We call them the “New Entrants” – the cable and telco providers (Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, AT&T) who have jumped with both feet into the residential security industry with bundled offers that include home alarm services. We can see they are not having an easy time of it, and understand that they are all well behind on reaching their forecasted sales goals.
Dedicated alarm industry professionals are hardly surprised: many of us actually predicted that mastering the complexities of home security – or even the simpler aspects, for that matter – would be a challenge for the new entrants.
While protecting homes and families may not seem like rocket science, homeowners do expect reliable service and technology that works, along with company representatives that understand what they are selling and servicing.
Defining Peace of Mind
For those of us who spend all day, every day providing peace of mind, the issues are pretty 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 few of these are:
- Provide reliable equipment that really works.
- Employ technicians that can install and service the equipment, with the right training, and the right inventory. Of course companies like FrontPoint with easy setup systems do not face this challenge. We can remotely diagnose an issue and send a replacement part, overnight if needed.
- 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. This is not just cable – it’s what lets people sleep well at night.
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.
A Different Standard
What these companies don’t seem to grasp is that peace of mind really is a different proposition: just because you have an Internet “pipe” into a consumer’s home, that doesn’t mean they will rush to sign up for your latest offering. And the stakes are much higher: protecting people’s homes and families.
Does it Actually Work?
The issue is not just poor service: after all, the biggest name in the alarm business is known for providing less than stellar service to its customers, and you can see it in their cancellation rates.
But with the cable and telco providers the challenges run deeper, all the way to technology that simply does not work or is not well supported. Here’s are several great examples – comments posted over the past several months on Comcast’s own user forum.
“I am having the same dead screen and am not monitored. An hour ago, a support rep told someone would call me in 30 minutes to schedule an emergency since I was not monitored…then she said but if they don’t call that they probably will tomorrow. What? Still waiting. This is my 3rd issue with this system and if they don’t get someone out here first thing in the morning, I am going to the BBB too. Totally ridiculous. The only reason I even found out the system was down was that I walked up to the screen and saw the message. How would I have known if I were away? This company is selling one-sided contracts…not home security. Don’t get involved…buy a system from an established, reputable security system.”
That’s painful to read, and tells the story. Remember the mantra: it should work, all the time. And when it doesn’t, fix it immediately. Here’s another:
“I had the Xfinity Home Security system installed around the 1st of September 2013. It took 4 visits from 2 different technicians to set up 3 door sensors, a motion detector and a thermostat. For the first few weeks I was able to log onto my system thru the Xfinity Home app on my Android devices. Then without warning the devices would not logon and warned that the logon/password were wrong. I could still use the same logon/password to get onto the Xfinity Comcast site so I know the logon is good. I had a few conversations with technicians who advise I reload the apps and change password.
Then a few days ago I got a call from an Xfinity employee checking the ticket on my complaint, and he explained that although the equipment was installed and I had some initial connectivity with my devices, that I actually had never been online with my Xfinity Home Security System. He said there was no account number for it at Comcast. He advised I needed to call customer service and request a tech come out to “re-pair” the sensors in my house. I went online and checked my account and there are no monthly charges for the Home system, just $.00. But I was charged for not one, but two thermostats. I called customer services again and was told that my Home System was running and that they wouldn’t send a tech out and would help me delete and reinstall my apps for using my wireless devices. I am not being charged a monthly bill for this service because I have been told I have no account number for this service. Yet when I call for help I’m told I have the service.”
Who wouldn’t be frustrated with that situation? Sounds like a nightmare to me.
As a reminder, most of these new entrants (including Comcast) use the Internet for transmitting a majority of their signals from the home, which is why they are referred to as “IP-enabled.” And as regular readers of this blog know, the best home security systems rely on a safer and more robust cellular connection – not just for alarm monitoring, but for interactive services as well. Here’s a third sample.
“I recently had the Xfinity Home Security System installed (a little over a month ago). Since then my cameras are constantly loosing connectivity and require me to reboot the alarm system. However, the door sensors do work (sometimes). There are times when the front door opens and closes and the alarm never knows that the door has opened and closed. Twenty minutes later the alarm recognizes that the door was opened and makes its audible cue. Looking at the history and the system thinks that the action of the door opened twenty minutes after had actually done so. I don’t dare try this while the alarm is activated but I’m sure that the alarm would not register the door opening and closing while activated. This completely defeats the purpose of this.
There are multiple reasons I got this system. 1) I travel and my wife and two children are home alone while I am gone. 2) When I’m not traveling I work from home, however my office is in the basement and like to have visibility of my front door. I get frequent deliveries and had wanted to use this as a way to know if a visitor is coming to the front door. This system has yet to serve its purpose and is a constant headache to deal with. The technician has been out and moved the modem in the most central point in my house (my house isn’t that big, around 2100 sq. ft.) and I’m still losing camera connectivity. He came back out and I’ve replaced the touchscreen and it’s still happening.”
Clearly there are major problems here. When you decide to focus on protecting your home and family, make sure you work with a “real” 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 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.