Don’t Give Your Client Cause to Switch

My professional involvement with electronic security systems has spanned nearly 25 years in retail, health care and museum facilities. When I began my career, I had no clue how I might be treated by security providers and other vendors. My expectations were simply that I was lucky to have someone install and monitor the organization’s access control and camera systems. As my career progressed, I took to the philosophy that I needed to be treated the way that I treat my customers.

Since I strive to ensure that my customers have a positive experience and made to feel they are the most important people in my business (because they are), I expect no less from the people I do business with. Here are a few fundamental needs of my own as an end-user client:

Give me an honest estimate — I need to know what a system is going to cost. Do not give me a price and then during the installation include a bunch of add-on costs to make the system function the way I need it to. If there are additional à la carte items to choose among, that’s fine, but be upfront with me.  

Provide a realistic timeframe — If you are booked solid, then let me know. Yes, it may factor into my decision, but I should be able to inform my people when the installation should be expected, completed and the system functioning. 

Honor your contract and provide solid customer service — Once I feel that I am just an account number for you, then I will look elsewhere for future service.  When I have a crisis and need your support, DO NOT tell me, “I really don’t have time to deal with your issue.” I need to feel that you will drop everything and take care of my concern. 

Surefire Way to Lose a Client

Following is a real-life anecdote from the “how to lose a customer” file. There are clear lessons within on how to properly service a customer in the course of solving an issue with their alarm system.

One day the facility’s fire alarm begins to ring and my staff spreads out to look for the cause. As the building is evacuated and the fire department arrives, we still have no indication there is even an issue. Firemen conduct a sweep of the facility and determine it is a false alarm. I’m informed we can silence the bells, which we proceed to do. The responders depart, clientele and staff return to the building and all is good. For about 20 minutes. The fire alarm goes off again; we evacuate the building. Firemen return and conclude there is no issue and once again the bell is silenced.

At this time, I contact our alarm company representative who tells me the cause of the alarm cannot be determined. Could it be because they are on the phone with me and not on site? I request a technician be dispatched to examine the fire system. Yet, I’m told because they are an hour away and it is already 2 p.m., I will likely incur extra charges to cover overtime for the tech. The tech finally arrives, troubleshoots for about an hour and disconnects most of the pull stations from the system. The origin of the alarm is not found and the tech tells me there is nothing else he can do, but the alarm should be silent. Then prior to leaving, the tech informs me if I want further troubleshooting I will need to call in a work order. Funny, I thought that is what I had done. I contacted the alarm company and asked why the tech would leave without fixing my system; they stated I would have to call in another work order for the system to be repaired.

In the end, I called a different company that proceeded to troubleshoot the system, identify the issue and make the needed repairs — all at a price cheaper than my contracted vendor. Needless to say, I cancelled our contract with the original provider and they dared to wonder why? 

As anyone who owns or manages a healthy business will tell you, they need repeat customers to survive and grow. The model of expansion to new customers, while letting your old ones leave due to poor service, cannot be sustained. Eventually your client base will deteriorate. If you have a customer that is willing to give a testimonial to your service, then you have done your job, and I look forward to your business.

Jim Paulsen, CPP, is Building & Grounds Manager at Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, Minn. He serves on ASIS International’s Investigative Standards Technical Committee.

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