The results are in from Residential Systems’ first Stellar Service Awards reader poll honoring manufacturers and distributors for their exceptional customer service/communication, sales and marketing support, training programs, warranty policies, websites, and more.
“Thanks to the hundreds of readers who voted this year to honor the best of the best in the custom integration manufacturing and distribution community. We had a lot of great entries this year, and the winners of our Platinum, Gold, and Silver awards are truly deserving of recognition,” said Residential Systems editorial director Jeremy Glowacki. “Launching a new award is not easy, and we hope that the Stellar Service Awards has been established as a respected honor in this industry.”
Each company in the Stellar Service Awards competition could nominate itself for as many categories as it wished. All entries were posted online and voted on by Residential Systems readers during a two-week judging period. The top three vote getters in each category were awarded Platinum, Gold, or Silver honors.
Congratulations to the winners. Here’s a rundown of the top vote getters and a thumbnail sketch of what made the Platinum winners stand out.
Platinum: Serving 20-plus different markets, Peerless-AV’s website highlights its immense product line by providing detailed instructions, images, and specs for professional, consumer, and custom industries to review. Quickly find the perfect solution through Peerless-AV’s MountFinder database or a Live Chat with their Customer Care team. Product literature, news updates, case studies, and white papers are all available online. By providing five social media links, Peerless- AV brings the AV industry to life through popular social media interaction.
Manufacturer’s Dealer Programs:
Platinum: DaVinci Group
Silver: Epson America
Manufacturer’s Sales and Marketing Support
Manufacturer’s Training Program
Among Crestron’s 57 training facilities worldwide is this location in Roswell, GA. Platinum: Crestron, which prepares attendees of its Crestron Training Institute (CTI) to join the elite of custom installers and integrators through a comprehensive training curriculum, currently at 22 courses. The program features 57 training facilities worldwide, each staffed with dedicated instructors, and online courses. Achieved by more than 10,000 professionals, DigitalMedia Certification (DMC-D) is the industry’s only standard for expertise in design and installation of digital AV networks.
Gold: Epson America
Silver (Tie): Control4
Silver (Tie): Stewart
Manufacturer’s Customer Service/General Communication
Platinum: Peerless-AV’s Customer
Care Department is committed to providing exceptional service, while maintaining one-call resolution. Every employee obtains full Peerless-AV product knowledge, as well as technical expertise,allowing them to answer customer issues efficiently and effectively. With comprehensive and ongoing training, each and every representative can confidently commit to each call successfully, resulting as the industry’s finest customer care team.
Silver: Epson America
Manufacturer’s Shipping/Freight Policies
Epson’s freight policy includes prepaid shipping on orders over $250 and two-business day exchange for products under warranty. Platinum: Epson America, which is committed to providing dealers and their end-customers the best combination of products and service by offering free shipping on virtually all dealers’ orders and two-business day exchange for products under warranty.
Gold: BlackWire Designs
Manufacturer’s Warranty/Return Policies
Epson industry-leading service and support includes toll-free access to Epson’s PrivateLine priority technical support, three year warranty on its Pro Cinema models, and free two-business day exchange/replacement with Extra Care Home Service. Platinum: Epson America, which offers toll-free access to its PrivateLine priority technical support, a three-year warranty on its Pro Cinema models, including free two-business day exchange/ replacement with Extra CareSM Home Service. Via PrivateLine, customers are provided direct access to advanced technical staff to address product needs as quickly as possible. Further, Epson has been rated number one by Inside Track for its resolution of service and support for the past three years.
Silver: Access Networks
Distributor’s Customer Service/Generation Communication/Technical Support
Platinum: AVAD, whose Tech Support offers integrators unparalleled product knowledge from an in-house team of experts, aimed at helping dealers hone their competitive edge and troubleshoot system integration. First-class support is available at each of its branches in addition to dedicated phone and email support access. AVAD’s valuable support includes assistance from the AVAD System Design Group, a team of technology experts that provide residential and commercial design services including needs analysis, AutoCAD presentations, and product selection.
Silver: BlackWire Designs
Distributor’s Sales/Marketing Assistance
Events like AVAD’s Vendopalooza help bring dealers new opportunities to grow their businesses. Platinum: AVAD, whose sales and marketing efforts are customer-focused to raise awareness of its continuum of promotions and incentives, which are designed to make it easier to do business in the industry. Full-scale marketing partnerships enable the company to best help major dealers hone a sales program or custom product portfolios and generate substantial business that is backed by its established distribution and shipping network.
Distributor’s Training Programs
Platinum: AVAD, whose numerous educational programs and events, held throughout North America and online, are tailored to increase dealers’ industry IQ and business acumen. AVAD offers dealers an array of training opportunities that focus on everything from product training to business management, allowing them to stay a few steps ahead of the competition. Online and classroom product demonstrations, technical certifications and complete system coursework are all offered to accommodate dealers’ schedule.
