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Beat the Competition with Quality

Take advantage of quality service and gain a competitive advantage through IQ certification

A business that is successful in a competitive market over a long period of time, with repeat customers, must be providing a product or service that meets or exceeds customer needs. This means the company is providing quality using best business practices.

“Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for,” said Peter Drucker, consultant, educator and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation.

Yet quality, according to W. Edwards Deming, American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant, is when “costs go down and productivity goes up as improvement of quality is accomplished by better management of design, engineering, testing and by improvement of processes.”

Obviously, quality, or the absence of it, has a strategic impact on an organization. If quality levels are not met, there are consequences. A business may survive, but it won’t reach its full potential.

Overall, quality ensures that you’ll have loyal customers who return for add-ons and recommend your company to others. You’ll have a strong brand reputation for quality, you won’t be competing on price, you’ll reduce costs with fewer returns and replacements, and you’ll attract and retain good staff. This is why many business segments have adopted quality initiative programs in manufacturing, retail and service.

So, if you want to reach your company’s full potential and would like to beat the competition, how do you do it?

Price or Value?

Most businesses compete on either price or value, the importance, worth or usefulness of something compared to the price paid or asked for it. Lowpriced items are generally considered cheap while more expensive ones are considered better quality. The question consumers typically ask themselves is: “Are we getting good value for our money?”

The customer must be satisfied that the price fairly reflects the quality. Consumers will base their purchase decision on price, if they are presented with no other means of comparison between perceived similar products. In this situation, the consumer makes their purchase decision by simply comparing the various offers.

For instance, basing your decision solely on value, which car would you prefer? Any compact brand or a BMW convertible? Most people would select the BMW because of its perceived value. If the cost of the purchase is removed, the majority will overwhelmingly select the product or service with the perceived highest value.

Ultimately, price helps people judge quality, then make a decision based on the value. Prove to the consumer that you are offering them a better value for the price offered, and you become the perceived better choice. Consumers want to know that they are spending their money wisely, and quality provides that value. Offering consumers the price, as well as documented value, allows them to make a decision based on multiple factors.

At this point, you may be thinking that all you need to do is just tell the consumer that your company is the best and that will allow you to close more sales; however, you would be wrong. Consumers want to see proof of the perceived quality that you offer.

Quality is more than just talking the talk; it is also walking the walk.

Where Do I Begin?

In the alarm industry, a quality control initiative and best practices provide a security company with improved business efficiencies, improved employee capabilities and retention, improved customer satisfaction, competitive advantages, marketing advantages and improved relations with the public safety community.

Start by identifying areas of your business that need the most improvement. Then, determine where you can develop quality guidelines, create goals and objectives, adopt industry-recognized benchmarks, standards and guidelines, establish timetables and set up a system to measure results as well as the progress of your improvements.

Establishing a measurable change over a prescribed timeframe is important. It needs to be realistic, achievable and recurring. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.

A few details that you will want to keep track of include:

  • The false alarm factor;
  • Customer retention;
  • Cancellation rate;
  • Increased sales (new and existing customers);
  • Increased referrals;
  • Reduced warranty/no charge repairs and service calls;
  • Employee turnover; and
  • Monitoring station signal volume and activity.

The IQ Certification Program

Fortunately, much of the groundwork has been already laid out in an existing industry program called Installation Quality (IQ) Certification.

The IQ Certification Program was the brainchild of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), now known as the Electronic Security Association (ESA). The association’s False Alarm Reduction Committee believed the industry needed a set of benchmarks by which security alarm dealers could install, service and maintain security systems as well as educate end users and system technicians. The IQ premise is that properly-designed systems installed properly by trained technicians using the appropriate equipment, and monitored and operated by properly-trained users, typically operate without fault or failure for years. Although the NBFAA subsidized the start-up for the IQ Certification Program, IQ is now an independent organization that is recognized by every major industry group as the security industry’s quality control initiative.

To achieve IQ Certification, security companies must voluntary abide by a rigid set of system design standards, product selection, installation, service and maintenance standards, customer training, monitoring and operating procedures that set them above other alarm companies.

