Last week, during the New York-area stop on the three-city Crestron Technology Professional Summit tour, it would have been easy to forget that just two years ago Crestron’s own dealers were questioning the company’s commitment to the residential channel after pulling out of the annual CEDIA trade show as an exhibitor.
The company quickly moved to reassure resi dealers that the show simply no longer aligned with the company’s ultra high-end focus, and that it would invest in other more appropriate events to train and inform the channel. The company also hired 20-year Crestron dealer John Clancy as VP of residential, providing a dedicated driving force behind its residential business unit.
|Crestron CEO Randy Klein addresses the crowd as John Clancy looks on. |
Clancy, who anecdotally is also CEDIA board member, has been an effective leader within Crestron and spokesman for channel-specific products ever since. It was no surprise, therefore, that he was one of the leading voices during Crestron’s second-annual CTP Summit last week in Palisades, NY, which featured the company’s entire executive team, eight classes, a reception at the company’s experience center in Rockleigh, NJ, and a preview of new products for 2018. And those execs weren’t just at the New York location because it was 10 minutes away from the company’s headquarters. They already made the trip to LA for the West Coast CTP Summit, and will be in Ft. Lauderdale for the event’s final stop, as well.
At the start of this year’s New York event, Crestron made it clear that its CTP Summits are not meant to replace CEDIA. According to CEO Randy Klein, these meetings had been in the works for some time, but have been implemented only after Crestron stopped exhibiting at CEDIA and ostensibly freed up some bandwidth and budget to make them happen.
(I only bring up CEDIA because both Clancy and Klein broached the subject in their opening remarks. The feeling I got was that it was still a major topic of conversation at last year’s event, but this year they were beginning to wean themselves off the fading controversy.)
|240 CTPs look on during opening remarks in Palisades, NY |
These CTP Summits are clearly a huge undertaking and investment for the company—drawing an average of 240 dealers per location, after an average of about 140 per location last year—and they deservedly generate a lot of enthusiasm and goodwill from the residential dealers in attendance.
Putting my personal feelings aside about the value of exhibiting at CEDIA, I understand Crestron’s move to a completely targeted event. In just a day and a half, they get every executive and sales rep in front of their best dealers, teaching and collaborating on both business and technical topics, providing an overview and hands-on with their newest product introductions, showcasing partner brands, providing networking time among their dealers, and gaining direct product feedback from their dealers without distractions from other major vendors at a trade show. It’s like a buying group meeting for a single brand.
Clancy and director of residential market development Ami Wright kicked off the New York-area summit by recalling last year’s events, where the focus was on creating business partnerships. That theme, they said, would continue at this year’s event, where Crestron executives would discuss with attending Crestron Technology Professionals (CTPs) better ways to partner in promoting, selling, and supporting the brand, ultimately delivering a better experience to the end user.
|Resi writer and Crestron CTP Heather Sidorowicz with Jeremy Glowacki and her husband Bryan|
“We want to make you better at what you do, making you more profitable, so you buy more Crestron,” Clancy said.
That’s an admittedly blunt statement, but it reminded me that I was attending a brand-specific event, not a CEDIA Business Xchange or buying group meeting focused on multiple manufacturers.
Clancy said that last year’s message about focusing on creating high-quality products and installations would continue, as well. That is evidenced, he said, by the company’s decision a few months ago to part ways with 20 percent of its residential dealer base. These dealers were selected, he said, based on a formula that included not attending product training in the past five years, a history of client complaints, and lack of Crestron product sales.
“The people in this room are Crestron Technology Professionals,” Clancy said to the audience during his introduction. “That’s how we refer to you. We don’t call you dealers anymore. We parted ways with 300 dealers a few months ago to really focus on the people in this room: the quality Crestron Technology Professionals. This is foregoing millions of dollars in sales to focus on the people who can do it the best, and on your growth, helping you get there. Not just telling you to get there, but helping you along the way.”
Over the past year, Clancy said, the company has worked to make its communication to CTPs more consistent, launching Webinar Wednesdays based on the five classes that were taught at last year’s summits (this year’s summit features eight classes) and consolidating their communications back to CTPs in the form of monthly tech updates to focus on what was accomplished in the previous month. The company also offers design services to help CTPs actually create their Crestron-based bids or proposals.