AVAD’s freight policy, which enables customers to pick up, ship, or fast track orders from AVAD warehouses as necessary to streamline their operations and timelines. Distributor’s Shipping/Freight Policies
Platinum: AVAD, whose National Freight Program enables integrators to pick up or ship orders to streamline their operations and timelines. AVAD’s infrastructure, including a network of 23 branches throughout North America, has enabled us to meet the needs and project demands of many different business models. Tailoring its shipping program to align with its customers’ preferences allows them to better serve end users in the many industries they work.
Silver: BlackWire Designs
The DaVinci Group is Honored for its Dealer Program
The DaVinci Group (TDG), a relative newcomer to the custom integration channel, offers a unique business model to dealers. The Stellar Service Platinum award winner has introduced a dealer program with limited distribution of custom audiovisual products to a maximum number of 700 dealers, with no big-box retailers or internet sales allowed, and the opportunity for 350 of the 700 dealers invited to become shareholders in the company. To support its partners, all policies are in writing and they offer 100-percent dealer satisfaction.
The DaVinci Group will offer limited distribution of custom audiovisual products, including its now-shipping TDG Audio in-wall speakers, to 700 dealers. TDG management includes Daniel Kippycash, CEO and co-founder, Alex Chiou, CTO and co-founder, and Jeff Francisco, VP of sales. The brands within TDG are TDG Audio, Vanguard Dynamics, and Blue Aura, with a primary focus on architectural audio products.
“We created this model as a commitment to our dealers, partners, and the custom industry,” Kippycash stated at CEDIA EXPO. “We feel some of the industry challenges come from the fact that some manufacturers in this industry have lost focus of who and what they are. Headquartered in Ontario, CA, The DaVinci Group was founded by people committed to the custom channel and creating products, service, products, and relationships. What better way to create change within the industry than to offer a business plan that is inclusive for our partners?”
As part of this commitment TDG already has begun shipping 24 new SKUs.
“We have committed to our partners to put our money where our mouths are,” Francisco stated. “Part of that commitment is execution. We want our partners to know that when we show them a product, they can be certain of when they can begin delivering it to their clients.”
TDG introduced two new speakers in the TDG Audio and Vanguard Dynamics lines, featuring what is believed to be the world’s first dual voice coil tweeter technology for the architectural audio industry.
“I’ve wanted to improve the old standard of dual tweeter technology for years,” Francisco stated. “We are thrilled to be able to continue our focus on designing and delivering products that are unique and improve on legacy platforms to provide improved performance for The DaVinci Group partners.”
The company’s Blue Aura brand offers a line of powered wireless speakers, the X-Series that includes bookshelf, stereo tabletop, and tower speakers and are available in faux leather finish in Sahara and Graphite colors. The line offers Bluetooth, NFC, and digital audio inputs.
“The demand for wireless products continues to grow,” Francisco stated. “Equal is the demand for high-quality speakers to attach to the Sonos, Voco, Apple, and even the LCD and LED display products. The new Blue Aura X-Series provides our dealers a line with outstanding performance and limited distribution.”
Most recently, TDG expanded its warranty program to offer lifetime replacement on all architectural speakers, volume controls, speaker selectors, five years parts and labor on all amplifiers, and two years parts and labor on all wireless products. The new WarrantyPLUS program provides every dealer a $75 credit on any product that requires warranty attention.
“This change in warranty coverage, compensation, and how support is handled to the dealers is something that has bothered me for years,” Kippycash said. “Dealers are the life line to happy clients. There are many good warranty programs being offered within our industry. While the manufacturer carries the burden of product replacement, this doesn’t cover any of the costs encountered by the dealer. For the dealer, they still have the cost of a truck roll and the time to support the product. So we created this program with the input from our dealers to step up and let them know we appreciate their support and efforts to ensure we all work together to keep our clients happy.”
Draper Earns Triple Recognition for its Service Prowess
Draper was the first screen manufacturer to design an adaptive and responsive website, so it’s fitting the company won the Gold prize in that category. Draper, headquartered in Spiceland, IN, earned three awards in this year’s Stellar Service Awards contest. The company received accolades for its sales and marketing process (Platinum), website (Gold), and for its customer service/general communication (Gold).
For its Platinum award-winning sales and marketing prize, Draper seemed to earn recognition for providing some of the most comprehensive screen selection tools available, including literature both in printed and electronic form. Primarily a projection screens manufacturer, the company provides continuous training to keep dealers up to date on the latest product and industry developments.
“Others may train their sales once and then turn them loose on the phones; Draper has a friendly and efficient sales staff that receives regular training to stay up-to-date on the latest video technologies,” explained Bob Hadsell, home theater sales manager.
