Remote maintenance: The key to 21st century customer care

Coen van den Berg.

Despite the obvious benefits of using remote maintenance solutions to service alarms and the exponential improvements we have seen in the technology itself, some installers are still reluctant to embrace the change. A desire for face-to-face interaction, tradition, and caution about the ramifications on their business model are the key hurdles. Coen van den Berg of Honeywell Security Group explores the issue in greater depth.
Today's '24-7', online and constantly connected society means customers increasingly expect access to products and services instantaneously. When it comes to their home or business security systems, they are no different. For residential customers in particular, arranging a call out from a technician during working hours can be difficult. Taking time out of the office or even a half day's holiday is frustrating at best, impossible at worst, and can foster bad-feeling for an installer's customer base. Remote servicing technology that is working its way into the industry removes this issue.

Obvious benefits
In addition to simple system configuration changes, Remote Routine Inspections (RRI) can also be conducted. Intruder alarms that are linked up to the police via an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) are best serviced bi-annually to ensure that faulty equipment won't lead to a false alarm. The possibility of doing RRI's delivers benefits that only a small number of installers are taking advantage of, betraying a level of mistrust for remote maintenance techniques in spite of the obvious benefits to the customer. Using technology that is widely available, installers can run these checks overnight, with a full, detailed report available by the following morning. These reports can then be automatically emailed to clients in most cases.
Remote monitoring can also provide extra services designed to improve peace of mind for end users. Business owners can make a quick call to the monitoring station to enable their installer to set the alarm any time remotely. This ensures all relevant spaces are protected, reassures the customer, wins installers repeat business, and all at essentially no cost to the owner. Technology also enables installers to effectively identify specific rooms or doors that have not been secured or alarmed by predefined times and take the necessary steps to remedy this by alerting the keyholder or ARC.; The ARC can then switch that missing area back on, an important 'value-add' service that benefits end-users.

Reduces time spent on site
Obviously there are times when a site visit is unavoidable; however remote maintenance technology also has a role to play here. For example, a remote service check can diagnose a problem before an engineer is dispatched. This reduces time spent on site and also helps to ensure the engineer has all of the appropriate equipment on hand to remedy the issue, avoiding repeat visits. On larger sites, remote technology can also provide installers with detailed information about which specific part of the system is faulty or problematic and where it can be found, making a site visit much more efficient and customer-friendly.
From an installer's perspective, remote maintenance is also an important marketing tool. With carbon footprint an increasingly important issue for businesses everywhere, particularly in the public sector, providing a 'green service' is a huge benefit. By servicing at least one of the alarm checks remotely each year, an installer is well positioned to market their services as 'carbon efficient'. This is particularly effective in the public sector where organisations typically have more aggressive green targets as the government pushes to meet ambitious EU carbon reduction goals.

No loss of revenue
So why are some installers so reticent to adopt remote servicing when the case is so compelling? One issue is the perceived loss of potential revenue by not sending a technician out to fix a problem. The commonly held view is that by reducing the number of call outs, installers will see their profits fall substantially. This is not the case. Installers need to do their sums and work out how much a call out actually costs them when the same service can be managed remotely and satisfies the customer.
For an installer who is used to charging customers for call-outs, the idea of billing a client for a service that is essentially performed with the click of a few buttons is hard to envisage. Some installers are already adding an ongoing maintenance charge that they bill to customers on a monthly or quarterly basis which could easily incorporate charges for remote maintenance.

Construct a robust business model
The fact remains that as face to face interaction increasingly takes second place to convenience and speed of service, and the internet and mobile technologies raise customer's expectations, installers must adapt to the opportunities that remote servicing offers. Investing time and energy in securing the best technology to deliver this will not only keep a customer happy, but also provide a whole host of benefits for the installer from a marketing perspective - a 'greener' offering - and a convenience perspective - a more focused service call - that reduce time spent onsite and boost revenue options. The key challenge for installers is constructing a robust business model to support this approach to servicing security systems both for commercial and residential customers. Installers that get this right will deservedly reap the rewards.

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