Integrators and dealers were put in a tough position during the pandemic, as the already slim pickings for labor were pared down even further due to workers deciding to opt-out of work or limit their involvement to online-only opportunities. Compounded with the global supply shortage, the labor shortage was on the minds of every AV businessperson across the globe last year, so CE Pro reached out to executives from several top AV distributors to see what novel ways they’ve found to better support their customers during this period of instability.
CE Pro: In terms of support, integrators have always leaned heavily on their distributors. What are some ways you addressed last year’s special business needs (Zoom meetings, webinars, demos, virtual happy hours for continued engagement, etc.) and what does ongoing support in 2021 look like?
Dennis Holzer, Executive Director, PowerHouse Alliance:
Despite operational changes throughout the past year, PowerHouse Alliance members were able to maintain the high level of customer service, technical support, and trainings that our dealers expect. When training locations were closed, members relied on live and recorded webinars to introduce new products and offer trainings to dealers. In 2021, I expect that members will begin to host in person trainings again as guidelines are lifted but I think recorded trainings and webinars will still be an option as they give dealers the opportunity to listen on their own time. PowerHouse members are looking forward to meeting in-person soon.
John Yodzis, President & CEO, DOW Technologies:
Our team worked very hard with our vendors to get a consistent training schedule together to ensure customers were able to keep up to date with new products and developments. Now, we are focused on creating more personal interactions. Our team is scheduling virtual dealer meetings with reps and vendors so that they can have one-on-one interaction that gives dealers the opportunity to be heard and have their questions answered. We’ve been very successful with these meetings and look to continue to bring together dealers and vendors when we get back to traveling.
Wally Whinna, Sr. VP, Local, Snap One:
The need for continuing education did not stop so SnapAV Pro Stores immediately shifted our comprehensive dealer education program to webinars. We currently host 3-4 webinars per month and plan on continuing this cadence. Since dealers cannot always make the webinar or have team members with an immediate education need, we store all our session on-demand. We are looking forward to reintroducing live training later in 2021. Training videos are also available for our proprietary brands at snapav.com where we typically get 40,000+ training/product information view per month.
Bob Appleby, General Manager North America, ADI:
We made sure our service offering matched the “new way” people are working whether from home or contactless transactions with paperless billing, extended return policies, online returns, flat rate shipping and more.
We ramped up our online webinar offering. We implemented a new digital experience platform to increase customer engagement through free webinars and demos and improve the overall digital experience for attendees. The feedback from customers on the new platform has been extremely positive, and we’re working with our internal subject matter experts and supplier partners to continue adding additional topics to our webinar roster. Additionally, we make all our webinars available for replay following the session for any customers not able to make the live event.
Our on-demand training platform, ADI Academy, allows dealers to participate in industry and product training anytime, anywhere. ADI Academy offers a variety of training across several categories including security, access control, IP video, networking, cybersecurity and more. Dealers can use the platform to enhance their business skills and earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Customers can sign up for individual courses, or get access to all training courses with a one-year subscription.
Helge Fischer, Executive Director, Catalyst AV:
Most dealers are sick of Zoom meetings. Things will normalize, as restaurants, movie theaters and more open up and people, “feel” like things are getting normal and being vaccinated there will be less fear — that is key to actually having meetings and demonstrations with dealers. Our online training webinars have been very successful, with AVPro Edge, Cleerline, LG and Eero, are also recorded and put on their websites for those that cannot attend.
Going forward, I believe we will have mask mandates at trainings and still use video conferencing more than in the past, so networking products will continue to have strong growth. The world is going back to the office, but a lot of companies will still prefer their employees to have a mix of office and at home work.
Catalyst AV member CyberSmart out of Phoenix, recently had a very successful “Fiesta” afternoon and had double the attendance they anticipated. Catalyst AV member LM Electronics out of Texas, recently hosted an event at the Samsung Design Center that included Cleerline, AVPro and Samsung brands. It also had a great turnout. Manufacturers, reps and dealers are ready to travel, learn and have fun.
Kevin Luther, Owner, BlackWire Designs:
We pre-configure, update firmware and test complete systems before they ship out the door. We offer after-hours support and nights and weekends support for a number of products. BlackWire cares that our customers get working systems to install and if they ever need someone to help they know to call us first.