Tips for security integrators’ service and maintenance contracts

Westminster, Colo. -- If you’re a dealer or integrator that’s provided a security system to a customer, you know by now that systems may work perfectly when you complete the job, but that cameras will stop functioning, computers will cause issues, network configurations may become changed, and eventually that perfect solution you deployed will need some service. If you’re a smart integrator, you’ve forewarned your clients that this is not quite a "wire it and forget about it" world, and that they should expect to have some regular maintenance – even if it’s something as simple as cleaning the cameras and verifying system operation. This involves post-installation service and maintenance and was a topic of the PSA-TEC 2012 conference today in Westminster, Colo.

Some of your customers will not want to commit to a service/maintenance plan, and for those clients, you can only warn them that Murphy’s Law will eventually catch them and let them know you are happy to service them based on a "T&M" plan – which stands for time and materials, and which means that you will simply bill them time and materials for any service calls you need to make.

Other clients will agree to paying regularly for a service and maintenance program (which you should not refer to as S&M), and you should actively pursue these. That means regular visits to check the status of the system and it typically means that certain service procedures are standard. Some integrators will do a tier service program such that basic service is covered but special problems may be billed on time and materials. Other integrators, like Minnesota-based Identisys (an attendee at the conference session on this topic), offer "platinum" level service agreements that include everything – even broken equipment that the integrator will have to "eat the cost on" to replace, if the manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t apply.

In terms of managing those different service programs, Identisys’ Chris Sinnen advises handling your full-service “platinum” service contracts before you focus on your clients that don’t have a service contract. If you don’t have the resources to immediately handle those T&M clients, politely let those clients know how long the expected wait time will be (since you have to handle your platinum service contracts first), and after the fact, try to help them understand the value of a full, inclusive service contract for their electronic security system.

Another best practice raised in the PSA-TEC 2012 roundtable discussion was to impress on your clients the value of these contracts. The perceived value is important for these service contracts, and you certainly want to make sure the holder of the purse strings knows that your tech showed up at 12 noon, replaced a camera, and installed a patch or software update on the computer running the electronic door access control system. If only the onsite manager knows, then the buyer might not know that they are getting the value out of their contracts and could potentially drop the contract in the future, thereby cutting you out of a recurring revenue source.

Another best practice (again, a great tip from Identisys) is to provide your service contract holders an invoice that clarifies what that service call would have cost in time and materials had they not had the contract in place. That’s a great tip that will help you retain those service contracts.

Additional tips for service and maintenance for your clients’ security systems:

  1. Develop relationships with other trades and service people on the clients’ site. You should be talking to janitorial, maintenance, engineering, electrical contractors, contract security officers and regular site employees. This will give you intelligence about your client, ensure that you’re hearing from all voices in terms of their satisfaction with your service, and it may also give you an early heads up about facility changes that could affect the intrusion, fire, video surveillance or access control system.
  2. On a new construction jobsite, develop a close relationship with the electrical contractors so you know which phase is coming up next so you can stage your installation in the right process to follow the electricians’ work.
  3. If a service call wraps up early (say you’re done at 3 p.m. on an expected full-day call), head over to a nearby client and check in on their system – even if they don’t have a service call in. That preemptive visit can really bond you with your customer and help you learn about system challenges that you might not otherwise hear about until there’s an angry customer on your phone.
  4. Finally, share the wealth. Set up a small sales compensation plan that links your technicians with sales people so that a tech bringing a lead to a sale that closes gets a bit of commission or a standard monetary "thank you." Your technicians talk to trades and may be able to get your foot in the door on new projects that otherwise you had no access to.

Good luck selling and servicing your service contracts. They’re important for your savvy end-users and important to give your business regular cash-flow.

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