Best Practices for Service and Maintenance Contracts

Integrators share practical advice on how to avoid potential issues with customers down the road

It’s an all too familiar story across the country – city leaders and police officials devote a substantial amount of time, energy and resources into deploying a surveillance camera network hoping to replicate the success other municipalities have had with using the technology as a force multiplier and valuable evidence gathering tool. There’s just one problem; they allow the system to fall into a state of disrepair by failing to enter into a comprehensive maintenance and service agreement with the systems integrator that installed the network.

In some cases, however, the integrator is forced to stop performing maintenance on the cameras because the city fails to compensate them for their work. That’s exactly what happened earlier this year in Pittsburgh when the company that was contracted to service a portion of the city’s camera network went unpaid for a year. In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that between one-fifth and one-fourth of the city’s cameras were offline at the beginning of the year because of this.

Security integrators say many of these types of problems can be addressed well ahead of time by simply sitting down with clients and laying out everything upfront so that there aren’t any surprises down the road.

“We feel the most important part of developing a preventative maintenance agreement is to provide coverage on what’s important to our customer. Specifically, we address this subject almost from the start when we’re developing a relationship with a customer if we are asked to put a proposal together to upgrade or replace an access control system, IP video system or any of the products that we’re working with,” explained John Krumme, CPP, president of Cam-Dex Security Corp. “Preventative maintenance is always discussed in that initial call so that the customer knows how important it is to us as an integrator and that we’re developing a long-term relationship with that customer.”           

Joseph Liguori, executive vice president of Access Control Technologies, Inc., said he believes that integrators also need to set the level of expectations in the beginning, as well as cover things that could become sticking points in the future.

“It’s very important to identify the internal processes - who is the contact, how do you get in touch with that person, is it cellphone or an office phone, what is the anticipated response time, where can the technician park, are ladders available on premises if necessary- so you don’t have any unexpected issues the first time you get a service call,” Liguori said.

Whether a customer is a government agency, an enterprise or a small-to-mid-sized business owner, Krumme believes it’s paramount for integrators to have the ability to provide adequate service to their clients regardless of their size.  

“The most important thing is to ensure that, as an integrator, you have the capability to take care of that customer and their product – that you have access to all the product that would be covered under a service contract or a planned maintenance agreement and that you have trained and certified staff capable of servicing and responding to that customer’s needs once that contract is in place. That starts even during the warranty period, ensuring that you have loaner product in place so that if the piece of equipment can’t be repaired in the field that you’ve got loaner equipment as a backup to put into service for that customer,” Krumme said.

Liguori added that integrators need to cover in detail with their clients exactly what is and is not covered under the service and maintenance contract.

“Some customers have a tendency of anticipating that once they sign an agreement that everything is covered because it is a maintenance agreement. Typically, you get onsite and you discover that it is a disposable that is not covered or, in some instances, there are specialized items that are not provided by the integrator - they have an X-ray machine guarding the entrance that was supplied by others – so again, it is comprehensive understanding of what the coverage is versus what you’re providing,” he said.

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