Seek Solutions Through the Eyes of Your Customers

When you’re on the inside looking out, it’s easy to forget that the electronic security industry is largely foreign territory for most people. When I joined then Security Sales in 1998, I wondered why on earth the magazine had a department called “False Alarm Forum.” How could you possibly find enough material on that topic each month?

My naivety was short-lived, however, as I quickly discovered that false alarms were such a significant and heated issue that the bigger challenge was determining which items would not make it into the magazine! I also learned that the situation was as old as the industry itself and appeared to be getting worse instead of better.

Yet, not more than a few years after my indoctrination into the alarm industry, I found myself scoffing at those who seemed ignorant of some of the basic principles of security systems and monitoring. When I attended the Los Angeles Police Department’s False Alarm School in 2001, I was astounded and bemused at how uninformed and misinformed most of the alarm system users were.

Many of those I spoke with either had no clue why their systems falsely tripped, or attributed it to everything from jumping cats to crawling spiders to falling leaves (outside) to sun spots! Even some of the students who seemed more on the ball believed their alarms went directly into police headquarters and were baffled why police knew nothing about their system when they called into the station for a service call.

After silently mocking these poor misguided fools in my head, my arrogance as an alarm industry “insider” began to melt away.

It occurred to me just how much these citizens needed the industry to step up and help them help themselves by delivering adequate training on system operation and education on the basics of alarm monitoring and reporting. I understood then that this was as critical as proper system design, installation and maintenance. I also had the chilling realization that its absence could spell doom for the entire industry.

Fast-forward nearly two years and – despite countless overtures in the pages of trade publications like SSI and calls for action at industry events – the alarm profession unfortunately appears to be hurtling ever faster toward fulfilling that prophecy. The snowballing interest and media blitz concerning verified response has hastened this grim predicament. Could this be the beginning of the end for the alarm industry, as we know it?

“WAIT! Now just hold on a doggone, cotton-pickin’ minute! It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, right?” I can hear many of you protesting right about not (perhaps less colorfully but just as impassioned nonetheless). Well, she may not be singing yet, but she most assuredly is warming up in the wings. And if the industry keeps singing the same old song, she may just belt out its death knell.

The good news, I am pleased to report, is that the alarm industry can still determine its own destiny. Yes, it’s true! In fact, SSI has bona-fide proof.

Take a look at this month’s special supplement -our exclusive, groundbreaking study of police officers, entitled “Police Want to Partner With the Alarm Industry.” As the kid in that classic Life cereal TV commercial would say, “Hey Mikey, they like us!” Not only that, but “Searching for the Cure to Verified Response” shows many avenues still exist for the industry to combat what many consider a rash solution to the false alarm problem.

These stories are reason for renewed hope of achieving policies in concert with law enforcement that optimally serve the public’s best interests. However, the onus is on the alarm industry to shore up its professionalism – including installations and, especially, customer training and care.

Remember to always strive to look at things from the perspective of the alarm system user. Never assume they know something or act like you are above explaining anything to them. Don’t let it be your customer sitting in the corner wearing the dunce cap at the next alarm school session!

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