What if a customer expects more than a security system can deliver?
Sometimes customers expect more out of a security system. A brand new security system just doesn’t perform as the customer expected it would. In fact, one might argue that the many variables in today’s complex systems make it more likely than ever that some element of a system might not measure up to a customer’s expectations. What happens then? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What happens if a customer’s expectations of system performance are greater than what a physical security system can deliver?
Disappointment. Embarrassment. Possibly anger. Pointing the finger of blame. Maybe even litigation if contractual obligations can be argued. If a customer’s expectations are failed during testing prior to handover, then timely rework may quell their wrath. The installer may refuse demands for such remedies, especially playing any contractual looseness as a get-out. After all, it will erode their expected profit. If the installer foresees tipping into a loss they may simply walk away before completion. The customer is then over a barrel. More so if “testing” was after they had accepted the installation. Every prospective fixer’s price will be inflated accordingly. That’s why a good, tight Specification and Contract are so valuable to the customer at the beginning. There are many reasons why such foundations are often absent. Customer’s inexperience (and believing the “CSI effect”), poor sales behaviour, shoddy installers, no/poor test procedures, etc. Get competent, impartial advisers first.
This happens quite regularly and partly because consumers expect the technology can do more than is realistic. They think it’s possible to enhance the clarity of a recorded image because of how video surveillance technology is portrayed on a television show. Those expectations are not realistic. Sometimes the performance of a system comes down to price. A customer might want to buy a system with all the bells and whistles, but is not prepared to pay for those quality features. The quality of a product, and cost associated with the product, is often related to the performance of the product.
In all the years I’ve been involved with manufacturing security equipment this has occurred numerous times, but I have yet to take the equipment back because of it. Nearly always there is a different way to do what the end user is trying to accomplish than what they have tried. Here’s a good example: The biggest issue in DVR sales is recorders not saving as many days of recorded video online as the customer would like. This is because recording space is generally configured based on expected activity in an area under surveillance. Let’s take an office building where you would expect people there nine hours a day, and we have cameras looking at scenes that have motion 24 hours a day (like a highway in the background). Masking out that part of the view from causing video to record on motion generally resolves the issue. Through good communication between the integrator, customer and manufacturer, we can resolve these issues or, if done early in the process, avoid them altogether.
Depending on the customer and the system provider, any number of things could happen, none of them pleasant. If a system doesn't deliver on the customer's expectations, the problem may not be with the system but with how well the system provider communicated with the customer. Managing expectations is a huge component of customer satisfaction, and if expectations were unrealistic (i.e., not well managed or communicated), then an unhappy customer is a given. Will the customer continue to harass the system supplier to deliver on his or her expectations? Are those expectations specified somewhere in a paperwork document? If so, the customer has options and could even call in the dreaded lawyers. In some cases, the paperwork says one thing, but the salesman said something else. More than likely, what’s left is a disillusioned customer, who is looking for another provider.
Thanks to TV shows like CSI, this happens frequently. Marketing efforts by manufacturers are also to blame. When we started developing VIZpin, we met with a lot of end-users who were overwhelmed with technical “features” with no information of what the “benefits” were. Most end-users simply wanted the lowest cost solution that would let them easily grant access on a schedule, revoke access and know when access was granted. However, when they invited vendors to present their solutions, most would jump into a laundry list of features rather than listen to what the customer wanted. In the end, manufacturers have to do a better job listening and less time talking; they might learn something.
Our panellists point out that there are many possible sources of a customer’s security expectations, including what they have seen on a TV program like CSI. Therefore, the challenge to managing a customer’s unfulfilled expectations may call into question one of the basic tenets of good business: The customer is always right. What if the customer’s expectations are based on something outside what the provider promised? Happy customers are the desired result of any business transaction, and the security industry certainly faces its fair share of obstacles achieving the result.
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