Answering the Service Call of Duty

Those who look at service calls as a headache and a drain to the bottom line are missing the boat. Proper training all down the line from sales to installation to service to customer minimizes service call frequency and maximizes opportunities.

Again, it is a good idea for management to set aside regular staff time to review the customer training process the company recommends. This will not automatically happen on its own. Based on my years of training management, there is one really good book on training techniques I recommend you get: “Telling Ain’t Training.” It includes many examples and suggestions of how your trainers should conduct their training, and how management should train technicians to be trainers. The same authors, Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, have also written a companion book, “Beyond Telling Ain’t Training Fieldbook.”

2. EQUIPMENT OR SOFTWARE ISSUE. Almost a third of survey respondents (28.6%) cited equipment and software. I have seen many situations where techs are required to work with equipment they have not been trained on. Do you, as a manager, have a new product training and qualification program? In many instances, software issues can be resolved by either your staff or the vendor if the system is configured for remote support via phone or Internet.

3. INSTALLATION ISSUES. This category affected about a fifth of all respondents (18.4%). Do you use an installation checklist? Are your installers certified? You may want to start your own quality assurance program by contacting organizations such as the Installation Quality (IQ) Certification Program ( IQ’s guiding principle is: Security and life-safety systems that are properly designed, installed by trained technicians using the finest equipment, monitored correctly and operated by trained users typically function without fault, failure or false alarms for years. IQ offers a free checklist you can download and adopt for your company’s use.

4. BATTERIES. Coming in fourth in the survey (14.3%) was batteries. We all know the typical lead-acid battery lasts about four to five years. In the effort to reduce service call overhead, what programs do you have to service old batteries? I often had the salespeople do battery replacements since it is not very complicated and is a very good opportunity to solicit for referrals and system upgrades. I have noticed some major alarm dealers mailing batteries to customers with instructions on replacement. I would like to see more municipalities require annual alarm system inspections, which would reduce battery problems and false alarm issues.

5. UPGRADES. The last category was shockingly low (2%). Alarm dealers have many opportunities to solicit product and service upgrades. However, it has to be on your radar. Video and mobile communications are two very hot upgrade markets. Take advantage of the fact customers often revere technicians as the alarm system experts. Alarm dealers may want to look at implementing a program in which service techs can suggest system upgrade options with a sales commission. I know some have had problems with such a program. However, I have seen successful tech upgrades sales programs when the technicians have been properly trained. There we go again with that all-important ‘T’ word.

Bob Dolph has served in various technical management and advisory positions in the security industry for 30+ years. Check out his Tech Shack blog at

Tool TipTo earn IQ Certification, alarm companies undergo a rigorous evaluation by the IQ Board, made up of security, law enforcement, fire, state regulatory and insurance industry representatives.

Did you know that the IQ Certification Program has been around since 1997? I cannot think of a better way to demonstrate to the public that your company is serious about the quality of your work. The IQ Certified logo assures the customer that the company contracted to install and maintain their alarm system is among the most qualified and professional in the security alarm industry. That is why this month I have selected something that should be on your technician’s sleeves, the IQ Certification patch.

Did you also know IQ partners with SSI, SIAC and FARA on the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award? Entries are currently being accepted. Visit for more information and entry forms. The winner is announced during June’s ESX show in Nashville, Tenn.

Tagged with: Tech Talk

About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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