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Builder Snubs High-End Integrator Who Said, ‘Not My Job’

Integrator installed high-end home automation system, but left cable TV activation to client; homebuilder refuses to use that installer again.


I've recently had the opportunity to see our industry from the other side of the fence and it's been an invaluable experience.

I wanted to start by relating an exchange I had on a project recently. I heard a builder who builds very high-end homes (usually $10M plus) relate a story about a company they had stopped referring in our field.

They were walking the client through the home for the first time and they asked the integrator to give the client an introduction to the Crestron system.

The worker who was there started to show it to them and during the process he was asked to show the client how to watch cable TV.

The integrator explained that he could not show cable TV to them because the cable boxes had not been installed yet and the client needed to order cable.

The builder relayed this story to explain why he would never use them again. From the builder’s perspective it was totally unacceptable that he was giving the client an introduction to the home and the integrator had never bothered to make sure cable TV was ordered and activated.

As I heard it, it occurred to me that it's a story that every one of us should remember.

The integrator might have worked his butt off, he might have installed and programmed the system beautifully, but none of that meant anything.

All that mattered to that builder was that he wanted to show the system off to the client and couldn't show him what -- in his mind -- was the most basic thing.

You can glean your own moral/s from this story, but it reminded me in spades of the types of issues that plague our industry, and how others can perceive it.




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Article Topics

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About the Author

David Haddad
David Haddad is principal of Vidacom, a Chicago-based integration firm that specializes in high-end home control, audio, video, lighting control and other home systems. Vidacom designs and installs systems throughout the U.S. Haddad also manages the dealer-only site Electronics Systems Integrators. David is a member of the inaugural CE Pro Blog Mob at CEDIA Expo 2012.

28 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  10/17  at  12:00 PM

We have had the no-loose-ends mentality for a decade+. If i notice something at a job that isn’t even related to us i make a note and contact everyone related to the issue to make sure it gets resolved. I always start at the bottom then work my my towards the client to avoid stepping on toes but if the issue doesn’t get resolved i will.

How on earth could the integrator make it all the way to the end of the job and not have cable boxes installed? Crazy.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  10/17  at  12:06 PM

Shame on the integrator for not asking the client. My guess is that the homeowner was indecisive on whether to go with cable vs. satellite vs. OTA and it slipped through the cracks.

Posted by joel degray  on  10/17  at  12:45 PM

Is there a complete version of this story?
I don’t see enough detail to go so far as to place shame.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/17  at  01:30 PM

Joel, it’s always tough to place blame when we don’t know the complete back-story, but the story is useful nonetheless. It’s those little things that can make or break a relationship.

Posted by joel  on  10/17  at  01:52 PM

Julie, actualy with out detail it’s pretty useless. You don’t know if the integrator held the line at activating a Cable Account in his own name for the client when the Contractor “Home Owner” wouldn’t. Many times the Contractor carries Elec, Cable / Telco and Alarm charges until the home is turned over.

At that point the story should be integrator fires abusive contractor…

Posted by David Haddad  on  10/17  at  03:35 PM

The point of the article is not about who was “right” or “wrong”, although I think there’s enough info to draw a conclusion about that.  The fact is that the integrator damaged their relationship with a high-end builder over an issue that may have seemed small to the integrator, but was huge to the builder and the Client.

From the builders perspective, it was probably like handing the Client a house without electric service and telling them they needed to call and get it turned on.
We need to see the experience from the customers viewpoint, not ours, and make sure they are addressed.

Posted by Westcojack  on  10/17  at  07:19 PM

IMHO even if it is not a part of your job, what is the problem in sending a few well placed emails to the GC &  asking if they ordered the cable, internet, incomming phone lines, etc.
It may remind them to do it, but also makes your job easier in the long run if these items are in when YOU need them.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  10/17  at  08:57 PM

Cable service is pretty important IMO. Should have been addressed just like cabinetry (correct dimensions) and getting the control room sheetrocked, painted and tiled. Anything between you and the system being completed is your problem. Obviously i am not saying you should be working for free. Bill for all of your time and make sure you can complete your project.

Posted by Jeff Gardner / CEDIA  on  10/18  at  06:17 AM

Our training always emphasizes being “part of the solution, not part of the problem”.  Regardless of whose responsibility it might be, clients (especially high-end) should be able to count on their integrator to be the expert who doesn’t let anything “slip through the cracks”.  And just to be sure, all reminders, inquiries, and other communications should be documented.  The most successful ESCs understand that job number one is often making the other stakeholders look good; builder, architect, designer.  Make them look good and they will always want to work with you.  Make them look bad, and…..

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/18  at  09:19 AM

I’m with David. Doesn’t matter who was right or wrong. The end result is that the builder won’t use the integrator again because of the perceived offense.

Posted by Jeff  on  10/18  at  10:30 AM

Even though we don’t know enough about the entire situation,  it seems odd that this wasn’t something that was discussed very early in the job. Also, bells and whistles are great, but what’s most important to my clients is to be able to watch TV.

Posted by bigpapa  on  10/18  at  11:49 AM

Irrelevant who’s to blame: it’s our problem. We are the ‘technology people’ in a residential build. The GC and the client have a bunch of crap to worry about with every trade. Is it too much to ask to have us remind them to order the cable service 6 weeks before the walk through?

And we wonder why we have a credibility problem.

Posted by DLinSC  on  10/18  at  01:07 PM

Are not getting the whole story here.  Was this the final walkthrough and training of the system?  If so, the integrator certainly should have made sure cable was installed, integrated and working.
 
It may also have been early in the “finish” stage, ie not move-in time, but close, and the system was still being worked on.  If this was the case then it seems maybe the builder was being a little to hard on the integrator.

Either way if the integrator had truly done an outstanding job on a 10m total build cost project then they probably should have been given an opportunity to fix the problem..

Posted by David Haddad  on  10/18  at  02:19 PM

As it was related to me it was the official walk through.

I didn’t mention that because I was focused on the larger point at hand.  That point being that you should not assume that a detail that seems small to you may not be huge to the Client.

Using another trades work as an example, the electrician can do a beautiful job of wiring the house, but if I go to the electrical panel and the circuit breakers aren’t labeled, that missed detail may overshadow a lot of good work and effort.

Posted by moving target  on  10/19  at  06:33 AM

I’m going to have to get my own GC license and start building high end homes to avoid this bizzaro world where everything that goes wrong on a job is the low-volt guy’s fault.

If this was the final walk though and no work was being done on the house, I get it.

If this was a single issue with the sub contractor in a long list of issues, I get it.

If this was the builder walk through and he stopped a worker (possibly not even the project lead) from actually installing the system and asked for a demo, I don’t.

Not enough information is given to make a decision on who was at fault but ordering cable services should be on everyone’s punch list - that INCLUDES the builder.

Builders know services like electrical and water need to be hooked up. On a $10m project I’d *expect* my builder to be smart enough to realize I’d need cable at some point.

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