CEO's Blog

Time for a Mid-Year Goal Assessment

As we are well into the second half of 2018, now is an ideal time to review the business and individual goals your team hopefully set at the beginning of the year. What progress has been made? Is your company positioned to meet these goals by yearend? Is the team continuing to work toward their personal commitments?  If not, what barriers are hampering progress?

      President & CEO
       Robert Coolidge

Goals should serve as a road map for individual professional development and business growth. Establishing targets is the easy part.  Actually following through on them is the real challenge. To help prevent goal setting from becoming meaningless busy work, there must be accountability. Otherwise, your commitments become as pointless as the paper that likely wasn’t used to record them.

Prior to the fourth quarter, it’s a good idea to take another look at the targets you set. Assess the status and where you expect to be by year end. With any luck, some of your commitments may even have expanded into larger opportunities than first thought, or new ones have come into play.

Otherwise, you’ve got to pinpoint where you are falling short and then laser focus on improving those areas. Have market conditions changed? Are the right people in place? Do you have enough resources and the right tools? Don’t wait until Q4 to identify issues that should be addressed now.

If you’re falling short on personal commitments, take a harsh look at what’s keeping you from success. While there may be obstacles, what are you doing to defeat or sidestep them?  At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own achievements. Be honest with yourself, and make a solid plan to get back on track.

You’ve got most of the second half now to make field adjustments and strengthen your game plan. It’s not too late to reach the goal line.

 

 

10 Tips on Shaping Company Culture

As a CEO and former football player and coach, I see many parallels between business and team dynamics. A team has a shot at winning only if all players do their job to the best of their ability. The best quarterback cannot be effective without a solid line and talented receivers.  A running back can’t gain yards without blocking support.  Every position has a purpose, and each must work collectively as a team to succeed.

Robert Coolidge
      President & CEO

For your business to thrive in the long term, you should follow a playbook of strategies to build a winning team and company culture. Here are just a few to consider:

  1. Communication – Leaders should communicate often and honestly about company direction and progress. Silence only leads to speculation and rumors, which are often wrong and can cause distraction and impact morale. Keeping employees informed is also critical to ensuring everyone is working from the same playbook. The more information you share, the more employees will feel ownership.
  2. Integrity – Playing by the rules, even when no one is looking, is a key factor in forming a trusted, honorable team culture. Instill zero tolerance for any shady, corrupt behavior. Always remember your culture forms your brand.
  3. Commitment – During a merger/acquisition, deciding go-forward branding is typically near the top of the To Do list. Whether you opt for a brief co-branding period or hard cut over, all entities must embrace and commit to the new team identity. Uniting under a common brand best promotes a team culture and helps avoid an attitude of “them against us.” Eliminate items with the former brand and substitute with the new to promote company pride as one team.
  4. Empowerment – Empower your team to make decisions. Don’t penalize them for making mistakes; if you never make mistakes, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard or fast enough.  If you do happen to fail, focus on correcting, learning and moving on smarter rather than dwelling on blame.
  5. Goals – Setting baseline goals comes from the top down.  Perfection or 100% should always be the goal.  Anything less is an opportunity for improvement.
  6. Involvement – When starting a new project, ensure initial discussions include everyone who will play a role in execution no matter how large or small. Exclusion could create unnecessary insecurity and confusion. Winnow down the team to core players as practical, but solicit opinions from all members to convey the value of their input and place on the team.
  7. Accountability – Every player must be held accountable for their position and field assignments for the team to be successful. As Bill Belichick would say “Do your job.” Tracking performance and taking responsibility to make improvements is integral.
  8. Pace – This also comes from the top down.  Set the pace for others to follow. Work hard and fast with the intent to execute better each time.  This will guide your team on a path of success.
  9. Prosper – Setting performance goals and incentives gives those who want to excel the chance to be recognized and advance.  It doesn’t matter if they’re in the warehouse, call center or collections – everyone likes to be a winner.  Those that do not have the drive to succeed should understand that their future will be dictated by others.
  10. Camaraderie – While it’s vital for the team to excel on the field, it’s just as important for members to build relationships off the field. Getting to know each other on a more personal level fosters trust and understanding that is difficult to achieve during office hours. There’s a reason that an entire cottage industry is devoted to “team building” activities.

