Study Hall

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Bedside Manner: Working More Effectively With Clients

A big part of what we have to do as pro audio practitioners is think a few steps ahead of our customers...

The term “bedside manner” is usually associated with doctors, but I think it’s equally appropriate for any situation where customers are being served in perhaps a technical way and communication between parties is essential.

Psychology matters, and should be considered in the presentation, the choice of words, and certainly the attitude of the vendor or service provider.

Case in point: when I first moved to Albuquerque in 2004, I owned a 1996 BMW 328i. After visiting the local dealer for service a couple of times, I decided that not only did they charge too much, they were snobs. The next time, I took the car to an independent mechanic. He wasn’t a snob, but I still didn’t like his bedside manner.

Long story short, I ended up at another local shop and have been going there ever since (about eight years so far). They just “get it” and know how to talk to their customers. They customize the dialog based on the level of technical knowledge their customers have, and make the expensive repairs just a little less painful with an easygoing manner. And, they’re 100 percent trustworthy. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.

Jedi Mind Tricks

As many of you know, I’m a classical musician on the side. The orchestra that I perform with puts on concerts six times a year at a variety of venues throughout the Albuquerque area.

Every time we visit one particular venue, we arrive to monitor wedges strung across the front of the stage. No one from the orchestra has asked for them, but they are there. Work was put into hauling them out and hooking them up. Time and effort wasted.

What worries me about this is that an unsophisticated audience might easily equate “sound equipment on the stage” with “sound reinforcement is involved.” This is a subtle thing, but I’ve been at gigs where patrons have complained about the “loud volume” and asked to have “the speakers turned down” when the PA wasn’t in use and there were no microphones on stage, although loudspeakers were visible.

When I’ve answered to that effect, I’ve gotten scowls because as far as I can tell, these concerned patrons don’t believe me. Part of the problem is related to my decades-long rant about how shows often really are too loud; in other words, the audience does care, and for acoustic music they don’t want to have their collective face ripped off.

O.K., back to my original point. Who cares if the monitors are on stage if they aren’t being used? To me, it points to a gap in communication. Just like in the military, the job is often to “do exactly what you’re told, nothing more, nothing less.”

The flip side is that in pro audio, it also helps to read minds. Placing monitors on a stage for a 100 percent acoustic symphony orchestra, without being asked to do so, shows that someone is not very good at reading minds or considering the needs of their customers.

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