The devil, they say, is in the details. The alarm company that pays close attention to this when doing an installation will be asked to return again when there is additional work to be done. This includes routine service as well as additions to the system.

Paying attention to detail also encourages clients to tell others about your company. It’s doubtful that anyone would want to subject their friends, relatives, acquaintances or associates to the same ill treatment they received if they had a negative experience.

Ensuring customer satisfaction

Installing a quality, professional burglar alarm, intercom, or other low-voltage system begins with empathy. Installers who put themselves in their clients’ shoes usually do a better job than those who don’t. A good installer will instinctively perform every facet of a project with the customer’s best interests in mind while still looking after the company’s interests.

There are several things installers can do to ensure happy customers:

  • Plan ahead
  • Clean up messes
  • Know the system
  • Keep devices straight
  • Take time to do it right the first time
  • Train installers on the equipment they install and program

Educating your installers should include local and distance learning opportunities that manufacturers offer. Another source of good technical help is an educational program in electronics that may be offered by a local community college.

Sales engineers can help ensure customer satisfaction by paying close attention to aesthetics. Color combinations mean a lot in residential applications as well as plush business environments. Be sure the color scheme is right for the equipment you plan to install.

Project managers also can foster customer contentment by discussing the full scope of a project with the foreman on the job before the work begins. Be sure he knows exactly what must be done and how you intend for him to do it. Provide him with a copy of the bid workup (without pricing), so he can see the type of wire, hangers and other equipment you priced. This list also will tell him the model numbers of each device to be installed.

With the long term in mind, a quality assurance program should be implemented to ensure installation crews are doing their job to manufacturer specifications. Questionnaires should be sent to each customer when a job is finished, so they can give you a candid look at how well the installation crew performed.

Keep things straight

The first order of business involves how installers mount the devices they install. These are the wall- and ceiling-mounted devices that customers see day in and day out. No one wants to look at a crooked keypad, camera, speaker or motion detector, just to name a few.

There’s no better way to lose a customer’s respect and possibly future business than to mount these devices in a sloppy manner. It should go without saying that the eyeball-mounting method is not good enough and should not be used by professional installers.

To avoid crooked keypads, intercom remotes and other devices, companies should adopt the rule that every technician must own and use a level. Examples include torpedo and line levels. A line level is small enough to fit in a shirt or pants pocket.

Consistency also is important, especially where mounting height is concerned. Rather than eyeballing the height of each device, installers should use a tape measure.

In new construction, the use of a tape measure is required when spotting the single- and double-gang electrical boxes to which low-voltage devices fasten. In retrofit applications, consistent measurements are required for each and every device before cutting holes and fishing wires.

Not only are consistent mounting heights more attractive to home and business owners, but in many cases, there are rules and regulations that the installer must follow. Examples of this include manual fire pulls and notification appliance circuit (NAC) devices in fire alarm systems.

According to Section 5.13.4 of the National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72, 2007 Edition), “The operable part of each manual fire alarm box shall be not less than 1.1 m (3½ ft) and not more than 1.37 m (4½ ft) above floor level.”

Height also is important where it involves NAC devices. Refer to NFPA 72, 2007 Edition, Sections 7.4.7 and 7.5.4 for more information on consistent mounting heights in both private and public applications.

Just as important is mounting position on ceilings, whether for an audio speaker or a smoke detector. The customer expects the low-voltage technicians to install every device in a consistent, responsible, code-compliant manner throughout their home or business. Anything less is not good enough.

Haste makes waste

Not only does haste make waste, but it also looks bad. Problems often arise when technicians fail to think ahead before mounting equipment, such as the alarm control panels, intercom amplifier/control units, and power supplies.

In the case of an alarm system, where the control panel consists of a metal cabinet with the electronic brains, problems can result when another metal box, such as an electronic access controller or power supply, is placed in close proximity and the installer fails to look ahead.

Problems can arise when boxes are mounted close to each other. The photo on the opposite page shows what can happen when a fire alarm panel (right) and power supply (left) are mounted too close together. In this case, the hinged cover on the power supply cannot be properly secured. Without enough space between these two cabinets, there isn’t enough room to secure the lid using two metal screws on the right edge. This particular panel does not have top, bottom and side screws. Not only does this look shoddy, but it results in an insecure installation.

The installer also failed to properly secure the panel on the right. There was plenty of room to do it, so he was either in a big hurry to get the job done or was not paying attention to the fine details.

One way to remedy this is for the company to conduct random quality-control inspections. Another is to compose an installation policy book that tells installers how to do it and uses photographs to show them.

On the aesthetics side, there is the issue of symmetry with regard to placing adjacent cabinets on a wall. Take, for example, the picture on this page. Here, the installer failed to consider how the two equipment boxes would look when he installed one higher than the other. As you can see, this offers a messy, unprofessional look.

Inspection and cleanup

An important aspect to the job is putting the finishing touches on an alarm installation. This involves an all-encompassing inspection of each device to ensure each one is straight, functional and clean, and this includes the immediate area around it.

Installation crews should bring a bottle of cleaning solution and a soft rag, so they can clean finger marks and smudges from walls, ceiling tile and the installed devices themselves.

Installation vans should be equipped with the necessary tools to clean drywall dust and other debris from carpet and linoleum. A small, handheld vacuum cleaner should be available to make cleanups quicker and easier. Owners do not necessarily expect every single crumb to be picked up, but they do appreciate it when a noble effort is made.

Show me an installer who cleans up after himself, and I’ll show you a happy owner of a home or business.

COLOMBO is a 32-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He currently is director with FireNetOnline.com and a nationally recognized trade journalist located in East Canton, Ohio.