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Tales from the Sharp End: Managing Expectations (2/11/2010)

By The Urbane Installer

Technology Towers' old works bus is on its last legs and we are looking for a replacement. Being 'Up North' where admittedly it is sometimes grim, we figured that it may be nice to buy a Landrover van to enable us to visit our clients in the darkest part of the Moors while still allowing us the space to put all of our rammel in, so the very kind people at Metroville Landrover lent us a commercial Discovery for a day or two to try. While we had it, I had an appointment to visit the Mad Greek, one of our London-based clients. As you can imagine, for us to get into London takes a little while, so an early start was called for and the car needed filling up. It was 5.30am after a bad night's sleep. I rolled up at the Tesco 'Pay at Pump' and promptly dropped GBP85 of petrol into the tank.

Setting off to pick up ÜberGeek, I got no further than two miles down the road and this lovely van started to splutter, cough and cover the traffic behind me in a light oily mist. Yes, the thing was a diesel. In my defence I drive a petrol daily.

It's an easy mistake to make. Isn't it?

So I stopped on the roadside, and a quick Google search showed that I was one in 250,000 people a year who fill up with the wrong fuel. Fortunately there now exist specialists that turn up and drain your tank and get you on your way, and all for a mere GBP140! What that has to do with custom install beats me, but I found it worth mentioning in case anyone else had the misfortune of doing the same. Dare anyone admit to it I wonder? I might stick up a long-term LinkedIn page for you to tell us any of the daft things that happen in your install lives. Feel free to share - we all need a laugh these days.

Expecting too much?

The rush to complete projects by Christmas has already started, and I have a feeling that we will be having to carry the start of some work over to the new year, which brings me onto an issue that was raised in the LinkedIn group about managing client expectations.

We have had our fair share of clients that seem to demand and demand, trying to browbeat you into submission in the fervent belief that they know more about how complicated installing a system can be than you. I think it is crucial that we are accurate and pedantic on both timescales and the functionality that the system will deliver. It is even more important to set these down in writing, even if it's some kind of informal contract. This gives you a base line for the job and also a point from which any change orders and additions can be documented, quoted and more importantly charged for. I wonder how many installers lose time and money by not having the system documented before they start work.

My other pet hate is when a client rings up saying "My Sky has stopped working, can you come out?" We go out, spend time telling him it's because his Sky box is dying and he needs to organise another one, and then he gets upset when you bill him for dealing with a Sky issue. We now tell them, without fail, before we go, that if the fault is not with our equipment, the visit is chargeable.

Product of the month

If I'm honest, the happy little fellow who turned up and removed a tank full of petrol from the landrover should be it, but obviously he's not a product. We were however, saved this month by a small IR to IP box from Keene. It didn't cost much, but allowed us to get around an issue that had been annoying, with incredible ease.

The Keene KIRA128 module allows IR control of almost any equipment via TCP/IP network.

In a jam

The results of our work as an industry can be stunning, but the less glamorous aspects to it are sometimes overlooked. Last week for example, I received a phone call from Pony that simply stated "He's stuck." Pony was on a job with Monkey (as in cable monkey) who does all of our terminations and cable pulling. Monkey was trying to pull a cable under a floor, and had managed to cut a small hatch in the floorboards sufficient for him to get his head and shoulders through. He had wriggled himself into the gap so that he could get a rod set into the right place, but found that he couldn't reverse out again. Being only a short hop from Technology Towers, I rushed over to the site to discover a pair of legs sticking out from the floor, and a disjointed voice from below, uttering a choice selection of expletives. Needless to say, Pony and I had no choice but to take some boards up.

This month's question

As you may be aware, I'm a 3D sceptic, but I'm starting to think that we will have to live with it, AND it's going to be a good profit earner, so I want to know what you feel about 3D. What will clients use it for, and what will its longevity be? Your answers will be welcome via the HiddenWires LinkedIn group.

The Urbane Installer is a systems integrator based in the North of England. Everything he says is true. Messages can be sent to him via urbane[AT]


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