When the Elkhart, Indiana-based leader in factory-direct, full-time luxury fifth wheels and Toy Haulers Luxe Brands The RV Factory opened a new showroom in Mansfield, TX, they needed to be sure there is always a friendly, welcoming face there to greet customers, give tours, initiate the sales process and even act as a security guard.... without having to put a live person on-site at this new remote location. Beam proved to be the perfect solution to strike the balance between providing excellent, personalized customer service without breaking the bank on staffing the new location or having sales reps engage in expensive, time-consuming travel between Indiana headquarters and the new Dallas/Ft. Worth location. We sat down with The RV Factory Marketing Manager, Ed Kiefer, to find out more about client reactions to the Beam, the unexpected benefits of a telepresence solution and how having a personal “RoboCop” on-site gives the company peace of mind (and a good chuckle).
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and about Factory Direct.
A: I’m Ed Kiefer, marketing manager of a factory-direct manufacturer of luxury of fifth wheels and Toy hauler fifth wheels. We recently opened up a showroom in Texas that we operate strictly with a key code to get in. We made the decision to “staff” the showroom with a Beam to greet customers, give tours of our showroom units, personally answer questions and so on. So far, it’s been great - customers really love it.
Q: How did you find out about Beam? Were you familiar with telepresence before?
A: A couple of our owners also own other companies, and one of them told us about a Beam that they use for internal purposes. We had never heard of this before, but once we looked into it, Beam made a lot of sense for this new location. And it’s worked so well, now it’s possible to open more locations where we sell a lot of units and staff it with a Beam.
Q: Can you tell us how your employees utilize them to manage the showroom remotely?
A: Our salesforce uses it most of the time to start the sales process and answer questions about the units. Sometimes we’ll use it for a security purpose - we have cameras, but if we get an alert, we log in and look around to make sure that everything is OK down there. We call it, “Rosie.” And once I did use Beam when an office door was left open - I actually pushed it closed with the base of the unit.
Q: Now that you’ve been using Beam for a while, how has it met or exceeded your expectations?
A: Since we have the Beam, it has opened up new avenues for us that we didn’t expect. It makes it simple for us to greet people when they come in, and to answer their questions and take care of their needs. It makes it more personal instead of talking on the phone. Since the operation is totally remote, customers have no idea what the sales person looks like when chatting over the phone… this not only gives them an idea of who they’re talking to, it also makes the working relationship more personal. Normally we’d ask folks to come visit the factory to see how units are built before a purchase - people want to see them before buying them. Using Beam to give them that experience without making the drive, which is about a two-day journey anyways, as we’re all the way up in Northern Indiana and the showroom is in Dallas/Ft. Worth. They can stay in their own local market.
Q: What stands out to you about the design of Beam? The UI, UX, and hardware itself?
A: We were all amazed at how easy it is to operate. Everyone caught on quickly with using the app. Within a couple minutes everyone was feeling really comfortable with it, driving it around. That was the best part - it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to use it.
Q: Any surprising or unexpected uses of Beam? Or benefits you hadn’t anticipated?
A: Security check-ins, as I’ve mentioned, is one. Another unique feature we’ve used it for is when we’ve had electricians or cleaning personnel come in. For example, I was able to oversee some things an electrician was doing, and I could also be “on-site” when we had some AC leaks fixed.
Q: Does your Beam(s) have a nickname? Ever dress it up?
A: I want to put a cowboy hat on it - and I will do it someday. We have several nicknames, but namely we call it “Rosie” after the robot on The Jetsons.
Q: How do people initially react to your Beam? And how quickly does the novelty wear off, it it does wear off?
A: We’ve had a couple people comment it was a bit strange, but most people - I’d say 90% - are ecstatic that we’re talking to them from really far away on a roving monitor. We even have a neighbor calls our Beam his “nextdoor neighbor robot,” and he likes to come by for a visit.
Q: What enhancements or changes would you like to see made to Beam?
A: I really like it the way it is. I saw on your videos that you were testing things with hands and arms - it might be neat to shake customers’ hands or something like that. There is also a need for us to be able to project or share documents and photos, so that would be a great function to have, too.
Q: Any tips you’d give for other manufacturing or retail companies that are interested in using telepresence?
A: If you have remote locations and don’t want to spend a huge amount in staff, this is just great - it’s the perfect alternative to having an actual person in an unmanned location like our Texas showroom..
Q: Why is this better than a phone call, Skype, or other videoconferencing technology?
A: It’s more personal. It offers personal touch for our high end products, and lets our customers know we’re serious about them. It also communicates a level of sophistication that we want to portray.