By regularly evaluating your team environment, you can quickly identify and address gaps in your playbook. Always keep your eye on the ball to load the scoreboard.

NSDA Evolving to Meet the Needs of Changing Repair Industry

For more than 60 years, the National Electronics Service Dealers Association (NESDA) has been the premier trade group for technicians repairing televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, etc. But like any forward-thinking association facing industry change, NESDA members realized that focusing strictly on electronics repair would not be sustainable.

In turn, NESDA has rebranded to NSDA (dropping “Electronics”) to cater to a broader spectrum of repair professionals. Appliance now shares top billing, drawing new attendees to this year’s annual NSDA convention. Many previously TV-only techs took advantage of the many appliance repair training courses offered.

In the exhibit hall, the Samsung booth commanded the largest presence, showcasing its latest appliance innovations along with flat screens. Look for Whirlpool, GE, Electrolux, Lennox, Goodman and others to get involved in future conventions. As a long-time supporter of the association, it’s exciting to see NSDA taking the steps necessary to broaden its mission and serve as a valuable resource to industries outside electronics.

President & CEO
Robert Coolidge

But don’t take this change in direction to mean TV repair is dead; many techs will tell you they can barely keep up with their current workload. Then there are those who are satisfied with just a diagnostic fee to proclaim a set can’t be fixed. At some point their business will divert to the harder working competitor committed to finding repair solutions. TV dispatch should result in a repair 80% of the time – even panels should be considered.

NSDA members are some of the brightest and skilled techs out there. Many have or will transition into adjacent sectors for myriad new repair opportunities, especially with whole home warranty companies. If you’re not familiar with NSDA, check it out and consider attending the next annual convention. From access to technical resources to invaluable manufacturer training, NSDA membership offers key benefits hard to find through any other trade association.

 

Five Tips for Thinking Inside the Box for Your Next Outsourcing Partner

Many businesses often realize that certain tasks they’re performing in house are inefficient, wasting time and resources and are far removed from their core competencies. Encompass has been on both sides of either selecting or serving as a business partner, so we have gained a lot

Robert Coolidge
President & CEO

of best practice knowledge over the decades.  When searching for the ideal B2B partner to assume responsibility for any of your pain point functions, here are some in-the-box questions to assist with your outside-the-box strategies.

  1. Customer Service – Can you rely on the supplier to be responsive to your needs? What about your customers? Is the supplier trustworthy enough to serve the lifeblood of your business? Be sure to check them out through the Better Business Bureau, professional references, social media and other channels to get a strong sense of their integrity and service culture.
  2. Key Performance Indicators – How does the supplier plan to measure the successes and challenges of your program? Before implementation, you and your supplier must agree on the standard metrics by which your business will be evaluated. Furthermore, you should have on demand access to reporting on these KPIs to have full visibility to how well (or not so well) your partner is managing your program.
  3. Technology – Can your partner integrate with your operating systems? Depending on the nature of the work they’re doing, having direct connectivity could help expedite certain processes and also provide visibility to valuable data. Plus, to provide visibility to program KPIs, your partner must have the technology to track and report on comprehensive data sets.
  4. Communication – Whom can you contact when something goes wrong or you need immediate assistance? Always insist on a single point-of-contact to serve as your “go to” liaison for issue resolution. If you’re faced with an angry customer or process failure, you don’t want to have to call six people before finally making contact with someone who can help. Additionally, you should be able to have regular business reviews with your supplier to discuss any issues, assess performance and share ideas for enhancements.
  5. Value-added Services – What does the supplier offer your business (and customers) beyond the basics? Ideally, your partner will include many different complimentary services that help enhance your program and streamline processes – from revenue sharing opportunities to technical assistance. But be wary of those that nickel and dime you for every touchpoint; value-added should be just that, not a means for additional profit generation.

