A Retrofit Solution
Relationships that benefit the integrator
- By Kim Rahfaldt
- Sep 01, 2013
An 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
“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
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
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
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
- explore what their history tells you;
- determine if they have taken customers
for granted in the past;
- make sure the company promises
- 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
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
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
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
- values long term partnerships;
- always keeps the customer’s best interests
in mind; and
- manufactures their own hardware
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.