Industry Pulse In Depth: Installer Takes Initiative in Helping Customers Prevent False Alarms

PITTSBURGH – As the debate continues over whether the installer or the end user is responsible for false alarms, Guardian Protection Services of Pittsburgh isn’t waiting to find out who wins the argument.

Guardian, a multiple winner in the 2004 Security Sales & Integration Sales and Marketing (SAMMY) Awards (see June 2004 issue), has undertaken a companywide program designed to reduce false dispatches from systems it installs. The effort includes a seven-day, no-dispatch period to allow the customer to learn their system and a quick reference guide attached to the alarm panels of new systems.

Complaints by law enforcement that they are responding to too many alarms where an emergency is not taking place have resulted in cities enacting tougher alarm ordinances, stricter fines and verified response policies where police are only dispatched to alarms that have been verified at the source.

While some in the alarm industry say it is the responsibility of the alarm customer to make sure they know how to use their system properly, Mike Overby, Guardian’s vice president of subscriber services, says the old adage “the customer always comes first” doesn’t mean they should get the blame first.

“If we’re selling a service and the customer is confused on how to operate it, it’s shallow to say it’s not our problem. It’s an industry problem and we need to address it,” says Overby, who adds that training a customer is good business.

“A well-educated customer is going to be your best customer. The customers you don’t hear from, you have to question their loyalty,” he says. “I would much rather have an educated customer.”

Guardian began its program in late 2003 and Overby, who monitors his customers’ false alarm rates on a regular basis, says the false alarm rate for Guardian-installed systems is “minimal.”

During Guardian’s no-dispatch period, the system is kept in test mode for the first week after it is installed. This allows the end user to learn their system without the fear that a squad car will rush up their driveway.

“It gives the customer an opportunity to arm the system and use the functionality so they can get comfortable with it,” Overby says. Customers who want their alarms activated immediately can have the seven-day period waived but then have to undergo a more thorough training of how to operate their system.

The quick reference guide is attached to the alarm panel by the installer at the completion of the installation. Measuring 6 inches wide and 21 inches long, and printed in color on bright satin paper, it’s unlikely to go unnoticed, especially for customers who aren’t around to talk with the installer after the system set-up is complete.

Among the items on the reference card are quick instructions on how to abort an accidental alarm, how to activate various modes and other tips on how to use the system.

“When a customer may not be home at the time of the completion of an installation, we leave information,” Overby says. “Some leave a training manual, but end users can be skittish about playing with an alarm system.”

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