Mike Twomey speaks to Marshall Currier of Lenbrook America. Lenbrook America is located just south of Boston in Sharon, Massachusetts and manages the US distribution of the group’s brands from this location. Brands included are NAD, PSB and Bluesound. Each brand has its own sales direction and promotes its own independent identity. Lenbrook America utilises independent sales representatives throughout the US, many of whom represent all the company’s brands due to their complementary nature. 

Mike: Marshall thank you joining me today. Help yourself to something to drink and get some food from our buffet. My bosses Linette and Stuart Smith give us a generous expense account. I recently wrote an article on the Art of Customer Service and I maintain that customer service is an endangered art form. How important is customer service in your view, both customer service from the dealer to the customer and manufacturer to the dealer?

MarshallThanks for having me Mike. While the fruit punch is spectacular–is this not from concentrate?–I can’t stay for long; got customers to take care of.

In order to position someone, within a manufacture’s organization, with the proper mindset for providing great customer service, all you have to do is reverse the words; serve… [the] customer. Then, you must put the emphasis on serve. Having a servant’s mindset is paramount. Only then can someone be in the right place mentally to come into a conversation and be prepared for anything.

On the other hand, the way an organization should position themselves for great customer service is to think of it like a product category unto itself. I position it that way as to procure R&D money (internal training), prodictization (the necessary resources like remote client computer access and a reliable product archive database), and the ability to “ship” the product (deploying phone numbers and support email campaigns for service).

Mike: One of the items we often struggle with as a dealer is when to call technical support of the manufacturer and when to try to do things ourselves locally. The customer is usually concerned and wants everything fixed immediately and is usually standing in front of you. This is understandable but sometimes it’s not helpful to getting things solved. Any sage wisdom for my fellow retailers?

MarshallGood question Mike. Obviously, if you have a great relationship with someone on a quality technical support team, fast and direct access is possible. But if you don’t have such a relationship, many customer support teams still offer email support, social media support (like Twitter) as well as phone support. It’s important to engage customer support personnel if you or one of your technicians is slightly out of their depth. Although there are some key things you should try before contacting a customer service team. A quick Google Search of their website may show you a firmware update or service outage with a streaming service. I like using Google’s site specific search or even Down For Everyone Or Just Me.  But most importantly, showing the customer that you’re empathetic and willing to drop something and serve them as quickly as possible is fundamental.  It’s like you’d imagine working in an Emergency Room would be. The first few seconds or minutes are critical. Simply showing the customer that you care can be the difference between future business and a Return Authorization request.

Mike: Has technical support changed with the embedding of software in the products themselves. I’m thinking particularly of the Bluesound line of products that Lenbrook has introduced.  Are there any special challenges in fielding questions on these software based products?

MarshallAh, software. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. The unique thing about software is that it’s evolving at a blistering pace as compared to hardware. Additionally, the user base is evolving as well. People are learning what this button (sometimes) means and discovering that there’s a difference between Wi-Fi and cellular data consumption. But having software based products doesn’t mean it’s all roses and unicorns.  Some users aren’t as familiar with certain applications and others won’t leave a platform once they’ve learned how to use a piece of software.

From the support side of things, having a desktop app and remote access to someone’s computer is a godsend and nothing short of astonishing for end-user support. It’s just easier looking over someone’s shoulder (at their discretion of course) and coaching them along the way. So software definitely has its upsides.

Mike: It’s been our experience at the dealer level that over 50% of the items customers bring to us claiming to be defective are usually cured with a reboot of the unit.  Should customers attempt to do this rebooting themselves?

MarshallWhile it’s easy to say ‘yes’ to such a question, I’d take this a step further. I’d put the onus on dealers and their system design. There are lots of products out there, which allow for remote rebooting and software pinging (with rebooting) so that customers don’t have to worry about such issues. Should customers reboot their widget before they pick up the phone and complain to a dealer? Sure. But if you (as dealers) want to be a rock star in front of your customers, implement products like BakPak, ihiji, BlueBOLT, or even iBootBar and use that as an upsell service.

Mike: Streaming products are becoming of significant interest in audio.  Can you give us an overview of Bluesound and why it’s important?

MarshallYou’re making it too easy on me Mike. Yes, streaming is king whether you’re talking about UltraHD home video or audio, but what makes Bluesound different is that it marries High Resolution Audio (for the HiFi geeks out there) with common streaming services such as Spotify and TuneIn for the “everyday” customer. Bluesound also has borrowed some incredible Digital-to-Analogue converter (DAC) technologies from NAD and acoustical designs from PSB to build a super high performance platform for streaming music. Particularly the Bluesound VAULT 2 features the ability to rip your CD collection or drag-and-drop your iTunes collection into the Bluesound ecosystem for the ultimate “free” streaming service…the music you already own. Bluesound’s latest generation 2 platform also features things from aptX Bluetooth, to software & hardware presets, as well as alarm clock functions to take the “I-have-to-pull-my-phone-out-to-do-anything” pain out of controlling something from your phone.


Mike: Can you tell us about the inclusion of MQA in the Bluesound suite of products?

MarshallWow, here’s a fun one. Many thousands of words have been writing about MQA.

First off, if you haven’t heard about it, I’ll describe to you my first experience with MQA: Hearing MQA for the first time sounded not only like analogue, but as if it were inarguably high-resolution audio!  Since some older high-resolution audio (HRA) albums were taken from red book (compact disc) masters, some HRA tracks just didn’t sound enough like high-res!  MQA on the other hand, was unquestionably high resolution.

MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated, and as such, the authentication process involves the studios. So yes, there are going to be completely newly mastered albums that are MQA, but they’re also backward compatible with FLAC decoders. MQA not only provides a new approach to digital compression (folding the content over onto itself so you can get a 24/192 track into the same streaming bandwidth as a CD) but MQA also contains metadata from the equipment used in the studio itself. So MQA decoders  can be tailored to adjust their internal settings for “studio-quality playback.”

MQA is very exciting and is just one of many chapters in the early life of Bluesound and BluOS (the system behind Bluesound).

Thanks for the time and considering Mike! It’s been a blast working with you on this project!

Mike Twomey is the owner of Big Kids Toys


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