Working With a Custom Installer, Part 2

After repeatedly encountering the same issues working with customers at my custom installation firm, I decided a series of columns on working with an installer might help. While this is written through the lens of working on an A/V project, many of these tips are applicable when hiring any trade to do work in your home. And I dare say that following these suggestions will make the project — and your relationship with the installation team — go smoother for everyone.

In Part 1 of this series, I covered what you should plan for leading up to the day of the installation. These include things like being there, emailing pictures of the work area, understanding the scope of what is expected, checking over any gear you are providing, clearing out the work area, and how to handle cancellations.

In this part, I’m going to focus on things you should expect on the day of the installation.

COMMUNITY/PARKING ACCESS. Do you live in a gated community? If so, don’t forget to make arrangements for the company to get through the gate so they can actually get to your jobsite. I can’t tell you how many long minutes our vans just sat at a gate waiting for the guard to try and reach the homeowner (or been turned away completely). Also, if you live in an area that has difficult parking, go over any special requirements — especially where they can park and unload gear.

BE THERE. Yes, this was in my last blog, but its importance can’t be overstated. Everything goes smoother when the client is physically present. Whether it is answering the installer’s questions or asking any of your own, directing where something should go, or learning how everything operates when the work is done, being there and available — not locked away on a phone call — is always beneficial. While this might seem obvious, it is probably one of our biggest issues. Also, if you do have to leave, make sure any questions are answered before you go and the installation team knows how to get hold of you, or at least arrange to have someone else present who understands what work is being done.

WEAR CLOTHES/PANTS. This may seem obvious, but this awkwardness has happened enough that it is worth mentioning. First off, “client comes to door naked” is never in that “letters to Penthouse” sort of way, but always just super creepy. And wearing clothes means more than a robe that likes to gape open. Also, if we’re going to be working throughout the home and a client decides to go into a bedroom to change or take a shower, the least they can do is lock the door!

PUT PETS AWAY. Cats are not really an issue — unless someone is allergic — but three-quarters of our company’s employees have been bitten by a dog while working. Some more than once. And even if your dog doesn’t bite, having to constantly trip over, be jumped on, or licked by your friendly pup while we’re working in cabinetry or going through our tools is just another obstacle to completing the job.

HAVE INFO READY. As I mentioned in my previous blog, “Time is Money,” and if you have several installers standing around waiting for an answer or while you are trying to find something, the downtime can add up. More and more modern equipment requires an account to be created, email verified, and sometimes credit card info entered. If you have an existing Wi-Fi network, have the password handy. If you want the team to set up your streaming accounts — Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc. — — make sure that info is available. There have been times when we’ve had three guys literally waiting an hour while someone went through the process of recovering, resetting, or reaching out to family members trying to get login info.

PUT AWAY THE PARAPHERNALIA. In the past, it used to be the awkwardness of finding a client’s VHS or DVD porn stash; I once pressed “Play” to test the system to have Naughty Nurses Vol: 3 appear on the screen in a room full of people. We’ve also run into all manner of drugs and, umm, drug paraphernalia, as well as firearms just lying around. All this stuff sitting out in the open makes us really uncomfortable. And customers should try and abstain from actually using drugs while we’re there.

GENERAL HOUSEKEEPING. We’re likely going to be at your home all day, so if you’d let us know up front which bathroom we can use, that is great. Also, being offered some water/soda is never necessary, but always appreciated, especially if we’re doing any attic work. And total bonus points if you get us lunch! This is never expected, but there is definitely something to the adage about catching more flies with honey.

ONE MORE THING… Unless you’re Steve Jobs giving an Apple presentation, please don’t “just-one-more-thing” us at the end of the day. Give us the full scope of work upfront, and any add-ons as soon as you think of them. Something like, “Do you think you would be able to do a couple more things while you’re here?” is easier to plan for when it happens at the beginning of the day instead of when we are loading up to leave. And waiting until after the installer has finished carefully wiring and dressing a rack or retrofitting cabling is not the time for to suddenly remember you have a couple more things you’d like done.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss the things you should expect and do after the installation is completed.

The Author
For the past 20 years, John Sciacca has worked as a custom installer in South Carolina. In his free time, he enjoys drinking craft beer and watching movies on his 7.2.6 surround system.