We were expecting a typical warehouse and showroom. You know: towering shelves stacked with anonymous cartons, a simple room along a corridor of offices with a catalog-strewn table and a few choice products on display—the stuff that generally serves a wholesale business perfectly well. But this was WAVE Electronics, the Houston-based company that has redefined the role of distributor to the custom installation sector of electronics for entertainment, security, automation and system integration.
At WAVE Electronics, customer experience is all! So when we and our presumptions of normalcy crossed their Campus Drive threshold, the sensation was something akin to the moment when Dorothy recognized she was not in Kansas any more. This, like Oz, was a world full of wonders; and it was certainly like no “warehouse” we had seen before. Funny thing, though; as opposed to the classic movie’s sudden shift into blazing Technicolor, it was the friendly sophistication of WAVE Electronics’ pervasive black-and-white visual branding that brought this company’s difference into clear focus at first sight. From comic book influenced posters, brochures, and wall art (i.e., whole walls as art) to the tuxedo-with-sneakers design feel of the packaging for their proprietary line of products, to the smartly organized and merchandized self-serve shopping area, it all speaks together to the highest standards of quality, accessibility, engagement, and enjoyment. (In other words, brains, heart, courage, … and a roomful of grown-up toys you wish you could spirit home with a click of your heels.)
Throughout the showroom are products exemplifying the latest, greatest, most awe- and desire-inspiring innovations in audio and video electronics, security, automation, and structured wiring solutions for residential, business or institutional use. Yet every bit as striking as the technological wow-factor around every corner is the very human and helpful atmosphere generated by the WAVE Electronics staff. You know immediately that this is a group of people who enjoy their work and enjoy working with each other.
Eric Simoneau is the branch manager here in Edison, one of nine locations in the Eastern and Southern regions that serve the entire United States. A self-described “tech nerd,” Eric narrates a tour of the workplace he sees every day with avid interest and infectious enthusiasm. “Do you want to see our touch panel?! I love this thing. It’s just an iPad that we have permanently docked to the wall. But it’s programmed to control any of the audio/video equipment, adjust the lighting and the thermostat, raise and lower the window shades…. Here, it’s giving us a weather update.
It’s also connected to an iPod so we can send music from any source to any room,” he explains as U2’s “War” album appears on the screen in response to a request for 80s music. “The smart home has become very popular since the control systems have really come down in price in recent years. It’s not just for people in 20,000 square foot houses anymore. Now we can all be the Jetsons.”
WAVE Electronics offers thousands of products from more than 120 manufacturers including Apple, Sony, Bose, Lutron, Polk Audio, 2GIG, and MSTR Brands. There are video walls and projectors, ultra high definition television displays so extreme in their clarity and color accuracy that real life seems blurry in comparison, and high fidelity wireless sound systems that can stream Internet music with the push of a single button. There are even battery-operated window shades, custom made in Pennsylvania from any fabric in a swatch book as thick as the Manhattan yellow pages. In back is a speaker room where clients can sample the sound of almost 70 different options before making a purchase, and up front is an automated living room where the real-world application and orchestration of the full array of technologies can be experienced in comfort. “A lot of the contractors we deal with don’t have the budget for a showroom,” says Eric. “They can bring their customers here for demonstrations.
“We really focus on service,” he continues. “We’re like a tight-knit family, and we try to serve our customers individually, in ways a larger corporation might not be able to do. Trevor, our New York sales rep, is here right now teaching someone how to program lighting controls that he’ll then be able to go into someone’s home and replicate. We all understand that we don’t just sell boxes. We will sell all the hardware and infrastructure a contractor needs for any size job, and make the best recommendations for that, but we also follow up with tech support for the software and programming, the brains of the system.”
WAVE Electronics provides marketing support to its customers as well, supplying business cards or branded polo shirts for them, even wrapping contractors’ vans in custom graphics. And training: there is a large, on-site room dedicated to a full calendar of training sessions conducted by software developers and manufacturers’ representatives. Low cost or free delivery is another standard benefit, along with the convenience of placing or accepting an order, an extraordinarily detailed and easy-to-use web site, and a rewards program for house brand product purchases.
Heading back to the customer lifelines we have kept him from for an hour, Eric leaves us with this: “Everybody’s different so there’s no one set way to do it. Every day we’re just trying to figure out how to be of service to this person in this specific situation.”