Bringing voice and data expertise to a digital world

~ By Cheryl Long

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Though Ottawa-based Christie Walther Communications has been in business since 1962, the mobile communications company has seen its greatest evolution occur over the past three years during the industry’stransition from analog to digital technology.

It was also in 2012 that Joe Hickey, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, joined the company with a mandate to build a new sales and marketing team just as Christie Walther began investing heavily in a next generation digital network. The company-wide reshaping, including a renewed focus on its people and infrastructure, helped the organization accelerate its evolution to fully digital and IP-based solutions, Hickey said.

“Five years ago, 17 percent of the sales that the company made were in the digital category,” he said. “Over the last two years, we’ve been above 80 percent of our sales are digital technology-related.”

Christie Walther Communications specializes in two-way voice and data solutions, including satellite phones, mobile communications equipment and accessories, turnkey and mobile computing options, wireless pagers, and two-way radio sales and service. With offices located in Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall and Gatineau, they offer a coverage area for their digital Connect Plus two-way radio network extending from Eastern Ontario to western Quebec.Other products, including pagers, mobile computing and satellite, service all of Canada.

The bulk of their enterprise communications customers come from various departments in the federal government, Hickey said, followed by public works, police and fire departments run by municipalities and public or private sector companies in transportation, construction and waste management, companies that typically operate fleets of vehicles.

Going digital has changed the industry

Digital technology has transformed two-way radio communication, allowing the radio and its infrastructure to be integrated into the company’s overall communications system, he explained. Today’s advanced equipment allows for one-on-one or group calls, GPS tracking, and status or productivity reports. In a manufacturing plant, a digital two-way radio can alert technical support as soon as a machine fails or shows an error code. That technology has cut response times from a range of 15 minutes to one hour in the analog days, to about five minutes today.

“Obviously that saves time and a lot of productivity for the customer,” Hickey said. “Migrating to digital allows you to embed two-way radio as part of the overall enterprise communications.”

Another area where the organization is taking a leadership role is in mobile computing. More transportation and courier companies are using handheld technology to scan and confirm deliveries at the customer’s location, among other tasks. Christie Walther has partnered with Zebra Technologies, which purchased Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise business in 2014, to offer several options for advanced mobile computing that allows users to access real-time data and maximize productivity. They also offer products and services by well-known companies such as Kenwood, Icom and Vertex Standard.

Another important partnership for Christie Walther is its long-standing relationship with Motorola. Not only are they are the largest independent authorized Motorola sales and service facility in Canada, but in 2013 the company was named the Motorola Canadian Channel Partner of the Year. This February, they received the prestigious Motorola Solutions Empower Circle Award for Customer Excellence, ranking Christie Walther in the top 50 of Motorola Solutions’ 7,500 global partners and, to date, the only Canadian dealer to receive the award, Hickey said.

Innovative PushPlus network draws customers

PushPlus allowed Christie Walther and the new sales team to reach out to customers who had left in search of digital options by launching a number of innovative marketing campaigns. Clients, both former and new, learned about the “new Christie Walther” through direct mail, email and follow-up calls. Though Christie Walther was a familiar name, the service being offered was new and intriguing.

What was also unique was the campaign itself. Initially focused on the construction market, it incorporated a lighter tone and catchy slogan to draw attention to the new service and ended up being the most successful campaign in the company’s history.

“This award is a multi-year proof point that Motorola sees that you’re doing all of the things to be a great partner with them, endorse their brand and deliver high levels of customer satisfaction,” Hickey explained. “When you start winning customers back, winning new business, growing the business with Motorola, growing your brand in the market, winning other industry awards, they see that as proof points that you’re doing the right things.”

Another area where Christie Walther is doing things right is in the field of satellite communications. When customers are outside of a cellular area, whether they’re on a fishing trip, working in a remote location or providing emergency services, satellite is the only technology that can guarantee their call will get through. They have partnered with Globalstar and Iridium to offer customers high quality satellite phones and powerful connectivity for top-rated voice quality and data speeds.

Employees contribute to positive culture

Of course, it’s not just products and services behind Christie Walther’s success. A strong team of employees, from sales and marketing to technical support, bring energy and enthusiasm to a very positive culture, Hickey said. In past years, the company has received the Employees’ Choice award twice and Best of Ottawa Business awards from the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Business Journal. Their sales team has participated in Motorola’s sales certification programs and additional training has also been provided to the technical staff.

The company and its employees also make a point of giving back to their communities, taking part in the H.O.P.E. Beach Volleyball Charity tournament to raise funds for Ottawa charities and by supporting Dreams Take Flight and providing two-way radio communication for the day-long trips to Disney World in Florida. Christie Walther has also been involved with the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, a not-for-profit organization working to end and prevent homelessness in the city. The company provided volunteers and two-way radios during a three-day survey of the community’s homeless population.

Currently the company’s five-year vision includes the implementation of a formal planning processthat will look at the strategy behind growing the business and the brand into the future. “We can’t just grow by selling two-way radios only,” Hickey explained. “We want to becomea much more diversified company and we believe that the service element of our business can be a much larger percentage of the revenue moving forward.”

The push towards a higher level of customer service is already underway with the new ServicePlus program that offers three levels of service, repair and support. Eventually, Hickey would like to see service and product sales account for a 50/50 revenue split, ensuring a long-term, sustainable future for the company.

More information about Christie Walther Communications can be found at