner. They help you use their tool to solve your problems. Replacing a projector bulb is customer service. Making your customers successful by giving them the tools to do their job is customer success. Integrators that serve HOW customers will need to have this mentality. They’ll need to see themselves as a partner and not a passerby.
Everyone is a high-level technology user now. I heard recently from a friend that their 90-year-old dad joined a Zoom meeting to be in church on Sunday. I encourage you to be inspired by the fact that you’re integrating a system that is powering the experience that that 90-year-old is having on a Zoom call. That is so cool.
The convergence of the physical and virtual spaces isn’t going anywhere. HOWs aren’t going anywhere and neither are HOW integrators. Differentiate by providing customer success — not customer support and the world is your oyster.