How Quotas, Other Factors Are Hurting Your Installation Quality

Your reputation depends on your quality of work. Here’s how to ensure maximum quality with examples of what not to do.

As a professional installer, how many times have you taken your family out for an evening and you witnessed a badly installed alarm, cameras, or some other low-voltage system?

Perhaps it was in a restaurant, a grocery store, gas station, auto repair shop, or a department store. The image of that misinstalled keypad, door switch, or motion detector is likely singed in the back of your mind forever. Just think what it does in a potential buyer’s mind.

“Because I travel a lot, I’ve seen some pretty bad workmanship out there. I remember seeing a keypad wire installed down the face of a wall behind a cash register in a restaurant. It was actually dangling without the benefit of staples to hold it down,” says John Larkin, senior partner with Electronic Systems Consultants of Columbus, Ohio. “I’ve been in businesses where the surface-mounted magnetic door switches were actually installed crooked on the door. There’s no excuse for these kinds of installation errors.”

Other common installation mistakes involve intercom speakers, card readers, heat detectors, smoke detectors and wireless devices.

“You have to wonder what the general public thinks every time they happen upon a poorly-installed security system. And the sad thing about it is, after doing such a poor job of it, the installer(s) will actually put the company sticker on the face of the keypad(s) for the world to see,” says Larkin. “I don’t’ know about you, but when I see something like this, I can’t help but cringe. It’s for sure that if a typical business or homeowner looking for an alarm system saw these things, he’s not going to purchase anything from this company, no matter how good a deal that’s on the table.”

The fact is, the quality (or lack thereof) built into the installations that we do stand as a testament to the integrity of our company and the overall desirability of our work. As such, it can either make or break us with the local community.

Quotas: The Often Counterproductive Problem

Dan Jolley, owner of Security Plus and Low Voltage Supply of West Jordan, Utah, says that one of the problems that he sees with regard to quality is that of company quotas. Many alarm companies are known to impose quotas on their sales staff and installation crews. After all, security company owners and managers need to maximize their profits, and some people believe that quotas are one way to do that.

“Production is important but I think you lose when you start focusing solely on how many alarm systems you can install in a day. I believe that this is a lot of the problem with summer-type companies as they’re looking for quotas and they’re looking solely at the numbers. The attitude, ‘How much money can I make as a salesperson or an installer,’ is all too often the very reason why security is compromised and quality suffers,” says Jolley.

A quota-driven sales plan can cause installers to make mistakes, such as mounting devices without the benefit of a torpedo level. Crooked keypads, motion detectors and other sensors are a commonality when installation crews have only so much time to complete their work.

A good example of this is how installers select the door switches they use. Most of the time selection is made on the job by the head installer, not the salesperson who engineered the system during the initial sales call. Many times, the path of least resistance will rule that person’s decision, so that what is aesthetically best for the home or business takes a back seat to speed of installation.

Lack of Installation Experience, Intense Competition and More

Dan Jolley, owner of Security Plus and Low Voltage Supply of West Jordan, Utah, acquired this photo from an installer who was called to service this installation. Evidently the original installer was no longer in business or was unwilling to return to the scene of the crime.

There are several other causations for inferior workmanship on the job in the low-voltage installation business. An inexperienced workforce and a general lack of code knowledge are two very important areas that need to be addressed.

“Management with no field experience; companies competing to see who can do it the ‘cheapest;’ and low-wage, unskilled workers. There’s also a lack of regulation resulting in little to no accountability via inspections,” says Aaron Hoffman, owner of APS Security Systems of Los Angeles.

Hoffman also says there’s way too little education available for the consumer. This results in home and business owners getting multiple bids from unqualified companies. And, because they lack knowledge in the area of security with respect to whom to go to and whom not, they’re unable to decipher anything other than price.

“Companies like Yelp exacerbate the issue by allowing unlicensed and uninsured contractors to advertise on their sites as long as the pay the fees,” says Hoffman. “This means that you can have guys advertising themselves as a ‘Camera Company’ with nothing more than a postal center address, pickup truck, cameras they bought off the internet and some cheap business cards.”

Reward Good Work and Reprimand When Necessary

No doubt, it’s important to make a profit, but not at the expense of future work and service opportunities. Unless you advocate and project quality in your installations, your company, like so many others, could see sales leads dwindle, which can and will impact your profits.

One way to foster an atmosphere where quality is of top importance is to institute a quality control policy where someone in authority or the project manager of record pays a visit to all new projects in the process of installation. Visiting all completed jobs to verify “a job well done” also is a way to instill “I care” in the hearts and minds of your installation crews.

You also can institute a quality verification program that rewards the installers in several ways:

  1. Institute a point system where each completed job is given a quality verification grade.
  2. Feature the best of the best on the company Intranet or in a newsletter.
  3. Institute a monetary bonus plan that rewards the best of the best for work well done.
  4. Send an installer(s) back to a job to redo, fix, or affect repairs when necessary.

Follow-up after each job with a phone call to the home or business owners in order to find out how they feel about the installation and to answer any questions they may have.

There’s nothing like putting your best foot forward where it comes to marketing your company and the installations that you do act as an advertisement every time anyone happens to see them. If you’re a small shop, it’s likely you’re highly involved in the quality of the work your company does.

If your company is relatively large and you manage a good number of installers, then creating an atmosphere of quality over quantity is extremely important.

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About the Author


Al Colombo is a long-time trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. His work includes more than 40 years in security and life-safety as an installer, salesman, service tech, trade journalist, project manager,and an operations manager. You can contact Colombo through TpromoCom, a consultancy agency based in Canton, Ohio, by emailing [email protected], call 330-956-9003, visit www.Tpromo.Com.

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