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June 27, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

REI's Chris Shigley on company growth, market trends

As Radio Engineering Industries celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2013, the company’s national sales manager says customers’ needs have played a key role in its development from a radio sales and repair store to a manufacturer and distributor of transportation products. One product he sees in great demand in the industry today is cameras, both for internal surveillance of a school bus and to capture stop-arm violators.

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Chris Shigley, national sales manager for REI, says stop-arm violation awareness is vital in the school bus market today.

Chris Shigley, national sales manager for REI, says stop-arm violation awareness is vital in the school bus market today.

Chris Shigley, national sales manager for Radio Engineering Industries (REI), joined the Omaha, Neb.-based transportation electronics company in the summer of 2009 after working in software sales for about 10 years.

With the company celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Shigley talks with SBF Managing Editor Kelly Roher about its transition from a radio sales and repair store to what it is today.

Central to REI’s mission since it was founded is excellent customer service, and Shigley says when it comes to answering customers’ calls and addressing their needs, it’s “all hands on deck.”

“We don’t want to be of the mentality, ‘We’ll take a message and get back to you.’ We want to take care of you when you have that need,” he explains.

Shigley also discusses the customers’ influence on REI’s product lines, new developments and trends he’s seeing in the school bus market.

SBF: REI is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Tell me about the company’s history.
CHRIS SHIGLEY: REI started in 1938 as a local radio sales and repair store, and we focused on radio repair and service through the next few decades. In the 1970s, we focused more on sales and distribution instead of just radio repair and sales. We took on lines such as Panasonic, Sharp, Sony and Delco Electronics.

We discovered as we became a distributor of products there were niche markets or markets that were not being properly served for the needs that people had. We began to diversify and develop and sell tractor radios, agriculture kits, school bus radios, etc. That slowly grew the company from being a distributor into manufacturing our own products.

We engaged customers within these niche markets to learn what their needs were and we dynamically grew and developed our own engineering teams and research and development teams to bring these products to bear.

The company recently reported that for members of the REI family, the greatest lesson they learned from their father, Robert Hays, is “treating the customer like family.” What are some ways you and other company employees put this into practice?
We’re always speaking and interfacing with our customers. One thing I pride ourselves on is listening to the needs of our customers; we want to bring products to the market they’re asking for. The way we do that is by forming strong relationships. Our customers become, in many cases, lifelong customers.

We constantly look to our customers to tell us what they need, and once we give them those products, we provide them with our 24/7 service and support lines. We’re always going to answer your call, no matter when you call.

That’s the family cornerstone: service. When you have a family member who’s in need, you drop everything and you do what you need to do to help them out. That’s the mantra we have with our customers.

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