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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Translating Client-Speak for Custom Installers

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Over the years, I’ve had my share of customers that used odd vernacular to describe things that I had to interpret what they were actually trying to say. One client called up complaining that his monitor wasn’t working. “Monitor?” I asked. “You mean the TV?” “No, not my TV, my monitor.” “Which TV are we talking about?” “My monitor! Not TV, Monitor!” We went back and forth for several minutes before I was able to figure out that by “monitor” he meant “remote control.” (I’m still not sure how that has any correlation, but, what can you do? This is also a customer who I drove 45 minutes up to his home to avert a “My TV isn’t working!” crisis that turned out to be the result of him not knowing he needed to plug his new TV into the electrical outlet. So, probably not the most intuitive guy I’ve ever worked with.)


But after enough client encounters where the same incorrect terminology is used over and over, I thought I would make all of your lives considerably easier by giving you a handy translation guide so you’ll be able to cut right to what people are really asking you for.


“I want an Intercom…”


Usually this means that they lived in an older home that had some kind of NuTone or M&S intercom system and they liked that they could use the radio in the main unit to play music around the house. Did they use the actual intercom part? Unlikely. What they’re really after is some kind of housewide audio system. The straightest way to the heart of this is a follow-up of, “Do you want to be able to listen to music all around the house, or do you actually want to be able to talk from one room to another and call people to dinner?”


“I want surround sound around the house…”


In its most literal definition, having speakers around your home would technically surround you with audio. But to custom installers “surround sound” means a very specific thing, involving processing, speaker placement, a video display, etc. But like the intercom request, this is just another way of a customer asking for housewide audio. A great follow-up is, “Surround sound usually means five speakers and a subwoofer and is mainly for watching TV and movies. Is that what you are looking for, or do you just want to have music around your house?”


“I need a splitter for my modem.”


It’s certainly getting better, but proper networking terminology still escapes many people. Responding to this with, “Oh, do you need a router or a switch?” will likely return the same 1,000 yard stare as if you’d just launched into a discussion of Euclidian geometry. You might be able to figure this out by asking if they already have anything connected to their modem, but chances are good they won’t know. Probably the safest bet to assume they just need a router, but be sure and tell them that they don’t want to have two routers installed and what they might really need is a switch.


“My TV isn’t working.” Note: Alternatively pronounced as, “That TV you sold me isn’t working!”


To the customer, any event where the TV isn’t showing the picture they are expecting is a case of, “My TV isn’t working.” Of course, there is a rainbow of “not working” possibilities. There is not working the TV is broken. There is not working the TV is on the input or some other setting. There is not working they messed something up. Then there is the 90% of the time not working where it is a case of the cable box locking up and needing to be rebooted… Of course, it’s your job to figure out which kind of not working you’re dealing with. My first question here is, “By not working, do you mean that it won’t even power on?” If it physically won’t power on, then you’ve got a variety of other potential problems. Usually though the answer is, “Oh, it’s on. It just says, ‘This channel cannot be displayed. Please contact (insert name of cable provider) for tech support.’” And, while there would be some real gratification in saying something smart like, “Oh, I’m so flattered. Your TV literally told you to call the cable company, and yet you chose to call me instead! That means so much to me!” the satisfaction is fleeting, I assure you.


“My system is broken.” Aka: “Nothing is working!” and also, “MY SYSTEM IS BROKEN!”  


Barring some kind of catastrophic electrical event – say a direct hit from a lightning bolt that probably also burned their house to the ground or a rogue EMP that wipes out all of the microprocessors for miles around – the chances of everything going down at once are infinitesimal. Far more likely, there is a single component that is the root cause. (You did already rule out that it isn't the cable box acting up, right? In fact, even if the cable box IS working, why don't you just have them give it a quality pre-emptive reboot...?) Common culprits can be a surge protector that has been somehow turned off, keeping everything from powering on. An A/V receiver that isn’t on or that is on the wrong input can also give the appearance of everything being down. But, in my experience many of these crisis calls boil down to something with the remote control, and often that something is dead batteries…


“It has brand new batteries!” or “I just put in new batteries.”


I’m not sure what the aversion to, “Have you changed the batteries?” is but it is almost like you are accusing them of neglecting their kids or something. And when it comes to changing batteries people seem to live in Inception-time, like three layers down in dream world.  What feels to like having just done something, often means they did it weeks or months ago. I usually try and ask them to just humor me and try putting in some freshies. It’s possible the other batteries were bad or, you know, really changed like three month ago.


Keep reading at Resi Systems to find out the rest of the translations you need to be an installer...

Categories: April 2013, CTA, Rants

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