Control4 Rolls Out New Dealer Initiatives
CEO increases focus on the end-user experienceFebruary 10, 2012 By Jeff O'Heir
Under its new CEO, Control4 will intensify its focus on delivering an exceptional end-user experience and stronger dealer programs, while cutting back on more far-reaching initiatives or working on them in a less public way.
In a recent interview, Martin Plaehn, who also serves as Control4's president, said the company will be less vocal on initiatives such as the power grid project it has been working for the last several years with several utility companies.
"We're still working on those, but we're being very tempered with regard to their expectations and in regard to making public statements about things that are in a Petri dish," he said. "Until we've accumulated enough mastery where we're ready for the commercial deployment of some of those initiatives, we should just stay quiet."
Shortly after taking the job in September, Plaehn hit the road and visited the owners and chief technologists of 21 of Control4's top dealers. Much of the company's recent news, including new elements to its dealer program, Control4 certified networking gear and a revamped warranty program, was based on the dealer feedback.
The initiatives follow the release of the company's new controller, the HC-800 ($999, shipping this month). Based on Intel's 1.8GHz dual-core processor, the control is far more power (and about half the price) of the previous generation, for a much quicker response time between the system and devices. It also now includes HDMI A/V connectivity.
"What I think I've helped the company do is to give it the confidence that if you put all the intellectual wood behind (core product development and the end-user experience) we will accelerate and the rewards will be far more clear to consumers, to our dealer channels, to our partners and to our stakeholders," he said. "That's what I'm bringing to the team."
Certified Networking Gear and Drivers
Control4 recently released a list (http://www.control4.com/dealer/partners/certified) of recommended networking equipment, featuring products that have been tested by Control4 and field-tested by many of its dealers. The company will also provide configuration files and networking guidelines for those products. Dealers using recommended gear can receive Control4 technical support on specific topics.
Plaehn noted that dealers can still use any networking products they're comfortable with. The new program, he said, is designed to make the installation and maintenance of robust, reliable networks as easy as possible. Control4 also certified nine new HDMI video switch products and drivers from Atlona and WyreStorm.
"We have a very broad and very skilled dealer network. Many of them have quite deep networking knowledge and they have the confidence and the skill to provide their own recommended solutions," he said. "We're okay with that, but there's another set of dealers who would really like to have the recipe or the prescription from us."
At the end of this month, Control4 will begin delivering its training program on the web, allowing dealers to continue their technical and sales training anytimes they like. The company will also embark on a worldwide dealer tour, traveling to more than 50 cities to bring one-day training sessions to its dealers. Topics will include new product overviews, light-commercial applications, troubleshooting, and MyHome application and 4Sight for mobile and remote access.
New Warranty and RMA Programs
This month, Control4 beefed up its standard two-year product warranty. If a Control4 product fails in its second year, the company will immediately send a factory-reconditioned replacement. In the past, the second-year warranty only provided repair, which incurred inbound shipping time, repair time and return shipping time. Dealers can choose the outbound shipping method for the replacement product: weekday overnight, two-day or standard delivery. Control4 also revised its RMA policy to provide paid return freight for the warranteed product being replaced.
"In the old world, when something failed, a dealer had to get the piece of equip, send it back to us, we have to repair it and send it back to dealer, who then had to go back to the home to install it," Plaehn said. "In this scenario, if we can diagnose (the product) remotely, or if the dealer can, we can make the immediate assertion that, yes, it has to be replaced. The dealer makes one trip and homeowner's back up and running. We're cutting huge amounts of time out of the response loop."