Adam West, aka Batman, you can retreat to your cave. Kevin Lamar, aka Nautilus president, has stolen your bat phone. Or at least the concept. Holy Hotline, Batman!
Looking to put an end to even one frustrated dealer or the smallest of unsolved problems, Lamar has installed a hotline to himself -- a telephone number given to some 900 dealers that he promises will get to him, personally, in 20 minutes or less.
"There's no reason dealers should sit around with any questions or frustrations and not get an answer," Lamar told SNEWS. "The industry is built on relationships, and if I'm going to be the head of our group, I need to be accessible."
Since its implementation in August, the hotline has had five legitimate phone calls from dealers with concerns. (We say "legitimate" since Lamar got three calls from dealers to see if the bat phone did indeed go straight to him. Boy, were they surprised when Lamar picked up within minutes, especially the caller who was standing across the room from him less than hour after the announcement of the hotline at the company's dealer meeting in August!)
The calls have been to discuss distribution concerns, to double-check the details of a warranty, and to find out what the company was going to do when the installation of a home gym scratched a floor, he said.
"I encourage the dealers to use it if their frustration level is so high because they aren't getting what they need or it's a time crunch," he said. "I want them to know if I need to get involved, I'll do it."
Here's how it works: A special phone line was installed on the desk of Lamar's assistant, who always knows where he is. The number also rings on Lamar's desk -- where the screen lights up with the words "Bat Phone" when it rings -- and it rings to the company receptionist. If Lamar isn't around to pick it up, his assistant calls him. If the assistant has stepped away, the receptionist tracks her down who then tracks him down. All guaranteed to get him back to the caller in 20 minutes or less on weekdays. Lamar checks the phone on weekends and holidays as frequently as possible.
Mike Cirillo, president of The Fitness Store in Northridge, Calif., has called twice -- once to see if it really rang to Lamar ("I just wanted to know if this d--- thing really works," he said he told Lamar) and once to discuss concerns he had about some of the company's distribution.
"It's awesome," Cirillo said. "We were able to get straight to the top. It's nice to know if I have an issue with something, I can talk to the guy.
"Kevin is a real hands-on person, and I give him credit for being that type of guy," Cirillo added. "He wants to know what's going on -- be it good or bad."
Lamar said that with the marriage of three companies in the last couple of years, including two that were bankrupt and one that was under-performing, there naturally have been some customer service issues and dealer questions. He said he wouldn't expect every company executive or president to have this kind of hotline -- although he's surprised more don't -- but that he felt it was necessary for his group to take the next step.
"The biggest challenge is to keep that phone from ever ringing," he said. "When this phone rings, it means something out there has to be fixed."
Already the company is smiling since it's been two weeks since it last rang.
SNEWS View: We couldn't be more impressed with the cut-to-the-punch attitude of Nautilus and Lamar with this phone line. In our first Fitness Retailer Survey, published in the GearTrends fitness magazine in August (go to www.geartrends.com and click on the magazine icon if you missed it), Nautilus was unfortunately called out by the retailers polled as a company that had some â€¦ er â€¦ issues. This kind of proactive response we think should earn the company kudos, prove its commitment, solve the issues and perhaps keep it off that list when we do our second annual survey next year. The fact that Lamar has only gotten five real calls already makes a statement: Perhaps the dealers are resting easier just knowing the option exists. Holy The-Buck-Stops-Here, Batman!