September 04, 2008
| by Richard M. Sherwin
Denver, Colorado…Opening day at CEDIA, the nation’s fastest growing technology-based trade show, was pretty successful despite the recession and general downturn in custom installed products and systems. While the custom install business is less vulnerable to economic downturns because of its higher than average financial demographic, the recent rise in gas prices and product manufacturing has taken a toll on this heretofore thriving business because of the slowdown in new housing construction. However, the throngs of custom installers and manufacturers converging on this town which was still reeling from the Democratic Convention hangover…was banking on a second half economic recovery.
But another aspect of a show this size, which encompasses a ton of sophisticated equipment, is that this equipment requires the best of the best or what you might say was the installers’ installer to get it up and running. And to keep it running requires the best technicians that these companies have to offer.
But while thousands of participants have converged on the Colorado Convention Center, it stands to reason that huge personnel turnouts like this one can and will affect general operations of these manufacturers as they show off their wares to the installers, industry participants and even the not so credentialed people attending the soiree.
Also, just like giants of other industries, many of these firms have seen job freezes and cutbacks in certain product development and behind the scenes support services and personnel. And if the big guys are sending their best here, who is watching the store at those customer support centers? Some award winning smaller manufacturers like VuDu, the video rental download service, are still demoing here despite huge executive and employee cutbacks. TiVo, despite a terrific second quarter, also may be considering layoffs.
And if accepted guidelines for consumers is not to expect great tech or customer support on weekends or holidays, I think from my discussions here, you should add trade show weeks like this one, the giant Consumer Electronics Show in January and several overseas trade shows, as another time period to either avoid calling those toll free numbers. Or if you have to call during those time periods, don’t expect excellent help for your audio, video or computer products. The main reason, especially for sophisticated questions or second level support is that as many of the firms large and small traditionally bring their A-team of tech support people to the venues like this. The best second tier and experienced support help may be working the booths setting up equipment and making the products work well for the large gathering here.
A quick call to a group of manufacturers the last few days, resulted in longer than usual waits for customer support, technical support and even install support. You too could experience longer than usual waits for service or in the case of smaller companies, you may get a no answer or leave a message response.
While a Panasonic spokesman here in Denver said that his company has its own trade show personnel to set up trade shows worldwide, my call to the special custom installer hotline at several home-networking firms and their general customer support went unanswered and a second call resulted in “Please Leave a Message.” If I was a new customer I probably would have returned my recently purchased high-speed digital download rental and purchase service.
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.