Who is Servicing Your Clients?

A phrase I continually use is the “lifecycle management of security systems.” Every system, whether integrated or not, will need maintenance at some point throughout its life. It could be a door contact getting damaged, a magnet falling off, or a legitimate unit gone bad, but something will require a technician to work on that system you just installed. So, who will it be?

Most integrators I know answer that with “Well, me, of course. I installed it and I will void the warranty if anybody else touches it.” To those integrators, I would say you would be surprised at how many end users don’t return a call to the company that just installed the system to provide maintenance on it, and here is why.

One of my end user clients called me about a month ago, which was about two months after the project closeout, and asked who they should call to repair a door contact on a door that they had changed out. It is a common drill in a building where a door gets damaged and is changed out and the door contact and magnet on the door are an afterthought when the alarm doesn’t set that evening.

I asked my client why they didn’t call the integrator that had just installed it. The answer was “It wasn’t defective and it didn’t break. We broke it and now need to reinstall it.” The funniest thing was that there was no association in the client’s mind that they could pay the integrator for a modification, addition or changes in the system once the install was complete but the warranty period was still active.

I attribute the end result in my example to the lack of lifecycle management support most integrators give their end user clients. As projects close out, I continually notice a general lack of concern for being the resource for that end user client even after the install.

What is the path to correct this? I answer that question with a question: how is your service department handling Lifecycle Management for your completed projects?

I can say as an industry, the service of clients has been the least dealt with item in the end user management. As integrators, there should be four divisions of every integrator no matter how big or small. There should be a sales, engineering, installation, and service division for every integrator. These roles may be shared among single positions but they have to be addressed.

In my experience in representing end user clients that deal with integrators, it is common that clients start off liking their integrator at the beginning of the installation process. It is less common that they are as happy with the integrator at the end of the installation process whether the problems are valid or not. It is even less common that the integrator goes back after the installation is complete to check on the client’s use of the system and their satisfaction. The reason integrators I have asked give is that the installers move on to the next project once the installation is complete; the service technicians are out fixing broken systems and the sales team are searching for new potential clients.

So, who is going to take the time to go and check up on a client, remind them that they have a resource for their security needs, and assure the end user client that they have a partner in the lifecycle of their security system? It may sound like a small, even unimportant thing, but it’s huge to the end user client. From the end user perspective it’s annoying when a sales person continually nags about projects or invitations to events or ballgames but when there is a legitimate move, add or change to be made then they are left searching for the service technician. At that moment is when they are about to be serviced by somebody else.

I assure you, an end user that needs a move, add, change, or repair to their system(s) will have it done by somebody and if it was your install but you are not relevant in their mind they are not going to come back to you for the next thing. The end user requirements are a simple tri-factor calculation: know the system, pay attention to me and don’t break it. Obviously, cost is always at the table but this tri-factor is the basis for whether or not you get called back.

As an integrator there are a couple of things that will help ensure that you are the resource that gets called for this work. First, be relevant and known to the end user. If you are the installer of the system then your commissioning and training process should be completed by your lifecycle management/service team. It will be their task to start building a trust circle and relationship of relevancy at this stage.

Make sure they know how to get in touch with your firm whether it’s a warranty service call, an add, move or change, or a simple question about the operation of the system(s).

Second, go back after the system is complete and the project close out documentation is submitted to check on the operation of the system and answer any questions that may have cropped up.

Third, schedule a pre-warranty expiration visit to repair anything that may be covered under warranty but more importantly to let them know that warranty will be expiring and they need to decide if they want multiple year maintenance contract to continue this service.

Fourth, show them that you know their system. Do a system health check and show it to them. This system health check should either be done by a report from the software, a checklist of their products, or a list of their installed components with a listing of any errors/failures/repairs that have been made.

These four steps establish the basis of the lifecycle management effort that would not only ensure continued business from end user clients but also is something not being currently done well by most integrators. So, in the end who is servicing your clients’ needs?

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

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