The Problem Customers in the Security Business

How to deal with upset alarm customers so that you both win


Solicit your entire workforce and ask them to list their top three most challenging and repetitive customer situations. In doing so, you will not only have a plan of attack, but you may well learn exactly what you can change at your company to add value to the service you provide. Once you have everyone's list, look for similarities and then compile your company-wide top 10. Next, document your top 10 and redistribute this list to every employee. Then ask them to offer at least one suggestion for each entry on how you can offer an option or alternative as opposed to simply saying "No."

Let's look at the examples of these two phone calls your front line employee received on Friday at 4 p.m. I know you'll think I'm out of my mind, but believe it or not, sometimes customers are obnoxious, rude and unreasonable. Of course, this would never be the case with your customers, right? Your customers are always polite, eager to pay quickly and fully understanding of how you have to run your business...well, if so, then you can skip this article and go read about the latest and greatest DVR and PTZ.

You're still here. Well, I guess you have customers like the rest of us. So let's think about the kinds of things we can say and do to help satisfy even our most difficult customers. Here are examples of ways to empower your team to resolve these calls more successfully.

The Problem Customer:
"Let me tell you something...and I need you out here TODAY"

The first call was from a husky-voiced woman who began the conversation by saying, "Let me tell you something!" All of the door and windows in her home were replaced and she is demanding that you send someone over TODAY to re-wire all of them so the alarm system will work this weekend. As opposed to telling her that this is impossible but that you will have someone from the installation department call her next week to schedule the work, you might consider offering her the following:

The Solution:
"Since rewiring all of your doors and windows might require an installation crew, what I can do is have someone from our service department come over today and survey the work that needs to be done. He may also be able to give you some temporary protection until we can get our installers out to complete everything. I will make sure our installation manager begins working on getting this scheduled immediately. If this is acceptable to you, I will make sure he calls you on Monday to arrange a day and time convenient for you to have us over to complete the job."

While this solution is not exactly what the customer wanted, it is certainly far better than saying "No." As opposed to making a negative statement like the word "No", you have put a positive spin on your response by telling her exactly what you will do and how you will follow through on it.

By asking if this is acceptable, you have given her the perception of some degree of control over the outcome. In doing so, you have subliminally added value in her mind, to your service and reliability. There are dozens of ways you can respond to this customer and asking all of your employees to list their ideas will help you create your own arsenal of solutions to empower them to get better at it.

The Problem Customer:
"For what I pay you? For what?"

This customer pays you every month for monitoring and now that he needs a service call, he is extremely upset that you want to charge him for it. How well do your employees respond this situation now? What this customer is really saying is, "I have no idea what I pay you for every month!" He most likely doesn't understand that you have trained operators on duty 24/7 just in case he has an emergency. He probably thinks that the monthly monitoring fee covers everything and anything that could ever go wrong with his system.

The solution:
You might consider explaining exactly what he pays for each month. If this doesn't resolve his anger, take a look at his service history and how long he has been a customer. If he has never needed a service call and has been a customer for quite a while, you need to consider what good business is and what bad business is. Can you offer him a discount on the service call if he has never needed it before? Perhaps waiving a trip charge? Or maybe his contract is up for renewal? If so, can you exchange a service call for a new contract? Since I never believe in giving away the store, I like to get something for giving something. Perhaps you can offer this customer a service contract and agree to include this service call if he agrees to sign up for one. Will it work with every single customer? No, of course it won't. But it is clearly much more effective than simply saying "No," or even worse getting into an argument over it.