The certification process involves the submission of an application that is reviewed by the IQ board and obtains information on the company from the local police, fire and state regulatory agencies regarding the applicant’s performance, history, license status and the appointment of a company IQ compliance officer. Training is also a requirement for certification, and all technicians must have training from National Training School (NTS), CANASA or an approved equivalent.

Attaining IQ Certification requires a dedicated commitment by the alarm company’s ownership to the IQ program by submitting to an extensive and demanding training and approval process. The company has to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics as well as a series of stringent and evolving IQ Guidelines, including guidelines associated with the company, equipment, employee training, sales, system design, installation, monitoring and user training.

The IQ Checklist

One aspect of the user training guidelines and one of the favorite features of the IQ Certification Program is the IQ Checklist, requiring the installer to test the entire system. The customer is then shown the checklist and goes through each item, line-by-line, with the installer to ensure that he/she understands that the system was installed properly and completely, and to also educate the consumer on how to correctly operate the system. Once this process is done the customer signs off on the work.

The checklist helps customers clearly see what was done and why. It also removes the opportunity for a customer to say he doesn’t understand the system or that it wasn’t installed correctly or finished.

“The IQ Certification Program has made me more aware of the need for quality individuals and companies to perform both residential and industrial alarm installations,” said Peggy Anderson, licensing specialist for the Delaware State Police and IQ board member. “In the future, we are looking to amend our current legislation, and this will hopefully include the ability to promulgate rules and regulations. At that time, I will more than likely suggest that the IQ Program be used.”

Why Become IQ Certified?

If your company is already meeting most of the quality initiatives or you can implement quality initiatives in your company without being involved in the IQ Program, you may be wondering why it’s needed.

The fact is that many companies are not far from having almost everything in place to become IQ Certified. But, when talking about quality, all companies like to brag that they are the best. Maybe your company is, but how do you prove it?

Once accepted into the IQ Program, companies can use its certification in a similar fashion as the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” when talking to customers, potential clients, other alarm companies and members of the public safety community. The IQ Certification Program gives consumers a way to identify quality alarm companies, as non-compliant companies have had their IQ Certification denied or revoked.

Attaining IQ Certification also offers marketing benefits including the power of third-party accreditation and the impact of combined participation and recognition by consumer groups, the media and public safety groups.

Tim Creenan, chairman of IQ and CEO of Amherst Alarm, who uses the IQ logo on brochures, business cards, alarm certificates and proposals, said, “I have used it successfully since 1998 and benefit from improved installation procedures and business processes, financial benefits, false alarm reduction and so much more,”

Lynn Comer, president of Shenandoah Valley Security and IQ board member, agrees.

“IQ is the outward symbol for an inward commitment to quality,” she said. “IQ is by far one of the best marketing tools for a company, large or small, when conveying the message of quality to consumers.”

Additional IQ Benefits

It is hard to deny that poor workmanship and other factors that result in false dispatches have damaged the relationship between alarm companies and law enforcement. How can consumers know which companies to trust, and how can public safety officials know which companies are doing all they can to reduce false dispatches?

IQ Certified companies are working with local public safety officials to serve and protect the community by ensuring that they won’t be responding to unnecessary alarm dispatches. IQ Certification also serves as a way for the public safety community to recommend quality companies to consumers.

“When a company achieves IQ Certification, it tells the public safety community that they have made a formal commitment to an established false alarm reduction program,” said Steve Heggemann, manager of the Baltimore County Alarm Reduction Section and IQ board member. “End user training and the proper installation of a well-designed alarm system are two of the keys to IQ’s False Alarm Reduction Program.”

In addition, IQ Certified alarm companies receive a 5 percent discount on their general liability and errors and omissions insurance from Security America Risk Retention Group (SARRG) because risk is much lower, thanks to the best practices and quality initiatives.

In a competitive marketplace, it is not a good business practice to stand still and give competitors the opportunity to surpass you. Joining the IQ Certification Program is a no-brainer for any alarm company looking to improve their business. As proven through IQ Certified companies, being recognized as a quality provider of alarm systems can lead to greater revenue and positive customer feedback with increased referrals, the main ingredients for running a successful business.

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

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