Last year, Crestron talked about plans to improve their software, focusing on giving CTPs more speed and reliability, enabling Crestron systems to be deployed with consistent results. Since then, the company has launched its Studio Residential refresh and already has tens of thousands of systems deployed. The company also made promises of enhancements to Pyng, and this summer had its largest Pyng update, which included Amazon Alexa and Sonos integration. “Now, within a few minutes, with no programming, you can add Alexa control of lighting and shades in Pyng,” Clancy said.
|CTPs look on during a class at Crestron's New York-area Summit |
Last year, the company showed its 60 Series panels with Sonos app integration, and now the company considers them the best touchscreens that they’ve ever made. Since last year, the company also has launched DM NVX, a product that delivers 4K video at 60Hz, 4:4:4, with HDR over a 1 GB network. “It’s infinitely scalable with zero latency,” Clancy said.
Also, the company has been focused on offering its lifetime warranty on all lighting and shading products and a color-match guarantee.
Clancy closed his remarks by revealing rare specifics about his historically private company. “We’re a company with a billion and half in sales,” he said. “We’re not tied to investors and shareholders telling us what market to play in and what products to build. That comes from the feedback we get from you, which dictates what we do and where we go next. We have 90 locations worldwide to help you no matter where your projects end up.”
From there, Clancy handed the mic to Rich Sasson to discuss residential tech support initiatives, which included implementing a dedicated, residential tier-two support team on October 1. “They are dedicated to supporting you guys and are engineers who have come from the residential world, so they’re familiar with what you do and how you work, which is a little different than the commercial world,” he said. “We’ve been hiring more engineers and are working to reduce wait times. Our goal is to have an under-two-minute wait time when you call in. We offer support via chat, as well.”
Sasson said that the company is launching a new digital resource at help.crestron.com that allows CTPs to search all of the company’s software products from the field. The company’s online search engine went live November 10, as well, allowing CTPs to universally search help.crestron.com, the company’s product manuals, and eventually the company’s new website (launching in mid-December).
From there, director of business development Casey Collins discussed how he is working to help CTPs connect with $100-million trophy home projects throughout the world and how to get involved in multi-dwelling family projects. Crestron’s Design/Build Professional program has been expanded, as well, to help drive more referrals from architects and interior designers to CTPs. “This is a way for us to incentivize design/build professionals,” he said.
Showrooms, Collins said, are one of Crestron’s key resources. “If you don’t utilize them, you’re missing out,” he added. “We spend millions of dollars a year servicing and maintaining these facilities, and the close ratio from them is outstanding.”
The company recently updated its Los Angeles and Florida showrooms, and there are more changes to come for the New York showroom. Crestron also is planning to open its first showroom location in Houston next year, and the company is involved with an International Super Yacht event, in an attempt to funnel that specific type of business to CTPs.
Michael Short, global residential marketing manager, was the next executive to address the crowd, explaining how his team is working to add brochures, video, PR, and social content to assist in Crestron sales. “Last year, we promised that we would up our game, and we have,” he said. “I’m not saying that we completed the task, but we’re improving. We want you to be proud of selling the Crestron brand.”
Phil Thompson, director of national sales, said that this past year was really about one thing only: focus. “We are fully committed to residential,” he said. “Yes, we don't go to CEDIA; but there’s a damn good reason why. There’s a reason why we got rid of 300 dealers, 20 percent of our residential dealer base. What does that mean to you? That means that no longer do you have to hang out with those dealers or hear from end users about those dealers who are not showing value to the Crestron brand.”
Thompson’s biggest technology focus is lighting, shades, and NVX. “That doesn’t mean that the 4,500 other SKUs don’t matter to us, but at the end of the day, we need to be laser focused on how we’re going to market, and no one does lighting better than Crestron,” he said. “No one does shading better than Crestron. And NVX is out of this world from a Digital Media perspective; this is the game changer.”
Closing out the opening remarks, CEO Randy Klein led with two words: Thank you. “Those two words are used a lot,” he said. “They’re in every presentation, but when I get up here and look out to this crowd, those two words are not nearly enough.”
And then he turned the attention back to John Clancy, reaffirming his company’s commitment to residential. “There’s no better person who could come and provide the empathy, dedication, and experience level from all sides of the spectrum,” he said. “Today, you can see that that commitment is stronger than ever, and this is the beginning. We have to have these kinds of forums to communicate more effectively—more personally—to tell you what we’re all about, beyond the emails and videos. The greatest thing about these events and our Masters classes is the ability to talk to each other and the great people at Crestron.”