Quest for Quality Winners 2012

The integrator community shares why manufacturers and distributors earn their keep in our second annual Quest for Quality Awards.

image

image

By Arlen Schweiger
March 29, 2012
During the course of the year, our CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams get to vote on top products and projects we see submitted by manufacturers and installers.

But we wanted to give our readership the opportunity to voice their opinions, so last year we created the Quest for Quality Awards and asked that you tell us why certain manufacturers and distributors were your favorites.

The catch was that it really had nothing to do with the products you install, but rather the obstacles you sometimes face during an installation project. How well does a company train and incentivize dealers? How well do they communicate and help solve problems if you get stuck on a job? How quickly do they turn around replacement parts? And how do they assist you in areas such as sales and marketing?

We’ve turned the microphone over to you, the custom installer, to share your tales of superior service from manufacturers and distributors in our second annual awards installment. Each category contains winners at the platinum, gold and silver levels, with your testimonials (we’ve kept integrators anonymous).

It’s encouraging to hear phrases like “personal attention,” “no questions asked” and “above and beyond” commonly noted in the more than 3,900 submissions. And quality service is a win-win for all involved, as one integrator summed up: “Tough question to choose only one [company]. When you build a good relationship with your key manufacturers and distribution partners, they will go to the extreme to make sure you, a key customer, no matter what size you are, is taken care of.”

With that in mind, here are the winners of your second annual Quest for Quality Awards. Click here to view the 2011 winners.

Manufacturers

Customer Service/Communication


Platinum: Lutron
Gold: SnapAV
Silver: Crestron

Your Take: “In the past few years, our Lutron sales were so very low to the point that Lutron as a manufacturer could have removed our dealer privileges. Instead, Lutron worked hard and came out with various incentive programs, including the increase of our profit margins, lowering the pricing of their products to stimulate and help us, the dealer. This is what I call superior service … a real partnership between the manufacturer and the dealer makes a winning team.”

imageTheir Take: “It’s easier to provide great service when you know who you are serving. SnapAV, from the beginning, has committed to serving the custom channel exclusively. No distributors. No big-box stores. No direct-to-consumer. This commitment translates into all areas of our business.” - SnapAV (Click image to enlarge)
"As an industry acoustic design and calibration instructor, I had some issues with the performance of the speakers from SnapAV a few years ago. I gave some feedback and was approached by [president] Jay Faison at the CEDIA show. I’m sure he must have been incredibly busy with the show, but he took the time to ask me about my feedback, ask my opinion on what could be improved, and after listening to everything promised he would do what he could to implement the changes.

"I didn’t take the promise too seriously, but it made me feel like I was heard. Imagine how shocked I was to see everything we talked about implemented over the next two years! I’ve been very impressed with the level of customer service and quality from SnapAV. The ordering process is smooth, shipping is quick, and they are constantly improving their product line.”

Crestron routinely comes through in a pinch. I’ve had tough jobs, but Crestron stuck with me through the end and never played the blame game. They just work on solving the issues, even when they’re not their own issues - a true partner."

image
Crestron Service Team

Tech Support


Platinum: Crestron
Gold: Control4
Silver: Audio Design Associates (ADA)

Your take: “We were in the middle of a massive DM installation at a home in Houston. We contracted a CAIP engineer to do the programming, but the homeowner moved up their move-in date by two weeks and the engineer wasn’t able to get free of his other commitments. Ten sources, 14 TV locations and 14 MLX-3 remotes had no programming … and I had never programmed anything of this magnitude. The only official training I’ve had with Crestron ended at the essentials class. With the help of example programs and generous support from the Crestron office in Dallas, I was able to get the system up and running in a day.”

Control4 provides a call-back service, fast response, in-depth product and integration knowledge, respect for the level of expertise of the dealer, and is a genuine, consistent solution provider. All of this combines to make a great supplier, especially when you are in the field trying to complete a project.”

Audio Design Associates went digging through their attic to find me an interface that would assist me in programming one of their systems, which they did with a smile and included the custom cable required to communicate with the system - without my asking. They held my hand when I had trouble with communications between my laptop and their system, walking me through step by step to ensure all was well before letting me hang up the phone.”

Sales & Marketing Assistance


Platinum: SpeakerCraft
Gold: Lutron
Silver: Paradigm/Anthem

Your Take: “[SpeakerCraft president] Jeremy Burkhardt comes to town once a year in my region and puts on one of the best trainings - which is never a ‘training’ but a way to consider doing things to grow your business or just help you battle to stay in business. He only takes but a few moments to talk about his products.”

image
Their take: “Our [sales and marketing] department regularly receives requests for customized ads, signage, product shots, presentations and other sales and marketing tools. Often, we create these materials on the fl y. Our goal is to provide innovative and effective marketing materials to our sales force so that they can sell Paradigm products knowledgeably in a way that shows the customer why Paradigm and Anthem are the better choice. Their ongoing success means we are doing our job.” - Paradigm/Anthem

Warranty Policies


Platinum: SnapAV
Gold: Epson
Silver: LiteTouch

Your Take: “No questions ever asked when I say a product isn’t working. SnapAV quickly gets me a replacement the next day.”

“[I told Epson that I] had a projector lamp that lasted 720 hours. They immediately stated, ‘That’s not acceptable!’ Upon getting them the serial number off the unit, they sent out a replacement pronto.”

LiteTouch, with its Limited Lifetime warranty, prevented the second wave of costs for electronic controls.”

