Delivering solutions, not just equipment, crucial for modern-day Walkie Talkie dealers

Can not get over how inexpensive the 2 way radio communication system is now, an incredible deal for a top-end product!

communication device strokeSelling boxes simply isn’t enough for radio dealers to thrive in today’s ever-changing communications environment.

That’s the message from Patrick Hobby, owner of QDS Communications, the 13-employee Motorola Solutions dealer and service shop based in Colorado that invented the SchoolSAFE solution that recently was deployed in an Ohio school district to enable direct communications between school personnel using a MOTOTRBO network and first responder on a P25 network.

“I think it’s possible for an organization to have a customer connection that deals in commoditized radio products. In selling two-way radio products, for example, people already know what they want, and they’re just looking for the features, the right channels, whether it’s a repeater or this or that,” Hobby said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “But my advice to the industry is to reach down deeper into the solutions business—the integration of solutions into the marketplace, with training being the lead application.”

Such an approach requires a channel partner to recognize what customers are seeking from their communications, understand what challenges they face and then work to deliver solutions that address key difficulties, Hobby said. Often, the ability to accomplish this begins at a personal level, not a technological one, he said.

“People make all of the difference in the world—basically, that one relationship that’s spawned from the dealer organization that turns into a value-added relationship, based on the spoken word and what you’re really delivering,” Hobby said.

“What I would encourage to dealers is that they need to dig deeper into their understanding of how their customers make their money and become value added to that process, instead of being just a commodity dealer that does not know why they use the 2 Way Radios, for example.”

Indeed, the notion of SchoolSAFE was developed in the aftermath of the tragic 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, where a lack of interoperable communications between public-safety agencies was cited as a problem, according to Hobby.

“We knew about the communications issues from the Columbine report and being local here and knowing people that dealt with that tragedy firsthand,” Hobby said. “So it was spawned from our understanding of communications, as it related to the Columbine tragedy.”

Ultimately, QDS Communications developed a patented solution of software and hardware that provides a direct link between the MOTOTRBO systems often used in schools and the P25 systems used by many public-safety agencies. The link is activated by a 911 dispatcher, if it is determined that school personnel and first responders would benefit from direct communications.

More than 200 SchoolSAFE systems have been deployed, with most of them being located in Colorado, Hobby said. QDS Communications tried to install the solution at locations outside of the state but quickly realized “how brutally expensive and time consuming it was to try to reach out and work effectively in other states,” he said.

Recently, Motorola Solutions decided to help QDS Communications deploy SchoolSAFE in each of the 10 schools in the Chardon Local Schools district in a pilot program. It’s a relationship that would not have been considered had QDS Communications simply decided to sell equipment, Hobby said.

“We’re not a dealer; we’re well beyond a dealer,” Hobby said. “[When QDS Communications was founded] back in 2004, one of our five contracts … is called a dealer contract. One of them is called a service contract. One of them is called a manufacturer’s representative contract. Another one is called an agency contract. And the dealer piece is the least valuable of the whole bunch, because that’s your commodity.

“SchoolSAFE is not a commodity.”

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