A Closer Look at the Pro AV Distributor and Labor Markets

Published: December 5, 2019

Technology installers in many ways can be looked at as project managers. The logistics of being an AV integrator can be complicated. That’s why so many firms rely heavily on a pro AV distributor.

Integrators are in charge of procuring multiple products from disparate manufacturers and ensuring that they arrive to the job site on time and as ordered. Once they reach the site, integrators need the skilled technicians that can install the products correctly and on time.

Distribution companies have risen as an answer to some of these problems. The goal of a pro AV distributor is to help ease the burden of purchasing multiple products from multiple sources and tracking them through the shipment process.

Related: Choosing a Value Added Distributor: A Comprehensive Guide

Some distributors also offer labor services that allow integration firms to hire out extra employees for the duration of a project. In an ideal world, this helps integration firms focus on their clients and the installation of technology rather than all of the complicated logistics that come with it.

We wondered whether integrators were seeing the fruition of that ideal, or whether there were ways in which pro audio visual distributors and labor subcontractors could better serve the integration market.

In order to learn more, we conducted a survey of our audience.

More than 450 respondents answered questions about distribution and labor subcontracting, and the results painted a picture that visualize three major needs of AV integrators when it comes to working with distributors:

  • AV integrators want consolidation when ordering products
  • AV integrators want distributors that exhibit good customer service and technical knowledge
  • AV integrators need more skilled technicians

Logistics, customer service and skill – that’s the general wish list of our respondents. Let’s dig in to the numbers to learn more.

Most Important Attributes of a Pro AV Distributor

We first asked our audience the most important attributes they consider when choosing an AV distributor. We asked in two different ways – first to rank different attributes on a scale of 1-10, and second to choose the most important attribute.

When ranking attributes on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not at all important and 10 being extremely important, our respondents went for straight monetary attributes such as payment terms and consignment programs for customer service and logistical attributes.

The following list represents the percentage of respondents that chose 10 for the corresponding attribute:

  • Timely product delivery (36.8%)
  • Easy to do business with (36.5%)
  • Knowledgeable support staff (33.3%)
  • Technical support (31.4%)
  • Hassle-free RMAs, claims, and credits (28.2%)
  • Dedicated customer service resource (26%)
  • Web/App ordering (26%)
  • Order consolidation – number of brands available from a single pro AV distributor (26.2%)
  • Dealer-direct pricing programs (25%)

Notice that when ranking, customer service is a top priority for our AV integrator respondents. Having products delivered on time, easy business dealings, and customer service and support staff are highly ranked.

Logistics are also a necessity, with web ordering, hassle free claims, order consolidation, and dealer-direct pricing ranking high.

Ranking attributes is a more generous mechanism – you could rank everything a 10 if you wished. When instead asked about the same attributes, this time allowing respondents to only choose a single, most important attribute, logistics take a leap.

The following represents the percentage of respondents that chose the corresponding attribute as most important:

  • Order consolidation (15%)
  • Exceptional customer experience (11.3%)
  • Easy to do business with (11.3%)
  • Dealer-direct pricing programs (10.3%)

Order consolidation wins out as the most important attribute a distributor could offer. It makes sense – with all of those disparate products built into the system, having the opportunity to make a single order and have someone else handle the shipment is a huge weight off of integrator’s shoulders.

That’s really the general theme respondents highlighted – they aren’t necessarily asking for cheaper, but easier. Better customer service. Better support. More consolidation. More logistical help.

Most Important Attributes of Audio Visual Labor Subcontractors & Techs

We next asked our audience the same types of questions based on their feelings about AV labor subcontractors. Again, we asked them first to rank on a scale of 1-10 and next to choose the most important attributes they consider when choosing AV labor subcontractors.

In the sense of both ranking and choosing, the most important attribute by far was skill.

The following represents the percentage of respondents that chose 10 for the corresponding attribute:

  • Quality technicians (40.6%)
  • Required skill set (40.1%)
  • Good communication on jobs (38.9%)

When asked to rank the most important attribute when hiring an AV labor subcontractor, that theme of skill was held in even higher regard.

The following represents the amount of respondents that chose the corresponding attribute as the most important when selecting Audio Visual labor subcontractors:

  • Quality technicians (38.3%)
  • Required skill set (22.6%)
  • Good communication (10.4%)

It’s clear that above all other things, integrators are looking for skilled, quality technicians when hiring subcontractors, which isn’t all that surprising.

Ultimately, you have someone outside of your company working on projects that directly impact your company’s bottom line. It makes sense that integrators would want to make sure the subcontractor knows what they’re doing and won’t make mistakes that will cost them money.

What about when hiring a full-time AV technician? We asked out respondents for their biggest challenges and biggest fears when hiring a new technician, and again skill was the prevalent theme.

About 54% of respondents said that “finding technicians with necessary technical skills” was the biggest challenge when hiring an AV technician for their company. The biggest fear? 39.2% of respondents chose “inferior work quality.”

The verdict is simple – AV integrators need skilled technicians. Whether hiring for their own firm or subcontracting labor from a third party, integrators are most worried about the skill of the labor on their jobs.

Outsourcing vs. In-House Services

Gaining a better understanding of the distribution and labor needs of AV integrators is only half the story. In order to fill in the rest, we need to understand why they need to outsource work.

What are the services that integrators most often keep in-house, and what are the services that integrators prefer to outsource to a third party? What’s extremely interesting here is that the answers are largely the same.

When asked which services our respondents’ companies provide utilizing their own resources, the top five answers were as follows:

  • Install Labor (53.2%)
  • Engineering (48.1%)
  • Programming (47.9%)
  • Project Management (47.7%)
  • Service/Maintenance (43%)

Now, take a look at the services integrators want to outsource.

We asked our respondents which services they would outsource immediately if they found the right partner, and the top five answers were as follows:

  • Install Labor (33.9%)
  • Service/Maintenance (29.2%)
  • Programming (22.9%)
  • Engineering (20%)
  • Digital content (19.8%)

Notice any similarities? In fact, four of the top five services integrators would outsource immediately if they found the right partner are also the ones they currently most provide using their own resources.

Is this a result of the inability or fear of finding skilled technicians? Is it a boon in the amount of work available and integrators could do more deals with more labor support?

Unfortunately, those aren’t question we asked, as this was a somewhat unexpected finding in the survey. What is clear, however, is that finding the right partner should be a priority for integrators that wish to outsource much of the work they need to keep in-house today.

The Value of the Right Pro Audio Visual Distributor

What have we learned from our respondents?

When choosing a pro AV distributor, it’s clear that customer service is a priority. They want distributors that are easy to work with, and that make work easier. They want responsive, knowledgeable partners.

They also want logistics to be streamlined, specifically by consolidating orders. If you have 20 different products, that means 20 different shipments, payments and potential problems down the line.

A pro AV distributor can bring those shipments together and instead give the integrator one source to reach out to for all needs.

When it comes to labor, it’s all about skill. Integrators need skilled technicians in order to avoid costly mistakes on the project. They’re doing much of their work in-house but would outsource much of the work they’re doing if the right partner was available.

What is the right partner, then? The right pro AV distributor, based on our respondents’ answers, would have spectacular customer service.

They would provide logistical programs that help cut down on the complexity of ordering multiple products from multiple vendors. They would offer labor subcontracting services and would ensure that their subcontractors are technically skilled professionals.

If you can find all of those in your pro AV distributor partner, you’re in good shape.

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