Editor Makes House Calls

They say you only truly understand someone if you walk a mile in his or her shoes. And if that doesn’t pan out, you’re a mile away and have a new pair of shoes! That philosophy spurred me to spend a day accompanying a Brink’s Home Security technician as he made his round of service calls. Fortunately, the experience proved so worthwhile that footwear was the last thing on my mind.

Driving around from house to house, dealing with a multitude of personalities, troubleshooting problems and crawling around in attics summoned back memories of my former life as a cable-TV service technician. There’s the allure of being outside and on your own, as well as the satisfaction that comes from helping people. But there’s also the stress of balancing a busy schedule with traffic and other factors, as well as handling difficult customers.

My ride-along included all of these things and more.
Initially, things got off to a rocky start as our first stop turned out to be the proverbial “service call from hell.” The home was in disarray since its owner, who was not present, was in the process of a do-it-yourself remodel. The customers’ complaint cited a problem with the garage door contact. But after a seemingly simple fix, that entire area of the home failed to communicate with the panel.

That prompted the tech to rewire the back door. Then, when we were about to leave, the homeowner called and informed the tech he had wired contacts to two windows of the house! He never alerted the alarm company and it was not apparent at the panel. Although the frustrated tech said the customer voided the service contract and should have to pay for the additional work, he magnanimously rewired the system according to the customer’s wishes, all the while assuring me, “Most calls are NOT like this.”

Three hours and two rescheduled service calls later, we were finally off to our next residence. In what the tech described as a “totally avoidable service call,” he reset the contact on the front door and a bedroom window because the installer had been less than meticulous.

While the tech was working, the elderly homeowner spilled her guts to me about everything from her recently deceased dog to her long-deceased husband. Through our conversation, I learned she had incurred three false alarms – all resulting in police dispatch – during the six months she had owned the system, all of which were her fault. She also believed the system “protects” her from intruders.

I witnessed firsthand what we’ve all heard time and time again – the majority of false alarms are due to user error! I also learned not to bring up anything unrelated to the work at hand. The tech told me he avoids offering any opinions or mentioning anything personal so as to not stimulate unnecessary, distracting conversation. After all, he has a job to do.

Next, it was time for lunch. In between wolfing down our Subway sandwiches, we talked about his most unforgettable experiences.

He said he had taken a trainee to an installation where it became increasingly apparent that the homeowner was of questionable mental capacity. After she warned them to beware of the trees because of the evil things they say, they slowly inched their way toward the nearest exit. He also recalled a customer who was so enraged about his discontinued service (nonpayment) that he reached inside the service vehicle’s window as the tech was driving away, holding on and screaming for some distance. Whoa!

We did two more calls that day. One involved a system that was not communicating with the monitoring station. It turned out the customer’s cordless phone was off the hook! The final stop was to set up a new homeowner using an existing system. It ended with me declining her pitch to “get in on the ground floor” to sell long-distance service. So concluded an eventful day that I will not soon forget.

I truly enjoy this industry and believe it is imperative to be an active participant rather than just cover it. I want to thank Joe Pierce for letting me tag along and Brink’s for making it possible. If other service techs are half as conscientious as Joe, our industry’s customers will be in good hands indeed.

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