Giving Myself the Finger

I recently had an accident; I lopped off the end of my finger. It was a stupid and completely avoidable injury.

I was using a utility knife to cut the rubber spaces between some ceramic mosaic tiles in a new shower I’m building at my house. The blade on the knife had been dulling all day as I ground the tip into the concrete below the tiles.
As a result, it was becoming more difficult with every swipe to slice through the rubber grommets. My wife had dutifully reminded me several times to replace the blades on the knife. I ignored her; why should I ruin more than one blade cutting into the concrete?

Near the end of a long day, the knife slipped and suddenly the tip of my finger was gone. As I sat bleeding on the way to the hospital, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between my accident and our industry:

– First, like a reluctant owner of an alarm system, my refusal to upgrade to new equipment and utilize proper technique cost me dearly. How many dealers have clients whose systems are old and whose users are false alarm prone? Yet, many alarm companies never insist the customer upgrade to a more reliable system. The dealer also never takes the time to retrain the end user on proper system operation. Dealers need to increase their efforts to identify and then analyze the “low-hanging fruit.”

You should know which accounts are the ones causing all the service calls and the false alarm fines. The industry’s Model States Program showed that these “abusers” cause most of the false dispatches. Those same clients are ruining your reputation with the local police department.

– Second, losing part of your finger is as painful as losing clients. This month’s in-depth cover stories by Managing Editor Scott Goldfine provide detailed reasons on what causes attrition, which has become a pervasive industry problem. Is it the fault of mass-marketing systems? Not really. In fact, the large national companies generally have better false dispatch prevention techniques than small independent dealers.

The articles explain that, while some attrition is unavoidable, many lost clients can become long-term customers with a little more tender loving care by dealers. Creating an interesting client newsletter, conducting follow-up calls a few weeks after an installation, and offering responsive customer service via the central station and in the field are just a few key ways to retain accounts.

– Third, make sure you are carrying the proper amounts of worker’s comp and E&O insurance. An injured technician on the job is costly. Dealers who do not carry proper insurance are playing with fire. Check with one of the insurance brokers who specialize in the alarm business.

Think of my finger as you pick up the phone to straighten out your “abuser” clients, conduct an analysis of your attrition and address the causes, and contact your insurance carrier to upgrade your coverage.

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