Living up to its nickname, the 2008 Hughes Installer Training Seminar (HITS) was a hit with a lively group of installers, distributors, and employees from across North America. Held in April in Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor, the conference drew more than 125 attendees to learn about Hughes products and services, share ideas, and interact with peers.
During two and a half days of jam-packed sessions, discussions focused on new products and services, new installer requirements, the business forecast, and technical and administrative training. Primarily representing the enterprise installer market, attendees included technicians, owners, administrative staff, and field support staff, who are involved in the installation of Hughes broadband equipment and HughesNet services.
SPACEWAY 3 Training
One of the hottest topics of this year’s conference was installation of equipment for Hughes’ new SPACEWAY 3 satellite. Operating in the Ka-band, SPACEWAY 3 is the world’s first satellite with onboard switching and routing. HughesNet service over SPACEWAY 3 operates with the new family of Hughes’ HN9000 modems and HN9500 routers, requiring a different installation process, including fine pointing and commissioning of terminals. An important part of this session was the discussion of specially designed tools and systems that ease the changes to the installation process and ensure that installers know when they leave a site that a terminal is pointed correctly.
The SMB Market
The addition of the small and medium business (SMB) market to Hughes’ targets was also an important topic that represents a significant new opportunity as well as some changes for installers. Unlike the traditional enterprise market where installers handle a large volume of installations that are fairly consistent from site to site, the SMB market involves from one to 50 sites—for different kinds of customers, in various building types, using different technologies. In a market where one size does not fit all, flexibility is critical. Discussions focused on the requirements for this type of installation, including an onsite survey prior to installation and a clear understanding of steps to be taken at the site to get the customer up and running.
New Security Requirements
Also announced was the implementation of Hughes’ new badging system, in which each installer is required to wear a badge with a photo and an installer ID number to assure customers that a qualified and certified technician is at their site.
Technical and Administrative Sessions
Other key topics discussed during the conference included terrestrial installations such as cable and DSL, inventory management, work order management, troubleshooting tools, and photo requirements. There were also sessions on customer service, which plays a vital role in the installation of Hughes equipment, scheduling, and the various tools available to help make the installers more successful.
A management Q & A session gave installers and distributors an open forum in which to ask questions. A variety of Hughes management groups were represented on the panel: operations, product line management, program management, and customer service. A key topic on everyone’s mind this year was the economy, including the rising cost of fuel and materials. This discussion centered on the tools, processes, and systems Hughes can provide to help make installers more efficient in the field.
Awards and Feedback
An awards banquet was held to single out the best of the best in keeping with the Hughes promise of quality and timely delivery of its products and services. Awards were presented in many categories including meeting customer-required due dates, meeting confirmed schedule dates, and inventory control. This year, Eagle Broadband, Inc. from Texas claimed the coveted title “Distributor of the Year,” which represents the highest weighted average in all categories.
Feedback after the event was overwhelmingly positive. According to William Hall of Specialized Communications Companies, Inc., “The staff at SCC talks about the success of HITS 2008 daily. It was an awesome experience.” Ann Savin of Access Point Communications in Bealeton, Virginia added, “I came back to Virginia ready to roll with the new product. It was good to see that the dealers are all so committed to providing good service to our customers.”
The Customer Experience
“Installation is a vital part of the customer experience of purchasing a broadband system,” said Cliff Rees, senior director of Field Services for Hughes. “Hughes installers make hundreds of thousands of site visits a year, and in many cases, the only interaction a customer has with a Hughes representative is the installer.”
“It’s essential that the installer makes a strong first impression and demonstrates the most professional quality of service,” added Andrea Dudrow, senior director of Installation Services for Hughes. “And the HITS Conference is a great opportunity to keep the relationships strong between Hughes and our installers and ensure that our customers receive the highest-quality service possible.”