5 Minute Read
Audio visual service contracts are a key aspect of running any AV integrator’s business. Your contracts are legally binding documents that help to protect your business, as well as your clients. A contract outlines everything from the scope of work to the costs and timelines, so there’s no confusion between you and your clients. A good contract can help to position your business to successfully provide quality service.
But writing an AV service contract isn’t always easy or simple, especially if you’re just getting started or are reworking your existing contracts. Omitting important information or overlooking essential details could lead to legal trouble if you run into difficulties with a client.
Because your contracts are so essential to your business and to your success, it’s important to learn how to write a quality, comprehensive contract that includes all of the essential information.
Explore Different Ways to Structure Your AV Service Contract
Before you write your contract, you’ll need to think about how you’re structuring your services since your contract will need to reflect that structure. You might decide that it’s best to offer several different structure options, or you might want to simplify your contract by offering only standard products and service packages.
Consider the different types of AV support and determine which is/are best for your business:
- Yearly maintenance
- Remote system monitoring
- As-needed service calls
- Full-time on-site AV support
Key Elements of an Audio Visual Service Contract
As you plan out your audio visual service level agreement, you’ll need to include essential information that describes the services, payments, and overall arrangements of your agreement with a client. Plan to include these standard service contract elements.
Details on Your Business and Your Client
In the beginning of the contract, you’ll need to identify the parties involved and the type of entity of your business (and your client’s, if the client is a business). Be sure to include contact information for both parties, as well as the contact information of anyone who is working as a representative or main contact for each party.
Detailed Outline of the Type of Service to Be Performed
The service description section of your contract is very important, since it identifies what your business will - and won’t do - under the contract and agreed-upon fees. Be sure to be detailed here and outline the specific activities and scope of work that the contract covers. If products or product sales are involved, you may want to list the specific products and their quantity.
Timeline and Deadlines
Your contract also needs to include details about the timeline covered, including the contract’s start and end date. If you have identified specific project milestones, like installation deadlines, then include a schedule of those deadlines, too.
Terms of Compensation
You’ll also need to include a description of fees that you and your client have agreed on. You’ll need to identify whether the fees are charged as a flat project rate, on an hourly basis, as a monthly subscription, or as another fee arrangement.
Be sure to also include a payment schedule highlighting the deadlines for each payment to be received. Include information about the types of payment methods that you do and don’t accept, and include details about late fees, how they’re charged, and what happens if multiple payments aren’t received.
While you always hope that a contract goes smoothly, it’s also important to plan for situations where issues do arise. If your company isn’t able to complete the work as detailed in the contract, you’ll need to be prepared to fix the situation. Consider including potential remedies in the contract that you can enact, like adjusted schedules, substituted services, and other solutions.
You’ll also want to include details about how the contract can be terminated. Having an exit strategy can help both parties to avoid being trapped in a contract that no longer works for them. Think carefully about the termination terms that you’re comfortable with, as well as the amount of notice that you will require for a termination. Requiring written notice of at least 30 days is fairly standard and tends to be a good option.
Dispute Resolution Process
If a dispute arises, having a resolution process spelled out can help to keep the process controlled. Consider including terms that outline potential resolutions, and that also detail requirements if a lawsuit were required. It’s standard to require that lawsuits be filed in the state where your business operates, and you may also want to forbid either party from counter suing for lawyer fees.
At the bottom of your contract, include a place where you and your client can both sign and date the document. You may also want to include spaces for initial acknowledgements of important information or changes within the document itself.
Have Your Initial Client Conversations
While the above elements are standard pieces of most AV service contracts, you may need to adjust your contract based on your desired arrangement with a client. Before you start dragging a contract, have at least once, if not several client conversations.
During those conversations, discuss important details like a client’s goals, the types of services they need, and any product purchases they might want included in the contract. It’s best to perform a site visit, if possible, to identify any challenges or unique situations that might not be apparent during conversations. Additionally, discuss the client’s desired timeline and any hard deadlines that they’re working with. The more detail you have about the expected work, the better you’ll be able to plan what’s required of your business and what needs to be in your service contract.
Consider Including Extra Provisions
Depending on your client and your working agreement, you may want to include additional provisions in your contract that go beyond the standard terms. These extra provisions can help to protect your business and your client, but you’ll need to determine which are necessary. When writing contracts, it’s best to include all necessary information, but leave out anything that isn’t needed, since extra information can make contracts extra-long and complicated.
Consider the following potential provisions:
Non Solicitation Clause
A non solicitation clause means that you can’t hire your client’s employees. It can boost a client’s confidence, particularly if they have an AV or tech department.
A confidentiality clause can also give your client peace of mind. It prevents you from sharing any proprietary information about the client, ensuring that any key information you might access stays private.
Hold Harmless Clause
A hold harmless clause offers extra protection for your business. It’s a way of identifying risks that exist with your work, like potentially damaging the client’s property during an installation. When you include a hold harmless clause, the client would agree to absolve you of responsibility for those risks and issues that might arise.
Client Cooperation Clause
A client cooperation clause can be particularly important when you’re providing AV services. It notes that the client is responsible for providing you with the help and information your business might need to be able to perform your work. This could help protect your business if you’re unable to fulfill your work requirements because a client isn’t responsive, isn’t providing you with the account details and logins you need, or hasn’t approved the purchase of equipment that’s required for an installation.
Many AV contracts include warranty clauses. These identify the steps that will be taken if your work or products fail to perform as they should. Spelling out this information makes it easy to take the right steps to correct any issues, but it also helps to prevent a client from making unreasonable requests if there’s an issue with your products or work.
Hire a Lawyer
When you’re creating legally binding documents, it’s always a good idea to hire a lawyer to review those documents before they’re signed. That goes for your audio visual service contract, too.
Depending on your business structure, you may be able to hire a lawyer to create one or more boilerplate contracts that you can then use with most or all of your clients. Alternatively, if you need to custom-create contracts for each client, consider having your business lawyer review each contract before you send it out for signing. A lawyer can help to identify omissions or language that wouldn’t hold up in court, and can help ensure that your contract is as solid as possible.
Use the Right Audio Visual Project Management Software
Once you prepare your contracts, you’ll also need to send them to clients and track their status. Using AV project management software can help with all of this, and more.
Quality AV project management software such as D-Tools System Integrator lets you easily email service contracts to clients and can provide you with reminder notifications, so you follow up and ensure the contract is signed and finalized. Software also keeps your entire team connected, so your team members can work together to create and manage contracts. The right software can save you time, streamline your workflow, and make it easier to more accurately track contracts through the process of their development to signing and implementation.