At Encompass, we are particularly focused on providing as much “bang for the buck” as possible through streamlined pricing models. We offer many different services – such as e-commerce portal development and system integration – at no extra charge.

However, selecting the right partner should never be just about price. Pricing can usually be somewhat flexible, but a potential supplier’s way of doing business is pretty much set in stone. While aggressive pricing may be hard to resist, marginal service can end up costing you much more in the long run.

Change and Innovation in Aftersales Service

Another Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, and the industry is well into the first quarter of what promises to be an interesting year of change and innovation for the aftersales service community.

The buzz in the Appliance and Electronics verticals continues to center around the “Internet of Things” with focus on the connected home. Remote monitoring and control of devices throughout the home via WiFi is gaining traction. Now our smart washers can tell our smart phones when the laundry is done, so it appears the Jetsons weren’t as farfetched after all.

With this type of connectivity, it seems logical that remote online diagnostics will be the future of repair, minimizing time-consuming in-home visits. Service teams would be able to connect to home networks and read failure codes to troubleshoot and identify parts needed. Just another few clicks and parts can be ordered – Encompass is standing by!

Robert Coolidge
      President & CEO

In consumer electronics, there may actually be a reversal (or at least slowing) of the replace vs. repair trend.  Display panels have become so thin that components must be housed separately within the control base. This change in design makes televisions less bulky and more portable, which could help energize depot repair. For field techs, commercial and residential installation and connectivity service are tremendous offerings they should be aggressively promoting in addition to repair.

On the back end, warranty underwriters are also exploring innovations to their models. There is much opportunity to “own the home” for extended contract providers looking to expand beyond single product coverage. In turn, whole home warranty providers may consider adding non-traditional goods like televisions, smart phones and    computers to their list of covered items.

With many electronics now easier and potentially less expensive to repair, extended warranty providers should reexamine their product buyout policies. Through a variety of measures, Encompass annually saves our warranty partners millions in buyouts – not including the extensive costs and effort of recovering a faulty unit and disposing it within government environmental regulations.

Once repairs are completed successfully, everyone wins: consumers get functioning products and the service community gets work, while being driven toward the proper behavior of enabling more repairs.  Labor rates could possibly improve more if the repair process can be more efficient and less products are simply thrown away.

Warranty companies avoid costly buyouts and earn satisfaction from their contract holders.  Gift cards and product replacements should be the options of last resort. Even the product manufacturer wins since their products remain in the home and are not displaced by a different brand.

As the industry continues evolving year after year, there will always be opportunity to thrive for those willing to look and work for it.

 

Run Faster!

“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you better be running.” African Proverb

 If your business has the good fortune to be thriving with many years in operation, it is tempting to kick back and bask in the glow of a well-oiled machine. However, since complacency is the enemy of success, you may need to be reminded of this insightful proverb.

Robert Coolidge
      President & CEO

Relying on past achievements and being satisfied with the status quo are the surest ways to end up as an entrée on your competitor’s plate. To stay relevant, it’s imperative that you keep moving forward with fresh ideas and service offerings to provide value to your customers. Some ideas to get your team thinking creatively in 2018:

  • Brainstorm – Gather staff from all levels of the organization to share thoughts on potential new markets, products/services, sales approaches, operational improvements and whatever else that needs a refresh. Those in the trenches often have the best ideas as they are regularly closest to day-to-day company activity.
  • Get Feedback – Talk to your customers and find out what they want from you that they’re not getting. If they buy from your competition, try to get vital intel on how that business is able to pick up your slack.
  • Stay Informed – Get out of the office and network with others in your industry. Join trade associations, watch webinars and attend conferences to stay on top of trends and capitalize on opportunities to grow your business.

