Working With a Custom Installer, Part 3

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

The client/installer relationship has different aspects depending on the project’s phase. In Part 1 of this series, I covered things you should plan on leading up to the day of installation. This included being there, emailing pictures of the work area, understanding the scope of work, confirming that any gear you are providing is available, working, and has all needed parts, clearing out the work area, and how to handle cancellations.

Part 2 covered the day of the installation. We discussed going over parking and gated community access, and covered being there, being available, wearing clothes (!), having things like your log-in information ready, and putting away any pets or “paraphernalia” Also, housekeeping items like using the bathroom and water, and not “just one more thing…”-ing the installation team at the end of the day.

In this final part, I focus on things you should expect after the install is completed, whether on that day if it’s a small job or in the days after a larger project.

MAKE TIME TO LEARN HOW TO USE THE SYSTEM. Depending on the size and complexity of the system, coupled with the relative knowledge and experience of the people using it, learning how to use the new system can feel like drinking from a firehouse. Often there are multiple people in the home that will be using the system, and it’s helpful to have all the necessary people there and available to learn how to use the system.

Often, we are left in the home with a disinterested partner or relative, trying to explain something they don’t understand and couldn’t care less about, and then relying on them to pass on the explanations to the principal user. This is always a recipe for failure — and return visits.

CHECK EVERYTHING. Plan on having enough time to check over the entire system. Can you use smart remote controls to operate the system? Is the audio working in all the rooms it’s supposed to? Do you have the streaming services you want? Do you have all the required apps? Do you know how to find, open, and use them — and are you logged in? Do the lights and shades work?

If a network was installed, do you have a strong signal and responsive internet around the house? I’d rather spend extra time walking around the home with the owner(s) going through the system than get a call a week later saying we need to return because something “never” worked.

MAKE A LIST OF QUESTIONS. Undoubtedly, you will have some questions. If you take the time to ask a question, give us the time to answer. Don’t just fire off one question after another without letting us address the first. And when we’re showing you how to use the system, try to stay on point. If we are in the middle of going over how to use the surround system in the living room, don’t jump into something you thought about in the bedroom, or the house audio system, or with the cameras, or…

Also, please don’t just start jabbing buttons on the remote, especially if you can see we are literally in the middle of working on the programming or talking about how to use it. Or really, ever. Random button pressing is seldom the solution.

TAKE NOTES. On a big job, there are nearly always going to be some “punch list” things for us to come back to fix or tweak. Especially if it involves something like programming for an automation system where you might only know what you want the home to do once you’ve lived in it for a bit. When you think of something that isn’t working or that you’d like changed, write it down and keep a list.

Having a list to work off of makes it easier for us and ensures we can address everything and then work through the list with you. This greatly speeds up the training and troubleshooting process, as techs can focus on the items that are an issue or need extra explanation.

If there is a programming request like for an automation system, be as specific as possible. Something like, “I’d like this list of lights to come on at 55% and these shades to close every day 30 minutes before sunset, or when I press this button.”

In many cases, you and the install company will be working together on follow-ups, service visits, and upgrades for years to come. Establishing a good rapport early paves the road to a successful relationship!

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.