To call these strange times would be an understatement. I have seen a call for a moratorium of the use of the word “unprecedented” on social media, but, really, what are we saving it for if not for times such as these.
In these times of uncertainty, I was looking for a sense of hope; a sign that there is a way back from this. As a possible source, I thought of Crestron for two reasons:  I’ve been to their facilities in New Jersey, and it looked as though they could power through anything; and  John Clancy, head of residential for the company, was a dealer himself who oversaw many tumultuous times. Surely Crestron and John could put some positive perspective on all this.
And, as it turns out, my guess was right on. Starting with production and shipping capabilities, it’s business as usual over there. “Because of the communications and control equipment we make that go on to not just critical infrastructure, but also government facilities, we are considered an essential service, so manufacturing is 100-percent up and running,” says Clancy. “We also stock an amazing amount of parts and pieces, so our plants haven’t slowed down at all.
“Crestron’s business model is structured so that we can quickly pivot and continue to provide service and support for our dealers, as well as fulfill their product needs, no matter the crisis. Right now, even amidst regionalized disruptions, we’re shipping and delivering on every order that comes in, which is pretty amazing. We firmly believe that in order for dealers to come through this, they have to be able to maintain a scale of project continuity because the runway for reactivating a business from full stop brings greater headwinds over ramping back up. And we’re finding many of our dealers are finding a way to pivot and work with many of their hyper luxe clients that have needs in second properties that can be fulfilled because they are empty. And, thanks to the hard work of both CEDIA and the CTA, integrators have been deemed essential workers during this time.”
Like many companies, Crestron is offering uninterrupted support to dealers and customers via its Crestron True Blue Support, as well as many opportunities for remote training through the Crestron Technical Institute (CTI). Crestron, however, takes that education a step further than most with customized training content for dealers.
“We have multiple solutions engineers who are technical sales experts, and since the beginning of the pandemic they’ve been reaching out to dealers and providing remote, dedicated training to those who are really looking to dig deeper on a certain topic,” says Clancy. “In just the past few weeks, our solutions engineers have conducted about 100 different events with nearly 200 different dealers, and that includes about 500 individuals.”
The dealers are at the forefront of Clancy’s thoughts, and at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., he and his team made sure dealers knew they remained a priority for Crestron. “Immediately when the pandemic became prevalent, we impressed upon our team that dealer communications was deemed even more critical than usual. We made it clear that they were there to listen and support these customers, because their business matters to Crestron,” he says. “I wanted to make sure that we were reaching out and checking on their health and wellness, and simultaneously letting them know the status of what we’re doing and able to do for them. I wanted them to know that we had pivoted to remote, but yet we are operational in every aspect of the business.”
The Crestron Technical Institute (CTI) is offering an array of both residential and commercial instructor-led online training courses. From market insights to technical design discussions, the schedule is available four weeks out for registration. Clancy adds, “We are offering all of our in-person trainings online, and will work with our dealers to provide any other training that they need.” If the training involves gear, Crestron will send it to the integrators at a significantly reduced cost.
They are also working with their dealers on a case-by-case basis to help them stay in business. “We don’t have a crystal ball,” says Clancy. “We don’t know when it’s going to end — nobody does. It’s hard to say, but what we do know is, Mr. Dealer, if you’re stuck, let’s figure out something that works for you. Our president and CEO, Randy Klein, has insisted we look at what each dealer needs. He discussed during the recent AV Nation Commercial Learn from Home Summit that though this might not be our normal, having human dialog that connects each of us to our dealers will make us all stronger and better on the other side of the pandemic, that’s a message of hope. And, we hope to help our vast dealer network get through this by tackling it together.”
Empathy for the dealer comes also from Clancy’s own experience as a custom installer. “Having worked on the other side of this business as a dealer, my personal experience guides how I lead this team — especially over the last month,” he says. “The last economic impact was 12 years ago in 2008, and though it wasn’t as quick, the recovery was strong, leading to some of the best years many integrators have ever seen. Established integrators that are 20 years in business get this, but the smart home revolution also created a slew of new dealers and for them, they haven’t experienced downturn.”
But, like 2008, this, too shall pass. “We realize everything seems stressful, but the effort we apply now — all of us, Crestron, other manufacturers, dealers — will pay off for this industry and for our future collective businesses. And remember — our industry has weathered many storms to date, but we have also learned a lot during those storms, and just like many times before, when all of this is over, we’ll come out stronger and better positioned for it.”
And we’re all very much looking forward to when that day comes.