In Security, One Size Screws Us All!

In my early days in the industry during the mid-1980s, I spent a few years traveling the country as a regional sales manager for a few burglar alarm manufacturers. Back then, poor quality products seemed to be the biggest culprit for false alarms. I can remember constantly swapping out hundreds of false alarm-prone PIRs to provide installing alarm dealers with the latest “revised” models.

The good part was the quality of design and installation was superb. When someone purchased a security system, they usually received a complete monitored perimeter, interior and fire alarm system. Extensively trained salespeople showed these end users how to properly operate these systems. We didn’t fathom installing a system in a 2,500-square-foot house with just contacts on the front and back doors and one “motion detector,” and trying to say with a straight face, “There, that will protect you!”

That would have been like an electrician saying, “You have a plug here and a plug over there; you’ll just have to use plenty of extension cords.”

Thank goodness for the electrical building codes — and plumbing codes if you think about it. I yearn for the days when “recurring monthly revenue” (RMR) was a byproduct of a job well done over and over, rather than the primary focus and business motivation for so many installing companies.

Let’s fast forward to November 2005. The quality control of today’s manufactured security products is outstanding. PIR intrusion sensors are now more reliable than ever, especially the pet-immune detectors. Burglar alarm control panels are loaded with preventative false-alarm features and jam-packed with internal programming options for every conceivable application.

Today, the installer can literally program the alarm panel to reflect the lifestyle of the homeowner so that most of the functions are done without user intervention. This ultimately results in fewer false alarms to contend with. As Security Sales & Integration’s research overwhelmingly shows, most false alarms occur during the entry and exit times by the user.

So why is there still a problem with false alarms? Well, I believe we need to seriously rethink how burglar alarms are sold.

In mass-marketed systems, there is practically no homeowner involvement in the design of the system. Also, the results of the sales meeting are seldom conveyed to the installation crew so they may implement customized programming according to the homeowner’s lifestyle.

I’ll bet a week’s salary that the majority of residential alarms installed today are still in the factory “default” mode! These panels have lots of great features that are not being used. Like anything else, if a person is well-trained and familiar with something, and a keen interest has been invested in supplying them with what they view to be important, then the less likely problems are to develop down the line.

I want to make it clear that there are still plenty of installing companies and people in the industry that do the right thing — this is not about you or your company as I am sure you feel the same way as I do about these things. Our industry should not be and cannot be about RMR. This not only causes rampant false alarms and the consequential conflicts with police, but also undermines many other facets of the industry. It leads to customers no longer using their systems, defaulting on monitoring payments, bad-mouthing the industry and devaluing alarm companies in the financial world.

I urge you to look at your sales force. Make sure they are adequately trained and doing the right things. Have your business known and respected for having true security consultants, not mercenary-style order-takers with little on their minds beyond landing another RMR account. Make sure when your people go into prospects’ homes, they assess the environment, listen and ask key questions to discover the homeowner’s interests and lifestyle. Only then can a suitable solution be determined.

Security is not a one-size-fits-all proposition! So many of our false alarm issues could be nipped in the bud if we exercise more care in our system sales and panel programming techniques. Take a look in the mirror and see if you are part of the false alarm problem or solution.


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