'Last big bite' in fight against false dispatches

SIAC director says alarm industry needs to step up and properly train customers
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—A conversation at the 2012 Electronic Security Expo in Nashville reminded Ron Walters just how far the alarm industry has to go on the home front to reduce false dispatches.

“I was listening to one of the manufacturers who had finally gotten a sale, and he said, ‘I’m going to come in and take as much time as necessary to train your people on the use of our equipment,’” said Walters, director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. “And I laughed to myself and thought yes, they’ll take days teaching the installer, who already knows a lot about the equipment and how to use it, and we won’t spend the 30 minutes necessary to train the people who are actually going to be using it.”

According to SIAC, 77 percent of all false alarms and false dispatches are due to user error. But customers aren’t solely to blame for the problem, Walters said, because many lack the training to properly use the equipment in their homes.

“The industry needs to take ownership,” he said. “We’re the ones who are teaching these end users.”

Walters offered his comments during an Aug. 15 webinar titled “Reducing False Alarms Through Dealer and Installer Training.” The session was presented by the Central Station Alarm Association in partnership with SIAC.

Walters said the industry has made great strides in reducing false alarms and false dispatches through the use of enhanced call verification and the promotion of CP-01 control panels. He called the training of end users “the last big bite” in the process.

Educating customers is a simple task, Walters said, but it can become difficult when alarm technicians are involved. They use terminology that can be too technical for end users—arm and disarm instead of on and off, for example. And because the training often occurs “at the end of the job, the end of the day, the customer really doesn’t want you there,” he said. “They have to go pick up the kids at soccer or get dinner going.”

Walters said the key is to train alarm technicians to be confident, open and friendly so customers feel comfortable learning about their systems.

“We don’t hire technicians for their communications skills, we hire them for their technical skills. So it’s not really their fault,” he said. “The language issues aren’t Spanish or Creole or Russian. It’s the assumption that everyone has a basic knowledge, but in truth [customers] won’t ask a question because they don’t want to feel stupid.”

SIAC is offering materials on its website to help alarm companies train dealers and installers so they can better educate end users. Checklists and tip sheets can be branded with a company’s name, with topics ranging from how to explain a system’s arming features to implementing “soak periods” to track results.

“That’s giving a customer three days to a week to allow them to make mistakes without fear of the police being sent,” Walters said. “It also forces you to contact customers [afterward] with something other than an invoice. The follow-up is key. We really haven’t accomplished much if we’ve installed an alarm system and people aren’t using it. And that happens more often than we think.”

Materials can be downloaded for free on SIAC’s website, www.siacinc.org. Scroll down on the left side of the home page to the “For Dealers” heading, then click on “Dealer Training Aids.”