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Customer Service: Integrators Thinking Like Clients and Manufacturers Thinking Like Integrators - ResidentialSystems.com

Customer Service: Integrators Thinking Like Clients and Manufacturers Thinking Like Integrators

Our clients expect us to stand behind the products we sell and the work we do, rightly so. I know it is tempting to try to charge for every little service call, but how would you feel if you put yourself in your customer’s shoes?
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Reliability and customer service. You hear about these as decision factors all the time. Be it in purchasing a car, a smart phone, or a kitchen appliance, you want something that is going to last and if there is a problem, you want it taken care of without hassle. That is why Toyota is one of the top-selling car brands in the country; traditionally that car manufacturer offers great reliability and takes care of problems when they do occur.

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Installing the pre-built replacement RCS rack from Middle Atlantic Products. 

In our industry it is no different. Our clients expect us to stand behind the products we sell and the work we do, rightly so. I know it is tempting to try to charge for every little service call, but how would you feel if you put yourself in your customer’s shoes? Think about the car example, again. If six months in, your new purchase had something significant wrong with it, wouldn’t you expect the auto dealer to make it right? Our clients expect the same from us, be it something wrong with a remote control or a blown amp in an AVR. They expect us to come and replace or send for repair any defective item and usually at no cost to them. Sometimes it makes sense to us, other times it doesn’t, but that is where we need to use our judgment and follow our written policies (and maybe even bend the rules sometimes).

I expect no less from the manufacturers with whom we partner. If there is a problem with a product in the field, especially upon initial install, we need them to act like an integrator and take care of the problem, without a song and dance. Last week we were on a 10-day installation in The Hamptons, NY, at a beautiful home on the beach. Running the project was Rich Fregosa of Fregosa Designs (Rich was project manager, system designer, and programmer.) Andrew Russotti from Old Cove Integrators was in charge of the networking and IT portion of the project. We were all on a tight timeline and had scheduled various products to arrive and trades to come in at very specific time intervals. We had done our pre-wire and were ready for the rack on the day that it was scheduled to be delivered. The rack arrived and the packaging looked good so we signed for it and brought it to the equipment room.

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 Running the project was Rich Fregosa of Fregosa Designs (Rich was project manager, system designer, and programmer.)


Upon unpacking, however, the rack was in shambles—pillars, doors, and shelves were dented and bent, and it was completely scratched up. We were shocked the glass hadn’t broken. I panicked, as we couldn’t wait days for a new rack to arrive. I frantically called the distributor but they couldn’t get a new one to use for at least two days. I called other distributors, but with the same result (or I could pay hundreds of dollars to overnight it). After struggling for a few hours with what to do, Rich called Rebecca Villareale at Middle Atlantic who he has known for years and has a great relationship with, to see what she could do. She totally understood the situation and immediately put Rich in touch with the head of the assembly and shipping facility at their plant. They put wheels into motion to try to help us, but by this point it was already 7 or 8pm.

Although Andrew had already left the jobsite for the day, he knew the issue we were having and when he got back to the office, he found out he had the exact same model RCS rack in inventory. That is where the beauty of the pre-build RCS racks came in; he had it in stock and was able to bring it with him the next morning when he came back to the job site. We were very lucky to get this resolved so quickly. Middle Atlantic, in the meantime, was ready to send a team of three people out to Long Island, from New Jersey (a seven-hour round trip drive) to bring us a new rack and evaluate the damaged one on site.

Even with the problem resolved, Middle Atlantic was still prepared to send a team to our jobsite to see what happened to the rack to improve their packing and shipping processes. While the team ultimately did not come because it was no longer an urgent issue and a historic snow storm was expected, they are still planning to come in February when we are back on site. The fact that there were no excuses on the part of Middle Atlantic, no fussing over cost, and only a concern to save our project, was very impressive. It absolutely made my day and my week to see one of my manufacturer partners step up and see the situation through my eyes, not through the lens of their quarterly P&L statement.

I’ve been a big fan of Middle Atlantic and their RCS series of racks for over a year now, but have occasionally sold other lines. As I’m sure you can imagine, this experience has made me a dedicated loyalist. I will not sell another brand of rack.

What other manufacturers have you all used (in various product categories) that have gone above and beyond and treated you like they understand what it is like to be in the field?


+Todd Anthony Puma
is president of The Source Home Theater Installation, in New York City.

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