Shipping Policies


Platinum: Niles Audio
Gold: AMX
Silver: Runco

Your Take: “Upon becoming aware of a faulty batch of multizone systems, Niles arranged for the supply of replacement stock, plus the return of the faulty product, plus compensation to cover the additional costs of swapping out the systems. They recognized what needed to be done to restore their client’s faith, and acted immediately.”

image
Their Take: “Our representatives take personal ownership of each request and see each client through to delivery, doing their best to exceed expectations. For instance, a customer recently called us and said they needed two products delivered directly to a homeowner the next day. So one of our representatives used his lunch hour to drive to the warehouse, pick up the units and program them specifically for this system, then shipped them via next-day air.” - Niles Audio

“We had an AMX remote that had to go in for service. We sent it overnight, and they turned it around in one day and got it back to us. The client was very nervous because they had a Super Bowl party with 75 people coming, and this was the only remote for their main room - the client was extremely pleased.”

“We had a Runco TV that a client needed quick service on. Runco shipped the part FedEx to George Meyer TV in Santa Monica. We brought the set in, they swapped the part immediately and we were back at the client’s home in less than an hour.”

Website


Platinum: SnapAV
Gold: Arlington Industries
Silver: Extron

SnapAV’s password-protected website includes a resource vault section for dealers, order tracking capability and easy-to-navigate tabs to all of its products.

Along with the usual portals to product information and catalogs, Arlington Industries jazzes up its website with a selection of instructional videos for using and installing its offerings.

Training Programs


Platinum: URC
Gold: RTI
Silver: Control4

image
Their Take: “People in general are reluctant to take training in something they already have a somewhat comfortable working knowledge of. However, without participating in training, there are countless efficiencies and tools built into the software that they might miss out on. I’ve repeatedly heard from dealers who have been programming with [RTI’s] Integration Designer for years that they’ve found a whole new level of efficiency with the software after taking a training class.” - RTI

Their Take: “Our training tour this last year visited 14 cities and had over 1,400 attendees. This year we have upped the ante and will be visiting over 60 cities worldwide to ensure that our valued dealers everywhere have chance to attend our live session trainings.” - Control4

Dealer Protection Policies


Platinum: Proficient Audio
Gold: Integra
Silver: Sony

Your Take:Proficient Audio consistently excels in this regard, because in any and every instance their entire team is totally proactive in their support.”

Sony is the only one that’s watching their own [buttocks] and ours by demanding that everyone sticks to MAPs. If the rest don’t get on that bandwagon, we can all just hand the keys over to Walmart.”

Distributors


Customer Service/Communication


Platinum: Capitol Sales
Gold: ADI
Silver: Volutone

Your Take:Capitol Sales is an amazing distributor in all aspects of the business, so it’s hard to single out one instance. But Jeff Schneider is always by my side, even though we are 1,017.26 miles apart (according to Google Earth).”

Their Take: Capitol excels at customer service/communications by approaching it as an ongoing mission rather than a quick and easy fi x. Like others, we engage in email blasts, social media and product-focused announcements, but, more than that, we are available every day for direct dialogues with our customers.” - Capitol Sales

Tech Support


Platinum: AVAD
Gold: Capitol Sales
Silver: ADI

Your Take:AVAD Irvine assisted me with reprogramming a client’s remote, which was a brand I didn’t sell or service. They even sent me an IR capture device to help me get this special request accomplished.”

Capitol Sales has been there every single time we’ve needed them to be. Their attitude is always ‘take care of the customer first,’ and that’s refreshing.”

Their Take: “While many distributors rely on third-party technical support, AVAD has invested in its dealers’ business by providing an in-house team of product and systems experts. Whether they’re in the office or the field, AVAD offers support tailored to all of a dealer’s needs.” - AVAD

Shipping


Platinum: AllNet
Gold: Worthington Distribution
Silver: WAVE

Your Take: “On more than one occasion we needed an unexpected part for an install. Every time we’ve called AllNet we’ve been fortunate. Not only have the parts been in stock, but four times someone from their team has delivered it to the job site - no charge, just a ‘thank you for your business.’”

image
Their Take: “We encourage dealers to use our website as a resource for product information and a 24/7 tool to manage their business. We incentivize them for using this tool by giving them free ground shipping on any order placed online regardless of size. AllNet works with their vendor partner to Drop Ship product directly to dealers when necessary.” - AllNet

Website


Platinum: AVAD
Gold: ADI

Their Take: “The website is loaded with new features and functionality to improve the online experience and make shopping at ADI much easier. The site offers more advanced search capabilities, which gives dealers instant access to check inventory, see available stock for delivery or pick up, explore product information and specs, check pricing, manage their account and more.” - ADI

image

Training


Platinum: AVAD
Gold: ADI
Silver: AllNet

Your Take:AVAD not only has classes from manufacturers, but they also have classes where they bring in manufacturers to show what they have and what they will have, before it’s even announced. Not just like a class, but a discussion.”

ADI is first class with manufacturer training and keeps you informed when classes are coming up.”

“On top of incredibly aggressive shipping policies, AllNet has been holding a series of informative trainings on the lines they sell. They’re always relating the information to you and your business.”

Their Take: “AVAD University’s educational programs have long been recognized as one of the leading training programs in the industry. Held throughout North America at AVAD branches, these programs increase dealers’ industry IQ and business acumen, allowing them to stay a few steps ahead of the competition.” - AVAD


Return to full story:
http://www.cepro.com/article/quest_for_quality_winners_2012/