Hadsell noted that most of the company’s regional managers live and work in their territories, giving their customers greater access to factory personnel. Also, Draper’s network of manufacturer’s representatives receives extensive training on its products, being supplied with regular updates of product announcements and changes. Draper offers point-of-sale material, including lifestyle-oriented catalogs, brochures, and posters, all free of charge. Its attractive shade swatch POS kits, available at a minimal cost, contain coupons to rebate more than the cost of the swatch kit.
In addition, Draper works through social media to keep in touch with dealers, distributors, and end users. The company is one of the industry leaders with live chat, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Recognizing the importance of electronic communication, Draper offers most of their literature and marketing media by download and flipbook.
Draper was the first screen manufacturer to design an adaptive and responsive website, so it’s fitting the company won the Gold prize in that category. Information from photos to pricing to technical documentation is online and continuously updated. Continuous updates and upgrades are also made based on dealer suggestions. Its site (www.draperinc.com) is mobile friendly and home to many tools, including apps to help choose the right screen size or viewing surface.
Others may train their sales associates once and then turn them loose on the phones; Draper has a friendly and efficient sales staff that receives regular training to stay up-to-date on the latest video technologies. The company also has a long history, having been founded in 1902. “We provide the best and most complete offering of on-line tools for planning an installation,” Hadsell said. “We have a vast library of resources, complete information on all our products, and it’s updated constantly (not weekly, monthly, or annually), so that all the information is current and up-to-date.
Hadsell believes it’s Draper’s employees that set it apart, in terms of customer service and general communication.
“They’re friendly, well informed, and bend over backward to ensure a positive customer experience,” he said.
Draper offers continuous training to keep everyone up to date on the latest product and industry developments. The company recently made a significant investment in phone systems to ensure speedy response to calls. It also monitors live chats on its website where associates are ready to answer questions; documentation for all products are available on website.
“Getting a projection screen delivered and installed can require navigating around a lot of obstacles; our people understand and are experts at guiding product through shipping issues, around onsite construction and delivery hurdles, and to its ultimate safe installation,” Hadsell said. “Draper personnel are dedicated to providing a quick response; we have invested in significant technology upgrades so that your communication gets to the right person sooner. We work closely with freight companies and material vendors to solve problems if the need arises.”
RTI Receives Accolades for Sales and Marketing
Aiding in its award-winning sales and marketing efforts, RTI’s website has a completely redesigned look and feel, enabling easier navigation to product and support materials for both dealers and end users. A project showcase section features case studies of RTI installations in a wide range of environments. RTI’s Stellar Service silver-award-winning sales and marketing support includes a redesigned, customer-centric website with simplified navigation. A case studies program allows dealers to submit details about recent projects using RTI for potential inclusion in the website’s “Showcase” section. These case studies can be printed out to complement brochures and other marketing materials provided by RTI. The company’s dealer accommodation program offers very aggressive pricing for dealers that want to invest in RTI demo systems for their showroom or personal use.
The company’s website, re-introduced in September, has a completely new look and feel, enabling easier navigation to product and support materials for both dealers and end users. Along with the addition of individual login capabilities for providing further security to the dealer area, the website also features a two-way drivers store and project showcase section featuring case studies of RTI installations in a wide range of environments.
“The release of our new website reflects RTI’s dedication to providing both exceptional customer service and comprehensive support to our extended dealer network,” said Pete Baker, vice president of sales and marketing for RTI. “With a completely revamped design and new content sections, visitors will experience a simpler, more engaging online experience that puts a wide range of tools, information, and enhancements at their fingertips.”
RTI’s VP of sales and marketing, Pete Baker, leads the award-winning team responsible for sales and marketing of products like the T2X remote control. Designed to enhance the customer experience and create more opportunity for improved product and data navigation, the new site features a simplified “Find a Dealer” section with front-and- center information on dealers and distributors. Visitors to the site can also peruse a new section titled “Showcase,” which highlights unique RTI control applications in residential, commercial, and hospitality markets.
Dealers will benefit from a new two-way drivers store that allows registered users to develop and post drivers in a central location alongside RTI-developed drivers. In addition, dealers are invited to submit details about how they used RTI in recently completed projects for potential inclusion in the showcase section. For a limited time, RTI is offering Control Bucks as an incentive for dealers whose project is chosen for a full case study write-up.
Baker responded to the news that his company was awarded for its sales and marketing efforts.
“We are delighted to receive the Stellar Service Award from Residential Systems for our sales and marketing support. As the vice president of sales and marketing for RTI, I may be a bit biased, but I firmly believe we have the most talented and professional sales and marketing team available, in an industry loaded with amazing talent in this regard. I am very proud to see my team receive this well-deserved, special recognition from our dealers.”