Encompass is marking our 65th year in business this year and couldn’t be more excited. But while we will always honor our heritage, we know that the key to success lies with our ability to continually innovate and evolve. Over the past few years we have worked hard to diversify our parts inventory to become a convenient one-stop source. We continually add new lines as we strive to be a preferred parts supplier for all products in the home from the driveway to the kitchen to the back yard.

We’ve also significantly enhanced our e-commerce site and online catalog to assist customers with parts selection. Encompass.com features tools to link a product’s exploded view to part detail pages for easy identification and ordering. We are currently working with numerous manufacturers to obtain schematics, so we can further bulk up our technician resources.

This year we’re focusing on developing interactive technology, so our customer service agents and in-house technicians can have face-to-face conversations with callers. With this capability, we can better assist business and consumer customers with virtually any parts needs.

No matter how stable and successful your business may be, don’t run the risk of resting on your laurels. You always need to keep running to avoid getting starved out of the market.

‘Hybrid’ Service Concept Expands Opportunity

For the past several years, the mantra in the consumer electronics service industry has centered on business diversification to combat drops in television pricing that sometimes make replacement more economical than repair. While some TV servicers are staying the course, others have determined it’s in their best interest to expand their offerings.

These ‘hybrid’ techs are growing their businesses beyond one product category to help draw more customers and generate additional revenue. Many TV servicers have gravitated toward major appliance repair as a logical fit for their existing skill sets.

           Robert Coolidge
             President & CEO

This evolution was on full display at this year’s National Professional Service Convention hosted by the National Electronic Service Dealers Association (NESDA). For the first time in NESDA’s history, more appliance servicers were new “first timers” to the convention than purely electronics techs. NESDA catered directly to this growing part of their membership by offering a wealth of appliance training courses such as refrigerant theory and handling, sealed systems, Panasonic commercial microwave, LG dishwasher, Samsung home appliance technology and Electrolux/Frigidaire refrigeration.

In July, Encompass is offering a popular training course aimed at helping electronics servicers cross over into appliance repair. The class, led by Level 2 Learning, introduces refrigeration and cooking appliance repair. Judging by the response we’ve received so far, servicers are eager for this type of training. And it’s not just electronics servicers who are diversifying. I recently had my clothes washer repaired by an appliance tech who mentioned he also installs flat panel TVs.

Beyond appliances, all kinds of technology is emerging that requires experienced repair techs, such as digital signage, virtual reality gaming systems and recreational / commercial drones. Encompass had drones on display in our booth at the NESDA convention as we have diversified our own business into this sector to supply parts and sell whole units. Several enterprising servicers at the NESDA convention expressed interest in selling drones at their counters this holiday season – more evidence of enterprising techs seeking opportunities to build their businesses.

Digital signage and mobile devices are other categories worth exploring, as well as home security systems and personal computers. As more warranty companies are moving toward insuring any device in the home, techs able to service multiple products will be in high demand. Electronics techs should have a clear edge as their technical acumen can translate across just about anything with a power switch. (And of course Encompass is here to support your repair parts needs for dozens of different product verticals!)

If you’re not looking for innovative new ways to grow your business, you will get left behind by your competition. There are myriad opportunities to expand whether through product sales or new service offerings. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and use your expert skills to try something different. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve lost nothing and gained new experience.

 

 

 

CES Takeaways & Service Tech Opportunities

They say you can’t be too rich or too thin, and the latter definitely applies to the trend in television design. All the major brands at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show exhibited display panels so slim they would make a Samsung YU1978 race to the gym.

Many manufacturers at CES also featured the “Internet of Things” or technology integration into just about any imaginable device from appliances to hair brushes. Want to stream Pandora from your refrigerator? No problem! Need a bed that adjusts when you start snoring? Stay tuned!

     Robert Coolidge
    President & CEO

Virtual reality gaming, drones and robot assistants were other buzzworthy highlights at the show. And what’s old is new again with 1980s-style boom boxes and karaoke machines back, but with upgrades like Bluetooth technology and other high-tech gadgetry.

