Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel
Integrators complain about big-picture issues like margin and market saturation, but also seemingly small things like: 'They do not put all the parts in the box.'
We already gushed over the best service providers in the home-technology channel as part of CE Pro’s Quest for Quality Awards, 2018. What about the worst? Dealers happily shared their thoughts on their least favorite providers.
When it comes to the most frustrating suppliers in the home-technology channel, dealers typically cite bad shipping and return policies, lack of product integration, long hold times for customer service, bad technical support in general, and the more universal, “Doesn’t care about the channel.”
These are some of the “big” things that drive integrators bonkers, but often it’s the seemingly small and avoidable annoyances that gnaw at dealers – the things that contribute to an overall bad purchasing experience that can drive customers away.
These are some of those “little things” that can make a world of difference to integrators.
Technical Information Not Readily Available
One of the biggest frustrations among dealers is a lack of readily available technical information. Maybe it’s somewhere on the website and dealers can’t find it, or it’s available but flat-out wrong. Dealers on the jobsite or ordering after-hours need that information right away.
Without naming too many names, the popular doorbell manufacturer Ring comes up often in this category of offenses.
“Try and get any real technical information about their two wire doorbell contact relay,” writes one dealer, echoing the sentiment of many. “Nope, lots of luck figuring that one out.”
At other times, a vendor has too much information available, much of it out of date or incorrect. One dealer complains about a leading provider of surveillance gear (not Ring): “Sales specifications don’t match actual camera performance.”
These seemingly insignificant mismatches can cause major issues – ordering the wrong gear, installing it, uninstalling it, trying to return it, waiting for a refund ….
Cumbersome Ordering Processes
As hard as manufacturers try to garner business, they sure don’t make it simple to purchase from them. Many dealers complain about archaic ordering processes that waste time when products are purchased and often leads to errors down the line.
“Its website is never up to date with accurate inventory,” writes one dealer about a sizable regional distributor. “The ordering process on their end is very complicated, and depending on what brand you are ordering, [you don’t know] who you must speak with to follow up on the order.”
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Another dealer comments similarly about a rep-distributor: “No dealer ordering website, have to phone in orders, then they always get invoicing wrong with shipping charges ….”
This one comment about a rep-distributor pretty much sums it up:
"Rep didn’t process [manufacturer] order for me, then steered me to [manufacturer’s] TERRIBLE dealer site where I couldn’t find the product using model or SKU number, so I couldn’t order there. I then requested rep to just order for me and charge my card. They dropped the ball and I just walked away."
Part and parcel (get it?) of purchasing problems is the shipping errors that go with it. Shipping problems, cited by many unsatisfied dealers, also revolve around poor product packaging and careless picking at the manufacturer’s or distributor’s warehouse.
“Almost every single rack I order from them comes bent/damaged in some way that requires repair before installing,” a dealer notes.
Another one complains, “They do not put all the parts in the box.”
Dealers expect popular products to be in stock, especially at distributors, and often they’re forced to purchase at a big box retailer instead.
“They rarely have in stock what I’m looking for,” commented one dealer, but the gripe showed up several times in the Q4Q dealer rants.
Manufacturers’ Reps Drop the Ball
Many dealers select brands based on the quality of the local rep. The reverse is also true – dealers will drop a vendor if a rep drops the ball. Several dealers commented on this situation in their Q4Q comments.
“We purchase most of our gear from [manufacturer] because of our rep,” says one happy dealer, while one unhappy customer complains, “The distributor caters to the largest companies and their buddy companies. We dropped all vendors that were represented by them ….”
And Then the Bigger Issues
Technical support and customer service in general repel home-tech dealers. Freight programs and warranties are two other big killers.
“Returns are horrible,” is another big complaint cited by many dealers. Integrators called out a couple of big dealer-friendly display manufacturers for policies and procedures regarding DOA products.
Then there are the complaints about manufacturer business models that affect any given dealer – things like low margins, oversaturated markets, and minimum buying requirements in terms of volume and product mix.
These comments from Q4Q respondents are fairly representative of complaints related to a supplier’s business models:
“We were pressured into buying into certain practices to maintain our [dealer] status ….”
“They literally signed on EVERYONE to be their dealer.”
“[Distributor] reduced the amount of name brand product in the branches in favor of their house brand making it difficult to find the brands I use.”
Just Plain: They Don’t Care
“Tech support does not seem to care at all. They act like you are bothering them.”
“They don't seem to be enthusiastic anymore.”
“[Manufacturer] is a DIY solution that doesn't care about their certified installers.”
“Too large to have dealer support.”
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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