Wendell Diller is the marketing manager for Magnepan. Located in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, Magnepan is the manufacturer of Magneplanar loudspeakers.
In the 1970s and 1980s, if you bought a pair of loudspeakers from your favorite stereo store, the salesperson might have offered to stop by on the way home to help you set up your new speakers. It was not unusual to become friends and the salesperson might have stayed longer than intended, listening to tunes with you and sharing a glass of wine. Today, you might get that kind of personal attention and service if you buy a very expensive pair of speakers. Otherwise, probably not.
Long before the pandemic, the industry experienced erosion of its dealer base, making it difficult to sell speakers and audio gear in person. However, a helpful resource is available and since you’re reading this at the moment, you may be looking right at it.
I am 77. I don’t text. I want my computer to work like my car – it starts every time and it does not require downloads or complicated instructions to operate. It is not that I can’t learn; I don’t want to be bothered. If I buy something that is complicated, I want the help of a real person who knows what they are doing.
So, when you buy a loudspeaker (or electronics), an experienced human should be there to instruct you and ensure that you get the full benefit of the product. If you later have a problem, you should be able to contact the experienced human to resolve the issue. Ideally, a manual is redundant and never needs to be read.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe you are too young to remember when stereo was king. If you had such a dealer, you valued that relationship.
My goal as marketing manager for Magnepan is to provide a means for our customers to have that level of service and support from what I call the “virtual dealer.” Exactly how that will happen is a work in progress but it will involve videoconferencing.
I learned to like this new technology because it enabled me to be IN the customer’s home and help them in many of the same ways we did in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve helped new Magneplanar 30.7 loudspeaker customers in Hong Kong, Australia, the US and many other locations. The speaker setup went something like this:
Me: “I have some concerns about the distance of the speakers from the front wall. I can see that the door on the left is an issue. But I think we can work this out. Could you move the 30.7s forward on this side of the door?”
The customer moved the speakers and listened, and agreed that the bass was much better – not to mention the imaging and soundstage.
Me: “would you measure to confirm that the tweeter is one inch further than the midrange at the listening seat? I can’t be sure by looking at it from here. Also, would you consider putting diffusers on the left wall?”
And so it went. I could see that the customer was very impressed that the Old Man from Magnepan was helping to set up his 30.7s in real time. However, I will admit that it wasn’t as much fun as it was in the Old Days. If they had offered me a glass of wine, I wouldn’t have been able to accept.
I was doing all this while sitting in my dining room at home.
My advice to young Magnepan sales people: don’t just send a text. Be there when your customer is taking the speakers out of the carton. Help them through every step of the setup process. You will make friends and life-long customers.
Header image: Mike Hoatson of The Listening Room in Baltimore, Maryland assists a customer with setup via videoconferencing.