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11-22-2017 -- From its modest beginnings in Cleveland, Ohio as a vehicle security company to its leadership position today in the connected car world, Directed has grown tremendously while keeping a sharp focus on consumer service, tech support, and dealer relations.

According to James Turner, senior vice president of product and technical services, who will mark his 16th anniversary with the company this month, it was about a

year ago when Directed made a critical change to fuse back together several departments—namely tech support and product development—that had been operating independently of one another.

“It made sense because product design depends so much on the voice of our customer and the techs have the closest relationship to the installers,” Turner said. “I view installers as our first customer and the end-consumer as the second one.”

Today, there are three legs of support to address dealers, consumers, and installers.

Directed’s dealer customer service department handles dealers and sales reps. “This group addresses warranties, processes orders, sets up new dealers with our reps, gives reporting information on different customers, and follows up on satisfaction issues,” Turner said.

Consumer service handles calls from end users. “We get contacted about SmartStart—maybe a consumer has a remote they want to reprogram to their system or they might have an inquiry about one of our systems in general.”

The technical support team, (not surprisingly) the largest group in the company (operating with a staff of more than 20 people), is split between Montreal and Vista, Calif., where Directed is headquartered. “Our office in Canada focuses on sales and mostly engineering product development while the office here in California is some engineering but mostly sales.”

Tech support is a busy department and has weekly meetings to stay on top of it all, Turner said. “Every Tuesday we go through the escalations to talk about the top issues our team is hearing about on the phone,” said Turner. “Yes, we have lots of written reports, but it’s better for people to be face to face to talk through these things. We also have PSRs in the field—Product Specialist Representatives. There are seven—two here in California; three are based in their own regions of the eastern, western, and central U.S.; and there is one for each side of Canada. We get these groups together two times a year to go over what our plan will be in the field, but we are getting feedback from them on an every-other-week basis.

"They are doing trainings in the field (we train about 5,000 installers per year), visiting install shops and going back into the bays and spending quality time with the installers. Then they provide us with feedback of whatever they are learning.”

It All Clicks

While phone lines used to be the dominant way to field questions, that's no longer the case. What has become a big deal is click-and-chat. “We have two different applications of support look-up solutions: flashing and changing configurations with Directechs Mobile, then we have another app called DirectLink that is used on our new DS4 product,” Turner said. “These two apps put an immediate solution in someone’s hands. The benefit is that an installer doesn’t have to go back to a computer and search for something. It’s right there so they can look it up immediately. Once they go back to the installation in the car, they can stay in the car. We found that even though the solutions are much more complicated—because they are all so vehicle-specific—we are using apps to make the user or the installation experience much easier.

Turner believes that it's much more intuitive to walk through the process step by step with screens. Within the apps, there is click-to-chat so an installer can instantly contact one of Directed's agents right when they have a problem while still sitting in their car. "A chat option will pop up and they can have a conversation with them about the issues that they are encountering and go through the trouble-shooting to rectify it.”

The company plans to continue working on app development, according to Turner. “Within an app, if an installer goes through a specific vehicle and configures all of the settings, and they have a specific matter, they can save it to their favorites, and the next time they see that vehicle it will remind them that they already did a vehicle like this,” Turner said. “Ultimately, it will save the installer time and having to remember what they set up on a car they worked on 45 days ago.”

10-11-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Think back to what the car buying experience was like two decades ago. Whether a consumer bought used or new, purchasing an aftermarket car stereo was no big hassle.

Today the landscape has completely changed with aftermarket companies forced to keep pace with all of the advanced technologies automakers are packing into their vehicles. But that is how Montreal, Canada -based Automotive Data Solutions, Inc. (ADS) helps its technology partners keep doing business as usual.

ADS specializes in the development and marketing of remote start and audio integration solutions destined for the aftermarket. Its list of technology partners, which reads like a who’s who of the 12-volt world, includes: Alpine, Arc Audio, AudioControl, Audison, Autopage, Belron (Canada), Compustar, Firstech, K40 Electronics, Kenwood, Omega, Pioneer, Rockford Fosgate, and Voxx.

Marketed under the iDatalink, iDatalink Maestro, and iDataStart brands, ADS products are sold and installed through a network of authorized dealers across North America, South America, Europe, and Russia. ADS also develops several private label solutions for various strategic partners and markets those worldwide.

