An Advance Whose Time Has Come
A few years ago, Advance Technology went on a visionary mission to find new services and solutions for its customer base. The result has been the introduction of some of the industry’s most sophisticated offerings and staggering sales growth. This has culminated in being named an SSI 2013 Installer of the Year.
What really sealed the need to move in that direction for Simopoulos was an experience he had after selling a new video surveillance system to a key client. During a site visit it came to light that one of the customer’s cameras was inactive — news to them and ATI! Like a lightning bolt, the integrator realized the value in providing a proactive service to remotely check for offline cameras, hard drive failures, cameras out of focus, and much more.
To minimize problems in the field, as a quality control measure ATI has an R&D team test all new products before they are released to its sales team. Maintaining a standardized level of excellence has also meant limiting the number of manufacturers used and making sure ATI techs are certified on those solutions.
“A large training matrix for our 18 technicians shows where the gaps are and ensures they are knowledgeable in the products when they arrive at customer sites,” says Olsen. “In addition, we track the sales, operations and office teams on the same matrix so we can ensure they continue to gain professional development and training.”
Active, Creative Marketing
Effective marketing is crucial at any stage of a services-based company, but even more so when transitioning to new offerings as ATI has done. Consequently, the company launched a rebranding campaign during 2012 leveraging new as well as traditional marketing techniques.
“We invested over $25,000 in a brand-new Web site that incorporates social media,” says Simopoulos. “Our sales team writes blogs
based on solutions they develop for customers while in the field. We rebranded our entire fleet of trucks with graphics defining our business. New brochures, tri-folds and print materials were redesigned and launched — all with a similar look and feel.”
Another inventive avenue ATI uses to connect with customers and prospects is by holding a technology expo, which has grown in each of its four years. The most recent drew in excess of 300 attendees and included 50+ vendor booths. The free daylong event includes educational seminars on visionary topics like Near-Field Communications (NFC) and smartcards, hosted video, video guarding and more.
“Our marketing team is constantly reviewing the strategies we put into place,” says Simopoulos. “It is important to rely on both current customers and prospects to determine if our marketing efforts are a success. A rise in leads after the launch of a new marketing effort assures us we are heading in the right direction. The input of our employees is equally important.”
All Opinions Matter
Remote support services are just one practice that helps ATI deliver premium customer service and care.
The firm has every customer fill out a survey after an installation. To entice a high response rate, when they complete the online form they are entered in a drawing for a $100 cash prize. According to Simopoulos, while 99% of the feedback is positive, input indicating a weakness is taken very seriously as to what must be improved.
All surveys are shared with every ATI associate. Customers are asked to rank each department and identify people who have gone above and beyond what was required. Named ATI members are recognized and rewarded with cash bonuses. A case involving a hospital client whose security system failed serves as an example of how ATI goes the extra mile to satisfy a customer.
Within 10 minutes of contacting the service department, engineers connected to the system and began remotely troubleshooting the problem. It was quickly found that the software license was wrongly showing as expired. ATI contacted the manufacturer and determined the license key was coded incorrectly. A new key was generated and remotely loaded to the system — making it operational in less than two hours’ time. The customer was ecstatic about the speed of repair.
ATI also has an open forum policy in which personnel are encouraged to offer ideas on how to improve processes. Not only does this help the business be more effective but it also serves to keep employees engaged and motivated.
Bring the Best Onboard
ATI fosters a friendly and fun work environment through activities such as a monthly photo contest and seasonal company events like a summer cookout.
“It’s the small things that count when trying to keep your team motivated,” says Simopoulos. “A little pat on the back when it’s due can go a long way. I always ask my sales team, ‘When is the last time you stopped by a jobsite and dropped off some snacks and drinks for the technical team?’ For everyone in our group, ‘Have you recognized someone on your team with a little handwritten card lately?’ These small touches go a long way.”
Having the right people on the bus, as they say, is another critical aspect to ATI’s success. In its recruiting and hiring practices, the firm understands making the wrong choice can ultimately cost the business thousands of dollars. Furthermore, an IT-centric sensibility is coveted among candidates regardless of the intended position. Today, an integrator’s entire team needs to have at least a basic grasp of the systems and services so they can speak intelligently with customers.
As Simopoulos explains, this is an ongoing challenge: “We have a problem attracting young people into our industry. There aren’t many IT students who know the security industry is a career path option. We are working to attract young talent with a focus working with local colleges and attending job fairs to show them there are amazing career opportunities in this industry.”
ATI’s interview process involves several steps. After two or three interviews, the final stage involves job shadowing where the applicant spends a day in the field. A similar procedure is adhered to for sales and operations team candidates. Once hired, extensive training ensues.
“We take training very seriously in our organization. I believe you need more than just manufacturer certification training for your team,” says Simopoulos. “We have had customer service training for our entire company in recent years. Last year, we did biweekly sales training for our sales reps that lasted six months. It focused on the psychology behind the sales process and took our experienced reps back to the basics.”
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