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12-18-2017, Mobile Electronics -- With countless mobile and personal electronics from overhead monitors to speakers, to remote starters, Voxx carries just about anything you can imagine. It is fitting that its technical support is also expansive.

The department is vastly different from when Edward Catapano first joined Audiovox 20 years ago, interestingly in tech support before eventually becoming director of technical services.

“The biggest change is you must be more technologically advanced today,” he said. “Back then every car was similar to one another. If you knew how to put a radio in Car A, that radio could be installed and wired into Car B. Today, every car is different. Everything works off the vehicle’s computer and every car is advanced so you really have to think about what you touch and what you’re doing. You need modules to decipher that information for you.” When the module is installed—for example, between a remote start and the car—the module does a lot of the work for you, Catapano explained, adding that it’s much more difficult to do an install nowadays.

Advanced cars, tougher installs, and more complex products are precisely why Voxx has coordinated a comprehensive effort to manage issues for consumers, installers and dealers. All tech support functions funnel through Catapano’s department of 12 employees. Everyone sits around him in the call center at the corporate offices in Hauppauge, N.Y.

Catapano’s hand-picked team of techs, he said, is ready for just about anything.  Catapano himself is MECP certified, along with three of his techs. The rest of the team is MECP Advanced.

“I could bet the farm that I have one of the best teams in the business,” he said. “They can take their hat and turn it when a consumer calls and then they can turn the hat one more time when an installer calls and needs help with something. These techs have installed products all of their lives, so I have almost 300 years of experience in my department.”

On any given day, there are a couple of dozen phone numbers that pump calls into the center. There is one for consumers and other numbers dedicated to dealers. “If we get a call and it’s computer related—maybe an installer is trying to flash software into a unit—my guys will take over the computer and not only show the caller how to do it, but will do the work and train the installer on the phone at the same time,” Catapano said. “This method lets a person learn what to do for the future. If we just tell them how to fix something, great. If we do it for them, great. But if we can do the work, show them, and also teach them at the same time, then they keep that knowledge forever.”

The tech support team is also cross-trained. When calls come in, they can bounce to anyone. “Everyone here can do everything,” Catapano said. Some techs are more adept at certain types of calls, so priorities can be set on those calls so they’re directed to certain people on the team. “Technician A may be good at a particular type of call, so when that call comes in, I might set his priority for that type of call higher than for everyone else. “

Unbox, Dissect And Discuss

With so many products that the techs might potentially have to answer questions about, it is essential to keep everybody up to date with the intricacies of new items and also revisit the mainstays. Catapano does this with hands-on trainings. “I take everyone in the conference room and we physically unbox a product,” he said. “I give out the installation and owner’s manuals to each person. We’ll sit around the table and talk about the product, rip it apart, go through the installation and owner’s manuals, and everyone marks them up with their own feedback.”

Catapano takes it the next step and puts techs on his team in cars to have them actually install products. “Every day, I pull one of my guys off the phone, and we do this in a round-robin fashion,” Catapano said. “My technician will sit inside of a person’s car and install a product. Every day, we do another installation, even though it is common practice or mundane if we do similar things over and over again. My technicians have to be as smart and up to date as the people we talk to, so they can’t just sit on the phone and not experience what these other people are experiencing.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Editor's Note: This month we kick off a new series called The Support Team to take a closer look at how manufacturers are handling support functions across the board whether it’s customer support, tech support, rep support—it all needs to come together to keep wheels turning. Read on for our first installment featuring AAMP.

9-13-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Taking care of folks, whether it’s dealers or consumers, requires some hand holding, a touch of tough love, and a sense of humor. Just take a look at AAMP’s support page on their website which reads: “WE'RE HERE FOR YOU. Drop us a line, give us a call, or send your carrier pigeon if that's how you roll.”

AAMP has taken an aggressive but innovative approach to support with its Team Phantom initiative. In the middle of its two-year rollout, the program sets a new standard in retail support in the 12-volt industry. The core of Team Phantom revolves around in-field experts who provide solution consultations and leading edge customer service, sales support, and product training for AAMP’s network of retail partners.

“We are the first line of defense for AAMP to the dealer and we’re also the marketing voice at consumer-based shows,” said Mike Eckley, Team Phantom sales manager and Mobile Electronics Sales Rep of the Year. “We are a multi-hat function—we’re technical support, sales support, and marketing support. We go in and help dealers merchandise their stores. We solidify sales business with our inside salesperson. We essentially are the eyes and ears of AAMP that are constantly moving out on the street.”

The Phantom team is now in six regions with the larger rollout to encompass a team of 40 for the full-blown Phantom Nation. Outfitted in high-impact, experiential AAMP-branded showcase vehicles, 2014 to 2017 Chevy 1500s, these special vehicles allow AAMP’s partners to fully immerse themselves in AAMP Power Brands solutions and preview new products pre-launch.

“Right now we are right in the middle of the full launch so we are still about a year-and-a-half out,” Eckley said, who handles the Florida region. “In the Northwestern territory—the Seattle market—there is Mike Hall. In the Dallas, Texas area we have Kevin Allen. Rick Ross is in the Bible Belt region—Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and some of Mississippi. Jason Denton is in the northern to mid-eastern area covering Pennsylvania, part of New York, and New Jersey. Our latest member is Steve Rogers who handles the Chicago/Dakota market.”

Team Phantom doesn’t replace the standard procedures already in place. For instance, there is still the 800-number (hit option 2) and it puts someone through to technical support. For marketing questions, dealers can send an e-mail request through a generator on the website.

“Those things haven’t gone away just because we now have Phantoms,” Eckley said. “We just have a faster response time in that aspect, but we are still regionally based and the team is still in its infancy.”

Step Inside And Be Surprised

When CEO David Klatt, Jr. took the helm of AAMP over two years, he brought with him some ideas to jumpstart the sales programs. While at Black & Decker and DeWalt Tools, Klatt was part of the senior sales leadership involved with “swarm teams” that would go out to store openings, regional events, and construction sites to host demos to build awareness for the brands and the products.

“When Klatt became the CEO of AAMP, it was easy for him to implement this swarm idea because he already knew the success it would have,” said Eckley. “He knew we needed guys on the street; we needed guys out there that would bleed AAMP.”

Next it was a matter of getting the trucks and loading them with all of the products and dealer support materials. Inside is everything from Phoenix Gold speakers and amplifiers to Stinger wiring and accessories to Stinger batteries to Stinger RoadKill products, along with PAC automotive integration pieces, and EchoMaster safety products.

“We’ve got product outfitted in the vehicles so someone can walk in, see what is new, check it out, try it, and then we can go to the back and install it,” said Eckley. “That is what the Phantom team does. We take every aspect of the business from AAMP and put it in the hands of the retailer when we are right there. It is much like being a rep, but we are a concentrated rep. We are only focused on AAMP-branded products.”

The success to date isn’t just due to loading up the trucks with the right product. It’s also about Team Phantom’s long-tenured and knowledgeable sales staff. “We have all been in the industry a very long time and we all have strengths that make us better than any one person on the team,” Eckley said. “Each of us has 15 to 20 years of experience in this industry. We’re not a marketing team being managed by an outside firm. We are car audio enthusiasts who had shops, were reps, worked for other manufacturers—so the team is put together from that aspect.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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