“Right now the biggest challenge is that it’s a very vehicle specific game,” said ADS marketing director Dan Facciolo. “Go back 15 years ago and you were able to advertise and sell a car radio without having to worry that it wasn’t going to work in certain cars. Now when it comes time to market that radio you don’t want to worry about which cars it won’t work in.  Not every product works in every car, but that’s where we come in. We specialize in the vehicle interface part. Our job is to make the car radio or remote car starter from a manufacturer work in a lot of cars.”

A recent example involves BMW. “A few years ago we released the first remote car starter solution for BMWs that didn’t require the installers to physically install a key in the vehicle,” Facciolo said. “Over one year of R&D was invested in deciphering the technology, but years later, we still are the only company to have offered a solution.”

Even the most mainstream, popular vehicles have fallen victim to the same challenge, according to Facciolo. “A few years ago the Toyota Corolla became somewhat of a complicated vehicle if you wanted to install a remote car starter,” he said. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of Corollas sold every year. If you can’t install a remote car starter on them, it becomes a huge problem for the retail channel because they’re missing out on a bread-and-butter car, or the installation becomes a lot more expensive than it should be. Every year new cars are coming out with more technology and what we need to do is reverse engineer those technologies in order to install aftermarket products in those cars.”

Full-On Support

What makes ADS unique is that its comprehensive support efforts are not just limited to products. It is a powerful one-stop shop for its technology partners’ needs.

“We can manufacture their products from A to Z, but we also offer marketing and sales support,” said Facciolo. “We offer engineering support, IT support and on-the-road sales support. When you’re dealing with ADS, we can help you manufacture your product, assist with the marketing of it, or we can simply manufacture a component that is compatible with an OEM product.”

ADS has close to 100 employees with a large engineering team on both the remote start and car audio fronts. “Engineering and IT are our biggest departments,” said Facciolo. “We also have a large technical support department because we need to support all of our private label partners as well as our own brands across North America.” There is central marketing (which Facciolo heads up) where marketing collateral for private label customers is generated.

“When a manufacturer comes to us we don’t just create the product itself,” Facciolo said. “We help them develop the packaging. We make websites for them. Sometimes we create sales material. Often times we have a sales team that will go on the road and support a private label vendor at distributor shows or trade shows. ADS might be there giving presentations on behalf of the private label manufacturer. What we offer is end-to-end service—not just creating or manufacturing a product for them, but also offering the services that go along with the product.”

Just recently, ADS attended KnowledgeFest where the company had its own booth, but its presence went beyond that. “Our staff was also assisting other vendors at their booths and also in their trainings,” Facciolo said. “If you go to any road show, any big distributor show, any industry trade show, there is a good chance you’ll find an ADS representative at the Voxx booth, at the Compustar booth, or at the Kenwood booth.”

If there is a situation where a retailer is installing an ADS product and having an issue, the company has a technical support department open six days a week with social media available 24-7. “We have support groups and they’re available phone, social media, or forums which is pretty industry standard for our retailers,” Facciolo said.

With its technology partners, said Facciolo, if there is an engineering issue, then it is typically addressed engineering team to engineering team. “Their engineers will contact ours and we will work through the problem,” he said. “If it is vehicle specific, then we will get access to that vehicle and do the troubleshooting for them. Since we work with software, our product is designed to be programmed online. You plug our product into the USB cable to our website and there is software that gets flashed in and allows it to work on a certain vehicle. If it is a vehicle-specific bug, we get access to that car and make the necessary tweaks to the software that will make it work. It’s a quick process. As soon as a bug is reported we are able to address it pretty quickly and issue software updates through the Internet.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Coming to America

Based in Brazil, SounDigital is establishing its footprint in the U.S. with a crackerjack engineering team, self-manufactured product, and plans to double its dealers within a year.

Words by Jamie Sorcher

It takes only a few moments on the phone to determine Diogo Ianaconi is a mobile guy—not just because of his role as the CEO of SounDigital USA (the company makes competition-grade amps for cars, boats and bikes), but more so because he is actually on the go so much of the time.

“We opened up for business in Miami back in 2016 with a warehouse that handles distribution to the U.S. as well as the Caribbean and Mexico,” Ianaconi said. “I’m definitely traveling a lot right now, but the idea is for me to move to the U.S., hopefully by the end of the year.” For now, he spends time in both the States and Brazil. In between are side trips to Russia and other far-flung locations to see distributors.

SounDigital, in existence for 12 years and based in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil, employs over 200 people. The company’s products can be purchased in over 45 countries, but it is the U.S. market where SounDigital is focusing its efforts now.

“We had a presence in the U.S. years ago, but it was only in... Read the rest of the story HERE.

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