Editorial: Getting What You Pay For
Aug 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Mark Johnson
I am, like most soundmen, full of opinions about sound: how things should sound relating to a mix, how loud is too loud, and so on. I also have opinions about other aspects of the industry, one of them being product distribution channels, or how the product gets from the manufacturer to the customer. There are a few traditional distribution options to take: manufacturer to rep to dealer to customer, manufacturer to dealer to customer, and manufacturer to customer.
Acting as an advocate for the customer, I would prefer one of the first two options. It could be argued that the most direct path is the best; no one is between the manufacturer and the customer, so the customer gets the best pricing possible. You have direct access to the manufacturer’s “knowledge bank,” so as the customer, you come out ahead, right? Well, not so fast. My church had a wireless mic system that was purchased through some discount channel (before my arrival on the scene). When the mic was damaged, it was sent directly to the manufacturer for repair. After an extended period, we called the manufacturer to check on the status. It had no record of the mic, and to make matters worse, we had no paper trail to prove the existence of the mic (but that’s another story). So for all intents and purposes, we were out one wireless mic.
As the audio team discussed future paths for equipment purchases, getting the best possible price from a discount house was raised. I advocated a local dealer with substantial installation experience as well as a rental division. The price from the local dealer was higher than the discount house, but I argued that we couldn’t get the kind of customer support we needed from a discount house. The counter was that if a product broke, the dealer would (especially if the product were under warranty) send it back to the manufacturer anyway, so why not send it back directly? My argument was that we represented more business to the dealer (we purchased more than just a wireless mic system from it) than we did to the manufacturer, and the dealer represented more business to the manufacturer (not only did it buy our system from the manufacturer but it also bought systems for other customers, as well) so that the dealer wielded more power to be our advocate in getting the product repaired promptly (or in the case of our “lost” wireless system, for the manufacturer to find it or replace it). As our relationship with our local dealer developed, we did receive better pricing, and if we ever needed supplemental equipment for special events or productions, we had access to its rental inventory at favorable pricing or as outright loans. Because the system is a combination of different equipment types from different manufacturers, having the dealer provide insight and support as a systems integrator (even if it’s at a consultation level) is valuable to us as customers.
But what about direct access to the manufacturer’s knowledge bank for support or training? That’s pretty much a given these days. There are some sophisticated end-users out there, and most manufacturers and dealers are savvy enough to provide training, education, and support if that’s what’s warranted.
In this issue, we have more follow-up on InfoComm, including our inaugural Pick Hit products. Cynthia Wisehart, editor of Video Systems, also gives us the scoop on the InfoComm Awards Banquet.