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How Do You Know When to Drop a Product Line?

Some AV integrators are consistently on the quest for the right solutions and others are just doing a job.

Some AV integrators are consistently on the quest for the right solutions and others are just doing a job.

Which are you?

I’m always searching for the best products to make life better for my clients. This means that we have to remain flexible and change with the times. Often we pick up new products as we find they’re the right fit for our clientele, whether that is Sonos for the “average Joe” that wants music throughout his house or Kaleidescape for the true movie buff. There are the proper solutions for the right people if one cares to pay attention and do their homework.

Unfortunately, we also have to watch when a product is failing in the field in case we need to head in different direction. I experienced this recently with my current receiver company. I won’t mention the name of this company, but let me assure you we have given multiple chances for this company to show their long-term worth, and now is the time cut the ties.

How do you know when to drop a product line?

Bad Product
Every manufacturer will sell a dud from time to time; I always imagine it was on the factory line late on a sunny Friday afternoon. I’ve seen this happen with cars, TVs, and of course, receivers. However, what happens when you see the entire model line keep going down? I called the company. Bad receivers may cost more than any other unit when they go down. It will usually take an hour to swap out a receiver the right way, and if this a good client, you’re not going to let their system be down for a week or two while the unit goes in for repair. This means you’re taking a new unit out of stock to give them for the “time being,” then going back to replace it once their unit is repaired. Chances are that any profit you originally made on the unit has now eroded away. (Is it just me or does this always happen to clients that live the furthest away?)

As I mentioned, I called the company (the national sales guy, actually) when I started to see the entire model line go bad. I still cringe every time I hear that model number. I was assured that they knew and understood they had an issue with the line. I was then told that this new model was a better release. So life went on. That is until I started seeing another model line go down. This goes well beyond a mess up on a specific unit. It even goes beyond a bad model line. It is now about the core of who this company is and how well they make receivers.

Bad Rep
Reps can truly make or break a product line. Some (few) are great, and will go the extra mile to solve the issue. However, this sometimes feels like a dying breed. Other reps just regurgitate information from the mother ship (yet they feel if they put it in fancy fonts they’re doing their job). One of my favorite lines from a rep: “Once you’re a dealer, all ordering and correspondence will go through the company.” Not sure why a rep then exists in this set up; just decrease the price by five dollars and loose the dead weight.

You can also spot a bad rep by sheer lack of interest in solving the issue or his/her desire to talk more about the weather (or anything else) than the product. I’ve had reps who’ve driven far and wide to tell me nothing new, yet I’m sure they got they received “credit” for their “dealer call.” Don’t come in unless you have something to say. We’re busy running a company, and time is our most valuable asset.

Again, I’ll say there are great reps out there. I just spent two hours with a rep and the manufacturing company talking about their product line, and this was time well spent.

Bad Customer Service
By customer, in this instance, I am speaking about us, the dealers. We are the customers that are buying product from them, the manufactures. Will they support you when you do have an issue? The firm in question, I am sad to say, has not. If I get three bad receivers in line and have to run around replacing these units, then send me one to install for the client in the meantime. If a receiver starts a fire at a client’s house (true story), follow up and make sure that I (the dealer) am happy as well as the client. Please note this company is a higher end company; we’re not talking cheap stuff here, we’re talking a grand or more for these units, not $199 AVRs.

As dealers, it is our job to take a step back and make sure that we are providing the right equipment to our clients. This is how we’ll keep them coming back throughout time. Having multiple units go bad with a company that just doesn’t seem to care isn’t how we move to the next level. It is just not how it is done.

I am happy to report we have picked up a new line and so far, we’ve been very happy with them. Remember, people are buying you, not a specific product. Don’t sell yourself short.

Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.