a retrofit solution

A Retrofit Solution

Relationships that benefit the integrator

A Retrofit SolutionAn integrator builds his business by developing relationships, executing installations and providing above-and-beyond customer service. Integrators spend years on each of these important components and go to great lengths to protect their reputation by offering quality products that are on time and on budget.

To accomplish these goals, integrators must carefully choose which manufacturer’s solutions to represent and faithfully resell those specific solutions. They hang their business success on a few manufacturers, because they believe in the product and trust that the people running the company will support them.

But, what happens when the manufacturer you worked closely with for years decides to move away from a product line you’ve installed and supported for years or decades? What happens to your customers who like that product and don’t want to change?

“Manufacturers that do that [terminate a product line] put us [the integrator] in a bad light,” said Joseph Riotto, president of AVS Technology.

The customer may decide to never do business with the manufacturer again; but the truth is, they also are not happy with the integrator and often decide to stop doing business with them, too.

Under the Umbrella

While security falls under the technology umbrella, end users don’t always approach it as they would if, say, Microsoft or Apple ended a product line. A lifecycle of months is normal in other technology domains, but an end-of-life, physical security product of any age is met with angst and even suspicion.

Customers get angry, and they don’t always make the separation between the manufacturer and the integrator. They don’t understand how a system they’ve had and invested a lot of money into for a number of years can all of a sudden not be supported. In their minds, all they need is another three readers plus controller board or a software upgrade. That should be easy, right? Besides, they’ve made these types of changes before and it was never a problem.

As the integrator, you must tell them their system is no longer going to be supported or the components and/or software they need is no longer being manufactured. Now you have an angry customer through circumstances beyond your control. The manufacturer’s decision to orphan its product has affected your reputation and bottom line. Your customer is asking for assurance that this never happens to them again. Trust is on the line. What do you do?

If the circumstances are right, offer a retrofit solution.

A retrofit, security solution offers your customers a cost-effective, upgrade path while allowing you to protect your reputation, retain some of the customer’s investment costs and positively impact your bottom line. Your customer may not be thrilled about having to change out their system, but they won’t have to find the budget to start over. When you work with the proper manufacturer of the retrofit solution, you offer the customer a minimally-disruptive, replacement program and the opportunity to save money.

Ultimately, if you can bring your customers a solution that is cost effective, the good relationship will continue.

Advantages to Selling Retrofit Solutions

When you present the correct retrofit solution, it should allow your customer to use as much of their existing infrastructure as possible, thereby reducing the overall replacement cost. The customer should be able to reuse their current readers, cards, power supplies, cabinets and wiring. When a customer is able to reuse these components, it allows you to install the system quickly because no time is wasted pulling wire and rewiring for a new system. Therefore, you work smarter and increase your bottom line by quickly installing the system and moving on to your next job.

Retrofit solutions can also offer an opportunity for ongoing work over a period of time. Some customers have large systems with multiple locations that they need to retrofit, so they may want to plan out and phase in their retrofit, possibly upgrading one building or part of the system at a time to minimize the disruption of their business. This means they’ll purchase product and installation services from you month after month, until the install is completed.

“Offering a retrofit solution is generally a tremendous opportunity to acquire new customers or earn more of an existing customer’s business,” said Enterprise Security Systems, Inc.’s President, Kurt Kottkamp. “It’s also a unique opportunity to earn their trust because of the risk involved in changing systems.”

In addition is the opportunity to sell Professional Services assistance to customers who require support throughout the retrofit, upgrade path. Professional Services teams collaborate with integrators and end users to aid in the design, implementation, integration and product optimization of the retrofit solution. The team can provide on-site support, Factory Acceptance Testing, On-Site Acceptance Testing, custom scripting, custom reports and custom interfaces.

The customer receives exceptional service and learns to utilize their new system to its fullest potential while you become their trusted advisor on the new system, being there every step of the way to meet rigid timetables and make sure every aspect of the installation is carefully considered.

Choosing the Right Retrofit Solution

It is critical to be aware of what is occurring in the marketplace and take note of major announcements. Keeping tabs on the industry by reading security magazines, browsing websites and setting up Google Alerts on your major and competitive lines can help you make business decisions that will affect your company’s future and impact your bottom line.

When a major manufacturer announces the end of life of one its products, it is important to analyze how that will affect your business. Specifically, what are you going to do when and if your customers are impacted?

The goal is not to make the same mistakes you did when you chose the manufacturer that orphaned its product. So, when choosing a retrofit solution, it is imperative to:

  • find a historically-reliable company with references;
  • explore what their history tells you;
  • determine if they have taken customers for granted in the past;
  • make sure the company promises backward compatibility;
  • ensure the company is committed to the security industry; and
  • look for companies that do inhouse, product engineering as this means they have control over product design decisions and can accommodate their customer’s needs and requirements.

When manufacturers rely on a third party to manufacture their hardware, they leave themselves open to takeovers, sales and lack of product control. You need a manufacturer that will do what they say they are going to do, especially when it comes to the database conversion of the old product to the retrofit system. Any miscommunication or confusion can cost you time and serious money, but perhaps more importantly your credibility.

Most customers respond to integrators who are honest and straightforward because they want to establish a good relationship that gives them the peace-of-mind to look to you for answers in a fast-changing industry. By including a retrofit security system in your arsenal of products, you’ll be prepared to support a pin-for-pin, replacement, end-of-life system for existing or even new customers.

Grow your Business

Providing a cost-effective, quick-toinstall, retrofit solution from the right manufacturer that requires little down time for the end user will help to grow your business.

However, let’s say it’s not your customer who has just had the rug pulled out from under them, but your competitor’s customer. A door has opened. You now have the opportunity to save the day—or at least make it less painful— by presenting your cost-effective, retrofit option. Take advantage of situations such as these to grow your business by establishing new customers from other integrators who do not have a solution to offer.

“When the manufacturer who discontinues a product and doesn’t retrofit is not affiliated with you and you come up with a solution, then it’s gravy,” said Riotto. “It’s a simple flip. The dealer who sold them the original system is now under a cloud, and they have a customer who can’t sleep at night and is afraid their system is going to crash at any time. The end user doesn’t want to talk to the manufacturer or the dealer who recommended their system. If they allow them to stay, the dealer will still be under a cloud. Everything he says is going to be questioned, even though the dealer had nothing to do with the major decision [to terminate the product].”

When a security system reaches the end of its life, doesn’t meet your customer’s needs any longer or is too costly to maintain, offering a retrofit product may be the best alternative.

Choose a manufacturer that:

  • believes in exceptional customer service;
  • values long term partnerships;
  • always keeps the customer’s best interests in mind; and
  • manufactures their own hardware and software.

This ensures that you can offer a fully-functional product that effectively and economically solves customer’s problem(s) by protecting the investment of their existing access control infrastructure.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.

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