Does Your AV Vendor Taste Like Cardboard?

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Vowing to do better, PSAV changes to Encore

How warm and fuzzy did you feel about that in-house audiovisual company at your last event? Chances are pretty good the vendor might have been PSAV, the ubiquitous “preferred” AV partner at hotels across the country. Well, no matter what you may have thought of PSAV in the past, the AV giant is trying to shift its role and perception in the marketplace. And in the process, the 80-year-old company is rebranding—by adopting the name of Encore, one of its many recent acquisitions.

PSAV Senior Vice President of Sales John Rissi admits the company’s makeover will take time.

Rissi says the “Domino’s Pizza moment” came four years ago, at a forum he attended, when a customer described the company as “inevitable.” He realized the image planners have of his company did not measure up to the larger role in shaping the experience he believes the company should be playing.

“That was a wake-up call,” he says. “We went back and asked ourselves, How do we go from inevitable to desirable? Yes, we are big, and we are everywhere, but we also want you to use us because we are easy to work with, convenient and add value.”

Just as the 60-year-old pizza-delivery company announced it was going to change its recipe after going public with customer surveys that said its product tasted like cardboard, the legacy AV provider is admitting it needs to change and is investing in national sales teams and informational software to improve the relationship.

Beyond Equipment Rental

Rissi traces the current image of the company to its roots as a collection of disparate equipment companies. “We have moved beyond [that]. We are transforming into an event-experience company because meetings unleash human potential,” he says.

As the company grew, it focused on hotel partners, rather than planner customers. Now, PSAV is in 2,200 hotels all over the world, and the same customers come into contact with its teams repeatedly. “We want to work closer with them,” he says. “The person writing the check is our customer. We are reorganizing the relationship to focus on the holistic experience of the customer, and not just the event that happens to be passing through the venue.”

A More Consistent Experience

One problem Rissi and his team will have to overcome is that planners are reporting their experience with PSAV at different venues is “uneven.”

The company is responding with a new set of production standards to create operational consistency for all 12,000 technicians. New software puts the planner’s history of past requests and how well the event went at other locations in the hands of the technician on site.

“Technicians have the most contact with customers, but had the least amount of information about them; that is changing,” Rissi says.

A new customer-support phone number and website (866-461-2577, psav.com/connect) will make it possible for planners to talk about requirements even before a hotel has been selected. Consolidated project management teams that are focused on the event’s goals, rather than a project list, will work with meeting professionals. Consultants are being trained to ask questions about the planner’s goals, and then to present good, better and best options targeted to the experience instead of prices for pieces of equipment.

The change could reduce the cost of paying a traveling team, Rissi says.

Other Changes on the Way

Rissi wants PSAV to be seen as an industry thought leader that can help with branding, messaging, content and even apps. The new branding is intended to make that evolution more obvious, inside and outside the company. 2020 is the year of integrating Encore Event Technology, which was acquired in 2019, and bringing the entire organization together.

“We hope by end of 2020, we will be a unified company and the partner of choice,” Rissi says.

5 Questions to Ask Your AV Tech

1. What would you recommend for making a greater impact with my budget?

If you only ask one question, this is it. No one knows the space better than an on-site event-experience team.

2. What other services do you offer?

In-house AV companies can often provide teleconferencing, content design and event internet. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

3. Are there any exciting new technologies I can employ?

From a new mobile engagement app to improved projection, technology is changing quickly, so find out if there are options you haven’t considered.

4. Who will be my point of contact, and how hands-on will that person be?

Don’t wait until you’ve already signed a contract to ask this question (or worse, until there’s a day-of crisis). Ask upfront who will handle which parts of your meeting.

5. What information do you need from me?

Communication is a two-way street, and your AV partner may have questions that can spark ideas.

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