by Andy Wehmeyer, Harman Global Product Line Manager, Mobile Aftermarket
Car audio is different. While the rest of the business world tries its best to eliminate the need for expertise in the interest of reducing people cost and while the CE industry clamors to build audio products so diminutive that they can be lost forever under a tissue and so simple to use that no owner’s manual is necessary, those of us in the aftermarket category need to wake up. In car audio, expertise is worth millions and every piece of market research explains why in bold letters: In this category, consumers love great sound but they hate risk. Retail installation poses the greatest risk and consumers know it.
Many consumers also say that the car is their favorite place to listen. Is it any wonder? The most basic car audio system with four factory installed speakers includes nearly 150 times the cone area of the smallest pocket speaker designed for Bluetooth streaming. Add a 12” woofer, and you double that to nearly 300 times the cone area. What’s more, the speakers are installed in locations that always provide stereo reproduction and a surround sound experience. Yes, to many consumers, just the existence of rear speakers is surround sound. Compare that to the common home theater setup with all seven speakers sitting on top of the TV and even the most basic car audio system provides a more believable listening experience than almost any other listening space. Guess what? For many consumers, that experience whets their appetite for even better sound.
So, who does the aftermarket industry entrust to provide audio nirvana and trouble-free implementation of products designed to make audio enthusiasts of music lovers? Installers. The best ones are seasoned experts who have honed their skills and learned on their own to be fabricators, technicians, acousticians and customer service professionals. Many, however, are young guys, working on the sidewalk or in an alley behind the store in the freezing cold or the scorching sun. Many are untrained, have been on the job for less than two years and are actively looking for something better, even though they love what they do and desperately want to be the best at it. These are the guys who have to compete with the PhDs that design and tune the factory systems that they’ve been asked to upgrade. (Continued after the break)
It’s time for the car audio aftermarket to step up. Consumers want the benefit of what we sell and they’re willing to pay for it, but we have to convince them that their fears of risk are unfounded. That’s going to take work, humility and patience. Most of all it’s going to take competence and we’re all going to have to contribute to helping installers become more competent. We don’t denigrate babies because they can’t add and subtract. Wwe teach them and they’re programmed to learn. Installers are young and passionate. They’re also under serious pressure to know more than they know and to be the experts they aren’t yet. Peer pressure in the bays causes them to state opinion as fact and to resist the urge to ask for help.
In every workplace, employees should feel free to stand up and scream from their cubicle, office, workbench or installation bay, “Something is wrong and I need help!” without fear that they’ll be denigrated, ridiculed or fired. Shop owners must provide that environment and manufacturers and industry organizations must be prepared to provide the information that’s required in a friendly way. Installers must be willing to read, to check their bravado at the door of the training room and to help their colleagues.
The path to basic level MECP certification is a good start, but more must be done. Technicians should be encouraged to ascend the levels of MECP certification to Advanced and Master levels.More experienced peers should be encouraged to provide guidance in a team effort. The industry at large must recognize that training and advancement of skills is more than a luxury, it’s a necessity and it must be ongoing. We must all be involved. We must all change our behavior and we must all work as a team. Most of all, we’re all going to have to do a little more work, spend a little more money and upgrade the service we provide to the installers that we all depend on to successfully implement the innovation that we’re all so desperately working on. Our customers are counting on us.
Some informal discussions have begun among industry insiders and we’ll be looking for new ideas and new ways help installers gain the skills they need. If you’d like to get involved, please email me at [email protected], Todd Ramsey at [email protected] or email MECP at [email protected].
Photo credit: IntallerNet.com