What if a customer expects more than a security system can deliver?
4 Dec 2019
Delivering on customer expectations is a basic tenet of success in the physical security market. However, meeting expectations may be an elusive goal, whether because customer needs are not communicated effectively or because equipment doesn’t perform as promised. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: what if a customer expects more than a security system can deliver?
To ensure customers will be satisfied with the level of protection and risk mitigation delivered by a security system, it’s essential to manage their expectations before the sale. In all early conversations, contractors should seek to draw out the customer’s true goals and expectations for the system – the “how” and the “why.” Not all customers are security experts – some customers may not clearly communicate their thoughts without some discussion and prompting. With their true goals in mind, you can present them with options that are appropriate to meet their security objectives. For example, if your customer mentions tailgating or piggybacking as a risk they want to address, you can ask them up front WHY they are bringing this up and WHAT they are wanting to protect and then HOW they want to address that risk. Do they want to prevent piggybacking from happening or detect when it happens and have someone respond to an alarm?
Typically, if a customer expects more than a security system can deliver it is because they have an idea of what they want in a security system, but they don’t always recognise the price tag that is attached to certain functions and features. This puts responsibility on the buyer to understand what type of services they are purchasing, but it also puts pressure on integrators to educate end users about all aspects of system implementation – especially cost. By managing expectations from the start, users will better be able to identify their needs (versus their wants) and make an informed decision.
Regrettably this is quite common, and in my mind it’s the difference between a salesperson and an order taker, controversial I know. Managing the customers’ expectations can be difficult if you don’t ask the right questions, so the order takers are the people usually with this problem. Discuss with the customer what they expect and manage their expectations. How many times does the customer think they need a specific feature or product, only to find on questioning and discussion that that’s not what they actually need? So educating the customer on the technology available and its limitations usually avoids the angry phone call three months after install. Find out the requirements and needs, not the brand or product the customer has asked for (unless it’s perfect for the job). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to walk away if the customer won’t listen or understand the limitations/operation of a system. It will save you money in the long term.
Unsatisfied customers are the great untold story of the industry. As journalists, we most often hear about the successful installations and customers who are happy to speak with the press. We only hear about the negatives in terms of the system that is being replaced -- that mythical "brand X" that isn't delivering on what the customer needs, whether because it's out of date or never good enough to start with. We do often hear stories – generally not for publication! – about customers who are frustrated when there is a system problem and they can't get anyone to take the blame. Fingerpointing among integrators, manufacturers and consultants is legendary. Customers want "one throat to choke," which is why end-to-end solutions are making a comeback. Things that come pre-integrated from the factory leave less margin for error.
Good communication can alleviate many of the instances of customers who don’t get what they expect in their new security systems. Salesmen must encourage customers to clearly articulate what they need and ask probing questions to uncover requirements customers haven’t mentioned yet. Mind reading would clearly be a valuable skill when it comes to selling security systems!
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