So what does this mean for the typical consumer electronics and/or appliance servicer? Who fixes the touch screen-enabled refrigerator that sends an alert when the milk is about to expire? Someone with computer repair experience? Along with all the intriguing new technology, comes a ton of exciting opportunities for servicers willing to become “hybrids.” Those resistant to change and reinventing themselves are at high risk of being left behind.

Many of those who aren’t interested in learning new technology are also very close to retirement, which leaves a huge gap in the servicer industry. If you’ve attended any recent consumer electronics or appliance association events lately, you’re sure to have noticed more gray heads than not. When these men and women were seeking careers, vocational tech training was readily available, or they may have inherited the family business. Today, too few schools offer repair training, and those family businesses are slowly closing shop as no next generation is there or willing to take over.

Whether there’s going to be a future shortage of skilled technicians is still to be determined. But what is certain is there will always be a need for specialized repair, and there should be plenty of opportunity for those eager to expand their technical know-how – as well as those ready to take a break from Snapchat and Facebook to learn the business.

And for the TV repair servicer, there may actually be a renaissance coming. Display panels are becoming so thin, components must be housed separately – some in portable soundbars. This advancement could potentially simplify repairs and make them more economically feasible versus replacement, which has been the default solution in recent years. This could help revitalize the depot repair model, while field techs can take advantage of installation and connectivity work.

If you’re in the repair business now, stay abreast of the trends and keep an eagle eye on opportunities to expand your service offerings. At Encompass, we’re doing our part to help by offering a variety of training classes at our Atlanta-area headquarters. If you’re interested in a specific topic, please get in touch via email to: customercare@encompass.com.

For those looking for opportunity, electronics repair may be the right door to be knocking on. Be open to change, look for ways to diversify and continue to evolve to stay relevant.

Encompass Resolutions for 2017

Like the next hole on a golf course, a new year always offers the chance to start fresh with a renewed perspective on your business. It’s a time to evaluate the year gone by and assess what went right and what didn’t go so well. You now have another 365 days to try new ideas, implement new programs and go after new business.

        Robert Coolidge
       President & CEO

While Encompass is set to enter our 64th year of operations, we are challenging ourselves to think like a startup and continue evolving our business. Encompass has long understood that just being a consumer electronics parts distributor has little value to the market. As such, here is a sampling of our business resolutions for the coming year:

  • Training & Development – Realizing that tech training is as vitally important as it is hard to come by, we recently opened a learning center at our headquarters in Lawrenceville, GA, just north of Atlanta. Manufacturers have been invited to use the space at no charge, and have accepted our offer for their authorized networks. To expand training opportunities to independent techs, we have contracted with Level 2 Learning – a leading provider of appliance technology training – to hold classes on Samsung refrigerator and laundry diagnostics 24 & 25. Registration is now open on a first come, first served basis.We anticipate offering courses throughout the year and welcome any input servicers have on topics they’d be interested in (please email customercare@encompass.com with your feedback). Our goal is to help our customers be more successful, and that starts with enhancing their skillsets and knowledge.Beyond offering training to our customers, we are also focused on professional development for our staff. From honing their service skills to accelerating their parts identification capabilities, we aim to help ensure our team has the tools they need to provide world-class customer service.
  • New Verticals – One of Encompass’ greatest advantages is our diversity. We currently serve as a one-stop source of 10 core product categories and are constantly looking for new verticals to add to our catalog. As most independent servicers appreciate the need to diversify their own businesses to stay relevant, Encompass enables techs to come to one streamlined provider for all their parts needs.We are set to debut LED troffers – lighting panels you see mostly in commercial settings – and are in discussions with other manufacturers of some exciting products emerging in the market. If it needs parts, we want to support it after the sale. We also have several new and existing products and brands launching in 2017.  We must all continue to evolve!
  • E-Commerce Enhancements – You will have noticed that our e-commerce site com has undergone a massive overhaul in recent months. Our goal is to help visitors quickly and easily find and order the parts they need. The sooner you can get your parts, the sooner you can complete a repair or get your electronics back to working condition. Look for further upgrades in the coming months, including new functionality, additional parts photos and data and other helpful support tools. We have already added over 50,000 product photos, which brings us to over 250,000 total. This, combined with our innovative suggested part relationship data will help make first time repairs a much easier reality.
  • Business Solutions – To further help our customers be more successful, Encompass recently partnered with Netsirk Technologies to develop Skulocity, a new business management application. We leveraged our decades of aftermarket distribution expertise to design a solution specifically tailored for small to mid-sized manufacturers, retailers, field and depot service organizations and parts distributors. Skulocity is a fully-integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with comprehensive functionality for: order management, inventory control, warehouse management, procurement, discrete manufacturing, accounting, payment processing and customer relationship management. This product will help all part distributors become healthier and more capable as they continue to expand their product offerings and improve their value to the OEMs they represent.

