Satellite Office: AmeriSat retains human touch in tech world

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

In a jungle of communication choices growing thicker and increasingly difficult to navigate, AmeriSat is a friendly outpost.

"We take technology and boil it down to where it's more of a human experience," says Chris Dudley, president of the San Diego-based technology retailer. "It's, 'Oh, this is what I can do with it.'"

If you call a satellite company directly — which, thanks to promotions offered by AmeriSat, would cost the same — their job is to close the deal within five minutes and move onto the next customer.

AmeriSat's job is to distinguish itself from that by getting to know every customer and their needs personally.

"We're not throwing a package of channels and a bunch of hardware at you and hoping it sticks," Dudley says. "We're getting to know you and how you consume content. Do you watch on your iPad? Do you have a mother-in-law in a granny flat?"

And AmeriSat remains human after that — not an 800-number with a different voice each time. And that's why, Dudley says, fewer than 2 percent of his customers cancel within two years

"Every one of our customers gets to talk with someone in this office," Dudley says. "And half of them get to talk to me. You can call me at 6 p.m. and say, 'You know, Chris, the technician just left, but I still have question about my remote.'"

The satellite providers love the personalized service, because they get to retain the customer longer as well. "It's also a source of ideas for them," Dudley says. "They don't have local offices like the cable companies do, so they're getting feedback from us about the San Diego market that they wouldn't otherwise have."

Family operation

AmeriSat is actually a family business. It was started by Dudley's father, Robert, in 1996. Dudley's first job was working for his dad, as a salesperson, while he was still a linebacker at Rancho Bernardo High School.

"I loved it," Dudley says. "What really drives me is making technology simple yet exciting for someone."

When Dudley graduated UC Davis with a history degree, looking for ways to make his own mark, nothing else seemed quite as exciting. "My dad was retiring and wanting to step away, so he asked me if I would come in and help him run the business," says Dudley, now 31, "so I jumped right in."

Although pay-TV is a fully matured market, Dudley still sees growth on the horizon for the visionary. One of the potential vessels for that growth is smart-home integration.

Dudley explains: "Walking into your home and saying, 'Turn the lights down, turn the TV to ESPN and lock the doors' — that's already happening today, thanks to our partnership with Vivint Smart Home, which offers a security platform that integrates cameras, thermostats, garage doors and entertainment all in a single app."

Satellite Internet is next.

"One of our goals is to provide every single person broadband Internet that's always there, regardless of where they are," Dudley says, adding that the prices are now competitive with cable TV.

"The birth of the company was really to offer an alternative to traditional providers," Dudley continues, "and we're kind of in a similar place with Internet now. Most people are limited to a choice of two providers — the cable company and the phone company.

"And we're not very fond of limitations."

Call AmeriSat at (858) 505-1122. If you like, ask for Chris Dudley himself. amerisatsd.com

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