Service for the Dead and Dying

The older I get, the more often I find myself amazed by the ignorance I find everywhere I look. It seems amazing to me that after 30 years of being part of an industry and 20-plus years of training that industry, I can still be shocked by it. OK, so...

The next absurdity comes from the level of training that is being allowed to walk about in the field. We as an industry have been screaming for standardization and certification for years. Well, we have a piece of it ready for anyone who is willing to admit to ignorance. There are several good training companies (including myself) that have been out there fighting the good fight, educating the CCTV masses for more than 20 years.

I get so frustrated as I travel about and listen to the advice given to end users by "qualified," "professional" alarm companies about throwing away equipment based upon improper field knowledge or lack of test equipment. I get equally frustrated by the end users who hire these companies because they have been around for 50 years or because they have a big name in the industry.

People! Wake up and smell the credentials! Would you buy a brand-new car from a guy on the corner or from the big store around the block without a test drive and some minor, written assurances that the car was everything it was cracked up to be? If your answer is yes, go away. If your answer is no, then interview your security folks. Demand credentials of training, ask for references, and then call the references. If every credential is a happy one, be suspicious. Even God gets a few folks disappointed every now and then. Then, once you hire them, check their work from time to time. Ask for estimates on equipment prior to trashing it on the word of a field person. Fifty bucks for an estimate is a small price to pay if it keeps everyone up to snuff.

Choose Your Service Wisely
All right, back to the track. We have four basic types of service available to us in most industries: the warranty, the service contract, the service agreement and the service call. So what's the difference, and which one is the best one for you?

Warranty. It would be a safe bet for me to state that 80 percent of the people purchasing CCTV equipment and about the same percentage of people selling the equipment have little or no idea what the manufacturer's warranty is all about. The warranty, in almost all cases, does not cover the cost of field labor, travel time to or from the field, shipping or other related, miscellaneous expenses.

Be careful with this one. Many of our modern manufacturers have no program set up in the USA for warranty service, so you may be required to ship your equipment to Japan or Thailand to be verified before you can have it replaced or repaired and returned. The turnaround time can be as much as six to eight weeks, and the cost can be huge. No wonder we throw stuff away. Most of your top 15 manufacturers have excellent service programs in the United States and work hard to keep you happy. It's your responsibility, however, to know these things before you put cash on the line.

The second burn point on most warranties is documentation. If your "professional" service companies provided you with a PO or receipt or other piece of paper that states that you purchased 25 WDI-4784 cameras on June 4, 2004 for $X, then you just lost your warranty claims. You must almost always present a proper PO or receipt to the warranty repair service as proof of claim. This proper PO or receipt must list the date purchased, the company purchased from, and most important, the model and serial numbers of the units purchased. So if you did purchase 25 WDI-4784 cameras, you will have a list of the serial numbers on the receipt or kiss your warranty goodbye.

After 20 years of doing a bulk share of such repairs, it still amazes me the number of people that sputter about how they had just purchased this stuff and why wouldn't we honor the warranty and fix it for free? If I fixed everything under warranty because you all were nice guys and gals, then I would have gone out of business because the manufacturers would not reimburse me for the repair. Warranties are the responsibility of the end user. A good, professional service or installation company or integrator will make sure that all the service papers, receipts, and necessary documentation is in order and turned over to the client at the end of the installation. A properly advised end user will insist on it.

Service Contract. The service contract is an agreement that usually provides several options, each at a cost, and each based upon the negotiations of the service provider and the end user. These options may include the following.