Trouble with training?

UK based AV consultant Jerome Worthy airs his views on the standards of training amongst integrators and offers some suggestions on how to improve the situation.

It always amazes me how many AV companies won’t put some time and effort into training their technical staff. The number of times I have watched field engineers try to set up a piece of equipment without the correct knowledge or programming software is beyond belief. Time and again they have turned up and been faced with a problem on a piece of equipment they can’t resolve, a problem they probably could resolve if they had the product knowledge and suitable analytical engineering skills.

When an end-user requests technical help from their AV supplier that’s exactly what they expect to receive – technical help. The end user is paying for the service either on an hourly rate or under a maintenance agreement, and therefore has every right to expect that the person who turns up has a good technical ability, understands how AV systems operate, can read the site documentation and has the ability to track down faults.

Sadly, this isn’t the reality. All too often engineers who can’t understand the system operation, read the site documentation, don’t have the fault analysing skills or the knowledge set up the various pieces of equipment arrive on site and try to bluff their way through.

Time and again, AV companies fail to correctly set up the various pieces of equipment, instead they simply use the settings from a previous job and hope it will work. Audio processors that don’t switch correctly, control systems with unstructured and bugged programming, plasma screens and projectors where the image isn’t set up correctly – the list goes on and on.

Almost all manufacturers run detailed training courses on their products, covering how to set them up and how they work in the field. Most of these courses are free. AV companies say they can’t spare the time for the staff to go on the training courses and then send untrained staff out into the field, to try and muddle through the jobs as best they can. However, if the staff were sent on the training courses, they would have the knowledge to set up the equipment first time, every time without trying to fudge things and constantly ringing others for help.

Properly trained engineers spend less time on site, the job would be completed quicker and would be executed correctly the first time. The customer would be happy at having the work carried out correctly with the minimum of fuss and the installation company would make more profit by not having to send staff back to fix problems that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

AV dealers need to start investing in their staff. By sending staff on training courses, the management will be demonstrating how they value the staff by investing time and money in their employees. The manufacturers will be happy because there are more engineers trained on their products. And, most important of all, the customer will be happy at having a better quality installation.

All dealers should start by getting their staff CTS certified by the ICIA. Whilst that qualification isn’t the be-all and end-all of AV installation, it’s a good start. Next, send your field engineers on training courses with manufacturers such as Clear one, Polycom, Kramer, Extron, Tandberg, Creston, AMX etc.

Ah, but ‘my staff will go off and work elsewhere’ I hear all the dealers cry. ‘I invested the time and money in training the staff and they left’. Well, that’s the risk in any industry but by training your staff, the company is demonstrating their value and loyalty to the employee. This training also means that the engineers will be better at their jobs, and therefore the employers will get more productivity from the staff.

And if you don’t train your staff, your employees may leave anyway. And if they leave they will take your customers with them to their new employer, who does send them on training courses, which enable them to deliver better service to the customer. A sobering thought.

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