It’s almost a case of the bigger they come, the harder they fall. But instead it’s the bigger they come, the harder they are to deal with. One reason clients tell me they keep coming back to The Source Home Theater and why they refer us to their friends is because of the great customer service. Have a question? Someone always answers the phone. Cable not working? We’ll be right there. Want to add an AppleTV to your living room? We’ll be right there. Speaker sounds like it’s blown? We’ll be right there and we’ll replace it if there’s any problem.
In the past few weeks I’ve had problems with three different media servers from the same manufacturer, and each time they ran me through myriad tests, even though they knew (and I told them, just to be sure) that I’m a certified dealer who has sold dozens of them in the past year and I know how to troubleshoot the devices. Each time they wanted me pay for an advance replacement and wait five days to get it to me. In the meantime my client would have been without their media server, over a long weekend, during the Polar Vortex.
Instead, I took one I had in inventory and replaced the defective one, which I sent back for “evaluation” (since they didn’t believe me). Not surprisingly, I got a call from the manufacturer telling me I was right and the device was defective… all THREE TIMES. If I could bite the bullet and provide my client with an advance replacement in 24 hours, why couldn’t this company stand behind their product? Guess whose media servers I won’t be buying anymore?
Why is that the smaller guys offer the best service, whether it by us, as dealers, or smaller manufacturers? Seems like the bigger the manufacturer is, the worse they are. What bigger companies don’t seem to realize is that what is maybe a small issue to them is a huge issue to our client, and by extension to us. Maybe they have gotten too far away from the customer. Have any of the people that run these companies gone on a ride-a-long with a dealer for a day, or gone on a service call? They have no idea what it is like in the field, and it shows in how they execute on customer and technical support.
That is why I make it a point to be in the field as much as possible in my business; I want to stay close to my clients and my techs and installers so that I know what is working and what isn’t and can make changes to how I operate accordingly.
An exception I have found is Crestron, which has impeccable customer service, great reps, and knowledgeable tech support, despite its relatively large size for our channel. Maybe size doesn’t matter if the company is private and can invest its resources in serving customers instead of Wall Street. Maybe it’s the big, public conglomerates that are the issue.
Another company, which I won’t mention by name, had its servers go down for a few days recently, which led to a litany of emails that our clients’ systems were back up (even though you were never alerted that systems went down). Despite multiple calls, it took the manufacturer more than two days to get back to me, and even when they did, it was low-level technical support, and they couldn’t answer my questions.
I know this may sound like a rant, but I have an ulterior motive. I want us all to learn from each other. So help me out by posting in the comments below. How do you make sure you provide great customer service to your clients even if you aren’t getting it from your manufacturers? Have you found manufacturers that excel at customer support? Let us all know and let's all support them by directing more of our business their way.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.