As a dynamic organization, Encompass is continually evaluating ways to enhance our business and yours.  We strive to deliver a superior service experience to all our customers, but acknowledge we don’t always get it right. When this happens, we do whatever it takes to turn the situation around.

On behalf of the entire Encompass Team, we wish you all the best in 2017 and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

 

 

To Repair or Replace LCD & LED TVs — That is the Question

TV flat panels are bulky, expensive and generally difficult to deal with.  Panels inventoried years ago to serve as repair replacements are often pricey due to freight, core charges and inventory costs.  As such, the industry has elected to provide whole unit replacements or retail gift cards instead of attempting repairs on TVs under warranty.

Although buyout options may seem on the surface to be the most economical and logical path of least resistance, there are several factors to consider that may warrant reconsideration of panel repair.

Cost – The average TV replacement cost is about $750, but a 50”-65” flat panel TV can be repaired for less than $375 including parts – assuming 20% panel replacement, transportation and labor.  We estimate more than 150,000 TVs are replaced every year that could potentially have been repaired and kept out of the waste stream.  If these estimates are correct, the industry is conservatively losing more than $50 million annually paying out the product value.  Boards are the likely source of a failure more than 75% of the time. Regardless of price, when a panel is required and available, the overall cost of ownership for the warranty will be less.

Brand Displacement – Issuing gift cards as compensation for a defective panel opens the door for consumers to buy competitor products. Manufacturers should do whatever it takes to keep their brand in the customer’s home. Even if you just break even on a panel repair, at least you haven’t risked losing your customer to a competing brand.

Unnecessary Replacements – When troubleshooting a TV failure, inexperienced servicers are likely to opt for the easiest route, which is to simply diagnose a bad panel.  Customers get a new TV (potentially of a different manufacturer brand), and servicers get paid trip charges. However, paying quick trip charges for replacement is just pennies on the dollar compared to potential revenue share of repairing.

Plus, when a panel is truly defective, it’s in the industry’s best interest to support the service network and enable a repair. We must support the system to keep the process healthy; otherwise, we risk creating a market full of waste and service mediocrity.

Environment – E-waste and its toll on human health and the environment is like the kitchen of your favorite restaurant: you know it’s probably not good, but you don’t really want to know. However, the reality is recent reports show that the U.S. generates around 9 million tons of e-waste annually, with TVs making up a great portion of it. Toxic chemicals leaking into landfills and potentially contaminating our drinking water is a real concern, and we should collectively be working to minimize the amount of electronics we discard. Extending the life of TVs by repairing their largest component is one way to achieve this.

This trend toward replacement is unnecessarily costing manufacturers and underwriters millions of dollars annually in warranty reimbursements while negatively impacting our environment. It’s potentially affecting brand loyalty among consumers, and it’s weakening the service industry.  Let’s reevaluate what is truly the proper behavior to minimize replacement; boost repairs to grow company profits; improve product brand equity; fuel the service community and keep our environment healthy. If TV replacement accounts for 15% of your repairs or more, it’s time to take a deep dive analysis into your processes.