Projecting a Strong Image

Make no mistake, technicians play a huge role in sales and customer service

At first glance, you’d think that sales representatives carry the heaviest burden for security dealers. They typically deal with potential customers who aren’t always receptive to a sales pitch, and they try to sell a system that not only meets a customer’s needs but also generates revenue for the company.

However, the sale is only the first part of the equation. The job isn’t done until a technician comes to the home, performs a competent installation, demonstrates how to use the system, and answers any questions the customer may have.

A competent field technician can set the tone for the dealer-customer relationship. A successful install projects a positive image and creates a strong foundation for a continuing relationship with that customer. A negative experience generally makes the relationship more difficult and strained from the beginning.

Bruce Mungiguerra, senior vice president of operations at Monitronics Security, has no doubts about the importance of technicians.

“Good technicians can make or break your business,” he said. “Sometimes they’re the only face the customer sees from your company, and they’re usually responsible for the customer’s last impression. They are the guys who ensure that customers are comfortable using the product. If a customer gets suspicious, or they’re not comfortable because the technician didn’t do a good job with that experience, they won’t want to pay for the system.”

Security dealers typically tend to be salesoriented; after all, that is where the process starts. But, successful dealers know that service can’t take a back seat to sales. It’s not always easy to find competent field techs, and it can be even more difficult to retain them.

Finding the Best Candidates

Jeff Bass and Brandon Martin know quite a bit about what makes a good technician. Bass is national service dealer manager at Monitronics, while Martin is national field operations manager. Each of them has worked as a field tech, and they understand the difficulties involved in attracting talent.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for recruiting top-notch technicians, since so much depends on a dealer’s location and size, their need for particular skills and the local talent pool. A good place to start the search is by reaching out to local distributors and suppliers, Bass said. They will often have bulletin boards where you can post ads for potential field techs.

Other methods include:

  • Putting the word out through your own technicians. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways,” Bass said, noting that people in the industry can be tightly interconnected. Think about referral fees or other incentives that will encourage current employees to find new talent.
  • Traditional advertising vehicles, like Craigslist, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder. Moni has a special $99 rate for job posts through CareerBuilder. Make sure that the job title and description are clearly stated, and emphasize everything that makes your company a desirable place to work.
  • Considering people with low-voltage experience— particularly with home automation technology—and gradually get them involved in security equipment. Two potential sources are local trade schools or veterans who picked up skills during their military service.

The Impact of New Technology

There are a number of factors that affect the process, including the dealer’s location and the local talent pool, as well as the skill set that will be required.

There’s a classic dilemma: Most companies prefer candidates with some sort of security system experience, but the only way a candidate can get that experience is by working for a security dealer. So, a dealer will often face a choice between industry newcomers and experienced security professionals.

Newcomers might be up to speed on the latest technology, including mobile devices and home networks, but they don’t have the background in installing and servicing home security systems. For experienced security techs, it can be a huge leap from working on standard alarm panels to understanding wireless technology and the latest smart home equipment.

Training will go a long way. Some companies are willing to do on-thejob or in-house training for promising candidates, while dealer programs such as Monitronics provide training and work with suppliers, manufacturers and trade associations to provide training on specific equipment and systems.

“Now that you’ve got home automation, it’s much harder to train someone,” Bass said. “Five or six years ago, it was just a matter of running wire, setting up contacts and connecting to a panel. Today, everything’s wireless and the equipment is more complicated.”

There are positives and negatives to both sides. All things considered, Martin said, dealers should keep an open mind to either type of candidate.

“I’ve never been against hiring someone with no security experience,” Martin said. “It’s not a mandate, especially for someone with home automation experience. They’re up with the times, especially now that everything’s wireless. If it’s the right candidate, if they’re dependable, and if they have the right attitude, then it might make sense to give them a try.”

Retention is Important

Maybe it’s better to lean on the classic notion that it’s better to keep a good employee than to find a new one. If you want a satisfied tech, start by paying them fairly and keeping them busy.

Even then, though, there’s sometimes disagreement on the best way to proceed. Technicians are typically paid either by the hour or at “piece rate,” at a set level for each install. Either way has its advantages. Bass says that during his days as a technician he preferred piece rate— for each individual job, rather than by the hour—and other technicians whom he knows prefer the same. “If you do a good job and you’re efficient, you can make good money doing it,” he said.

Martin sees both strengths on both sides. “Usually, more driven technicians want piece-rate pay. They don’t care what the hours are, they’ll stay out there and keep on working. But, some technicians who work hourly produce better quality installs because they aren’t rushing to knock out 10 jobs in a day.”

Everyone agrees on the need to keep a steady stream of installs.

“As long as techs are making money that they know is comparable, and they’re in a good environment, they’re going to stay,” Bass said. “Where a lot of challenges come into play is where a dealer doesn’t have enough work to keep a tech busy, especially if they’re working at piece rate.”

Value and Appreciation

Maybe the most important way to keep a technician happy is the same thing that any employee wants: the feeling that they’re wanted, they’re valued, and they’re an important part of the company.

“You’re always asking your techs to go above and beyond in their service, and they should get the same treatment from you,” Martin said. “Appreciation and recognition are huge. It can be as simple as ‘attaboys’ or emails that are sent out to everyone, or remembering service anniversaries and birthdays. Those are great ways to attach value to what they do.”

Think about holding events such as barbecues or special dinners specifically for technicians. Not only do they present a way to communicate, but they also create a bond within the group. They’re likely to become a closerknit unit, willing to help each other on service or installation issues that come up. It’s also a great way to let them know that, as an owner or manager, you truly care about their job satisfaction.

“It’s a great way to keep two-way communication open,” Martin said. “It builds a level of trust so that they not only want to work for you, but they’re happy working for you.”

 

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.

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