For some time we’ve referred to them as the “New Entrants” – the cable and telco providers (Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, AT&T) who now offer bundled service packages that include residential home alarm services, and even home automation. It’s gotten hard to escape their TV ads, but we understand that these companies are encountering serious headwinds in winning customers for these expanded services, and that they continue to lag well behind their forecasted sales goals.
I’m hardly surprised: many alarm industry professionals (myself included) actually predicted that gaining real traction in home security would be a challenge for the new entrants.
While protecting homes and families may not seem like rocket science, homeowners expect reliable service and technology, along with company support representatives that are both competent and conscientious about what they are selling and servicing.
Defining Peace of Mind
The issues are straightforward: make the system work, and if it stops working, then fix it right away. But that level of service involves a number of elements that it’s tempting to take for granted – and that established alarm companies do very well. A partial list includes the following:
- Provide reliable equipment that really works
- Employ technicians that can install and service the equipment, with the right training, and the right inventory
- Employ phone representatives that understand the urgency of a home security problem for the homeowner, and who are well trained on the equipment
- Institute a service response window that is not only short, but also convenient for the customer
The Right Stuff?
There are more factors, but a quick read of this list reinforces the question of whether some of the new entrants into home security really have what it takes to compete.
We have seen cable and telecom companies enter (and leave) our sector of the economy before. And when it comes to systems that don’t perform as advertised, this recent article about one Comcast customer’s negative experience provides a chilling (literally) case in point.
Comcast home security was supposed to give Gary O’Reilly peace of mind, but instead turned out to be one of his worst nightmares. After ordering Comcast’s entire suite of services and having to endure an installation period that took nearly 10 hours, O’Reilly suffered problem after problem.
The first day after his security was installed, the digital thermostats malfunctioned and the temperature in his home plummeted, causing discomfort for his entire family. “My pregnant wife and [two-year-old] son were freezing in their own home,” said O’Reilly.
Naturally, O’Reilly called Comcast asking for service as soon as possible, but only hit more roadblocks. It took several days before a technician finally showed up, only to install a replacement thermostat that failed within a month. The next thermostat failed as well, and the one after that!
Finally, after four faulty thermostats, and being billed for additional service calls and equipment, O’Reilly had enough and requested to cancel his Comcast service. Of course, he was charged an early termination fee of $1000, a price he was unwilling to pay. Comcast responded by threatening to take O’Reilly to court, ruining his credit rating and charging interest on top of the original fee.
O’Reilly was eventually able to avoid court, but only after reaching a “compromise.” He had to upgrade his internet plan with Comcast in order to be able to cancel his home security services, a deal he only agreed to so that Comcast would waive the early termination fee and restore his credit rating.
A Different Standard
Peace of mind really is a different proposition. These companies are unfortunately riding on a large footprint and a big installed customer base. They’re missing the mark on protecting people’s homes and families and that’s what really matters.
Protection that Works
The issue is not just poor service. The cable and telco providers are running into the issue that the technology simply does not work or is not well supported.
When you decide to focus on protecting your home and family, make sure you work with an alarm company that is focused on providing alarm services, and has a track record of happy customers to prove it.
There are plenty of choices, and the good alarm companies are offering the same (or better) interactive monitoring services and home automation features that new entrants like Comcast are advertising. And make sure you read all the reviews you can find – they’ll tell the story. Your peace of mind is worth it.