3G Upgrades: How Good Process Can Ease the Pain
Though upgrading all of your customer’s 3G radios before the sunset may seem like a daunting task, the stress can be alleviated with this game plan.
Security dealers have worked very, very hard for their base of loyal subscribers. Every year, it takes work to KEEP those subscribers. This year, it’s going to take more work than usual.
As you know, major wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon are sunsetting their 3G networks. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. If you do ignore it, many of your hard-won and valuable subscribers WILL go away.
Your company also faces very serious liability issues if you are not proactive about upgrading your subscribers to 4G and 5G equipment. YES, this is a royal pain. But you should be able to put in place a solid process that both gets the job done, and doesn’t unduly tax your team.
Good security alarm software will help. Below is the process many of our dealers are using.
Prepare Your Hit List
Half the battle is clearly identifying your “hit list” of subscribers to be contacted. If your company has good account management software, with detailed equipment lists associated with each subscriber, you should be able to search for “3G” or similar using the software’s part description.
Check to see if your software has the ability to easily identify your hit list. Many industry-specific software packages will quickly allow you to sort/search by your 3G accounts. If it doesn’t, make sure you have a system in place that will help you quickly and easily find your 3G accounts.
Flag That Account List
Customizable security alarm software should offer you user-definable fields that enable you to flag the accounts that need to be upgraded. Having user-definable fields will make the account list easier to locate and sort based on the customers’ need to upgrade their system.
In most cases, a simple query in your alarm management software will retrieve a list of accounts in a few seconds. You can use this query to help define your hit list and target the customers that have the most need for an upgrade. This can help your staff in the office focus on the customers that need the upgrade first. When the upgrade is completed, the flag can simply be removed.
Clearly Communicate the Need
Craft your message. Emphasize a) WHAT is happening, b) WHY it’s happening, and c) OPTIONS you have to address the need for an upgrade. Below is the top section of a letter one dealer recently sent:
You should also lay out the timing, and that since this sunset is underway there is some urgency.
Offer A Spoon Full of Sugar
Subscribers are not going to be happy about this forced upgrade. It’s medicine they don’t want to take, so offer a spoon full of sugar to help. Perhaps three months of free monitoring or a $100 credit on the radio upgrade would help. Replacing these communicators is also a great time to upgrade a customer’s system to add interactive services, cameras, and the like.
Finding ways to upsell new/additional equipment is a great way to help offset your costs on the radio hardware upgrade, and bring in some additional recurring revenue.
Bite Sized Pieces
Figure out what your office and techs can reasonably handle — say, 50 upgrades per month. Assume that about half of those contacted will call into your office to ask questions and ultimately to schedule an upgrade. That will let you divide your hit list into bite-sized pieces.
Sending letters and emails to 200 customers at a time will produce about 100 appointments. About two months of work. Given the urgency of the matter, consider after hours or weekend appointments. As we saw before with 2G, sunsetting is not a one-time change; cellular carriers often sunset in phases, which could force adjustments to your upgrade plan.
Automate Your Communications
If your security alarm software supports it, you should be able to save lots of time with “batch” delivery of your communications. In many service software packages, you can use a mail merge process to retrieve your hit list. Then you can create a letter or email batch.
In the above example, a good mail merge tool can print dozens or hundreds of letters quickly. There are also affordable “automated call” services in the industry that will let you record your message. Then, generate a friendly but automated phone call to a list of phone numbers that you upload to the service provider.
Call the 3G Stragglers
Within 2 – 4 weeks of your letter/email blasts, call those you mailed that have not yet responded. They will likely remember receiving the letter/email. You can then schedule many of those stragglers 3-4 months out.
Rinse and Repeat
Once you’ve tagged your hit list of 3G accounts, and come up with the right messaging and the best ways to deliver it, it becomes a matter of running this process multiple times until all the upgrades are done. It will require following through and being proactive with your subscribers, and whittling down the hit list.
This may not seem like much fun, but consider it an opportunity to renew your company’s bond with your loyal subscribers. Show them why locally owned and operated security alarm companies are a better option than one of the faceless national players.
If you are looking for options/advice, we recommend talking with your central station or your software provider. Since they work with many dealers who are processing 3G upgrades, they will often have advice and ideas that can help you make your upgrade plan run smoothly.
Scott MacDougal is the founder and CEO of Cornerstone Billing Solutions. Cornerstone’s system offers “life cycle” account management features, from quotes to work orders, including technician scheduling, full inventory, collections management, and much more.
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