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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.'

Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel
Dealers sound off on their biggest frustrations when it comes to home-technology manufacturers and distributors.

Julie Jacobson · April 6, 2018

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.

“No dealer ordering website, have to phone in orders, then they always get invoicing wrong with shipping charges ….”
— Dealer responding in Q4Q survey

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At other times, a vendor has too much information available, much of it out of date or incorrect.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."

Shipping Issues

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.”

Product Availability

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.

“They literally signed on EVERYONE to be their dealer.”
— Dealer

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.”



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

Follow Julie on social media:
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Julie also participates in these groups:
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View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



  Article Topics


Business · News · Customer Service · Quest For Quality Awards · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by dbendell on April 11, 2018

We are much more vertically integrated with manufactures and distributers. If you don’t have good pricing, tech support, good freight programs(free), YOUR OUT! One stop shop has made a difference in margins and success, I don’t think this article needs names, if you can’t figure it out already then hmmmmmm.  I will mention the folks doing it right: SnapAV, SONY, MountainWest Distribution, HCA Distribution, Tri-Ed/Anixter, Doorbird, CoreBrands, Lutron to name a few of the top vendors

Posted by Julie Jacobson on April 8, 2018

Thanks for the comments. We always appreciate the feedback.

To us ... It makes no sense to name names. Many of these issues are quite deliberate among manufacturers and don’t warrant a judgment call. Bad margins, bad warranty policies, oversaturated markets, etc. ...  Frustrating for dealers, yes, but doesn’t make for a “bad” mfr. per se. You know companies like Sonos provide “bad” margins, and have not been integration-friendly, but they provide a strong value in other areas (products don’t break, customers are happy ...) so they are a very good vendor to many dealers. Signing up “too many” dealers might be “bad” to you if a prospect wants Control4 (for example) and there are 5 control4 dealers in your area. But it can also be universally good for all C4 dealers because more dealers generate more consumer awareness. This really wasn’t a story for dealers but for mfrs. They know the big-picture things like “bad margin” that scare off dealers, but we tried to highlight some of the things that might less obvious and could be easier to fix—like cumbersome ordering processes, or poor independent reps. These issues could be fixed without necessarily affecting a company’s business model.

Posted by LukeSlater on April 8, 2018

Bailey, my point is that it is the typical sensational “look here” type of rubbish often found on this site. The title of the article is, once again, Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel. VENDORS. If they had not intention of listing who those frustrating vendors were, they should have worded it such that one would not think they were going to see a list of vendors who suck.

Yes; I’d like to know who they are…so I can avoid them.

You know damn well they wanted you to click the link in hopes of seeing who these vendors are. You also know damn well that you clicked said link hoping to see names.

Rubbish.

Posted by Bailey AV on April 7, 2018

orrrr maybe they dont want to be sued?

i wouldnt name names!!

Posted by LukeSlater on April 6, 2018

Yet another waste of space with a cowardly article. The title is “Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel” and you redact the vendor names. Gee, fear of lost ad revenue?

Posted by Ridogn on April 6, 2018

I really wish you would “name-names”...these vendors need to know how the industry feels about them and where they fall short.  One could argue that this list would be more helpful than the Quality Awards.

Posted by Ridogn on April 6, 2018

I really wish you would “name-names”...these vendors need to know how the industry feels about them and where they fall short.  One could argue that this list would be more helpful than the Quality Awards.

Posted by LukeSlater on April 6, 2018

Yet another waste of space with a cowardly article. The title is “Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel” and you redact the vendor names. Gee, fear of lost ad revenue?

Posted by Bailey AV on April 7, 2018

orrrr maybe they dont want to be sued?

i wouldnt name names!!

Posted by LukeSlater on April 8, 2018

Bailey, my point is that it is the typical sensational “look here” type of rubbish often found on this site. The title of the article is, once again, Most Frustrating Vendors in the Home-Technology Channel. VENDORS. If they had not intention of listing who those frustrating vendors were, they should have worded it such that one would not think they were going to see a list of vendors who suck.

Yes; I’d like to know who they are…so I can avoid them.

You know damn well they wanted you to click the link in hopes of seeing who these vendors are. You also know damn well that you clicked said link hoping to see names.

Rubbish.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on April 8, 2018

Thanks for the comments. We always appreciate the feedback.

To us ... It makes no sense to name names. Many of these issues are quite deliberate among manufacturers and don’t warrant a judgment call. Bad margins, bad warranty policies, oversaturated markets, etc. ...  Frustrating for dealers, yes, but doesn’t make for a “bad” mfr. per se. You know companies like Sonos provide “bad” margins, and have not been integration-friendly, but they provide a strong value in other areas (products don’t break, customers are happy ...) so they are a very good vendor to many dealers. Signing up “too many” dealers might be “bad” to you if a prospect wants Control4 (for example) and there are 5 control4 dealers in your area. But it can also be universally good for all C4 dealers because more dealers generate more consumer awareness. This really wasn’t a story for dealers but for mfrs. They know the big-picture things like “bad margin” that scare off dealers, but we tried to highlight some of the things that might less obvious and could be easier to fix—like cumbersome ordering processes, or poor independent reps. These issues could be fixed without necessarily affecting a company’s business model.

Posted by dbendell on April 11, 2018

We are much more vertically integrated with manufactures and distributers. If you don’t have good pricing, tech support, good freight programs(free), YOUR OUT! One stop shop has made a difference in margins and success, I don’t think this article needs names, if you can’t figure it out already then hmmmmmm.  I will mention the folks doing it right: SnapAV, SONY, MountainWest Distribution, HCA Distribution, Tri-Ed/Anixter, Doorbird, CoreBrands, Lutron to name a few of the top vendors