Fair is fair, and I’ve stated before that no company is perfect. That goes for alarm companies just like every other industry – even for FrontPoint
! But just as in other sectors of the economy, some companies do a better job meeting customers’ expectations than others – and are perceived as superior service providers
. In the alarm industry, where one large company (ADT) seems to dominate all the others, it’s easy to find evidence that bigger does not
always mean better. Just check out the Better Business Bureau, or Google the name of the company and add the word “complaints.” Then sit back – you may be reading for a while. Here’s a disappointing story from The Consumerist
, an on-line publication associated with Consumer Reports, that describes one customer’s endlessly frustrating battle against our industry’s 800 lb. gorilla.
When Matthew signed up for home alarm system service from ADT, he was promised that he would have no problem moving his service to a new home when he moved. So he signed a two-year contract. No problem! Until at his new home, he had to deal with a new salesman. One who insisted that he would need all new equipment (of course) at the new place even though what he had at his old place is almost new. Months later, he's playing chicken with ADT. If he stops paying his bill, he'll be hit with an early termination fee and have to pay for the equipment. If ADT lets him install his existing equipment and actually use the service he's paying for, the salesman will look weak or something. Nobody can win this game.
The Customer Tells His Own Story
You would think it is just as easy as 1-2-3...but now 6 months later ADT has "dropped the ball." I am a small business owner that works from home, and love some all-American home monitoring peace of mind. As a Consumer Reports junkie, I sure did my shopping … But there it was dangling right in my mailbox, a flyer that had the answers to all my problems, a moving rebate. I would have never signed on the dotted line if it weren't for reassurance from the salesman that the moving rebate was my answer to my planned relocation.
Background on the Move
One month before the move, I make the call and met a new salesman at my new residence in the same area some 4 miles away. You would think we would be pow-wowing about where to put the still shiny equipment in the new place, but I am bombarded with upsells and new two year contracts (I needed a new 2 year contract so that he could beg his managers to keep me for another two years and force me to buy new equipment, for I would be violating my contract by moving and claiming the moving rebate as written in my contract). I insisted that even though my new place was larger, I wanted to just keep the same equipment and just add on sensors as needed.
Then it Gets Weird
The salesman began giving me financial advice, telling me that if I didn't give ADT my social security number I could most likely cancel my credit card and jump ship with my now useless pile of $600 security equipment. I may be rounding up, but that is still a big financial win for ADT. I remain persistent/resistant/give-me-my-rebate. The salesman tells me he will have to check with his manager whether or not he could redeem the rebate in my contract.
Since then the salesman can never seem to get a hold of his manager, or figure out what to do with me. Each time I called, he said his manager was sick, out of town (I begin to wonder if he is working for Waldo). The day before I hand my keys in to my old residence I call again to see what they are going to do with my equipment, the salesman tells me to take it down myself. Really? What is the point of having a rebate if I never get to use it?
Hard to Make This Up
So I take it down...three months go by and I call only to play phone tag, trying to reach someone who can help me. Everyone person I talk to knows about the rebate, wants to hand me money over the phone, but the salesman that I got lampooned by keeps drawing blanks. And I don't want money as much as the system installed at this point. After I call in to complain they have the same guy call me back! I can't believe it! The first words out of his mouth are, "Hey Matt, I guess I dropped the ball here we need to go back to square one..." I hang up. So far only upsells, no rebate.
Can’t Get No Satisfaction…
Three more months go by. Now we are just playing chicken...by the contract if I fail to pay, they can void my contract and make me pay up in god knows how many fees. But I don't fit into any of their reasons for dropping, not even, "it is too expensive to keep your equipment up" because my stuff is brand new and wasn't faulty. Here I am, charged through the wazoo, making payments, getting no service and ironic letters in the mail telling me my equipment isn't sending a signal. So I call in and demand to speak to a manager, and I get his voice mail...I name names, and let him know I am not happy. So here I am, 6 months later with $300 in service charges, $600 dollars of equipment in storage, and a "Moving Rebate" that I can't seem to claim. Sad day for a very unhappy ADT customer.
Finally, a Happy Ending
Then The Consumerist entered the fray, with some widely read posts about the situation that got the attention of ADT folks at a higher level. It’s a shame it took so much work, but the good news is that the customer’s situation was finally resolved.
I have to say I am very excited about the response I got from the Consumerist blog...considering it was enough to get the corporate level ADT consumer relations to comment from the other side of the country in Florida. Essentially after a little pushing I not only got refunded for my monthly payments, but also partial equipment costs and no ETF. Fair deal considering how much work it took just to get a reasonable response, and we both avoided small claims court. I really hope that the best efforts of ADT corporate start reflecting more on the local level for their sake. So, ADT Corporate WIN, ADT Local FAIL: always check-out your local ADT/security company reviews before letting one of their salesmen into your home.
This tale reminds of what happened when ADT acquired Alarmguard, my old company. In the first twelve months, ADT lost 30% of the Alarmguard customer base, mostly for poor service delivery – and it was almost impossible to get the attention of any who could solve a problem. It’s just not good service, and does not even come close to providing peace of mind for the end user.
Too Big to Care?
With well over 6,000,000 alarm accounts, both homes and business, ADT is by far the largest provider of electronic security in the US - if not the world. With that number of customers, it’s only fair to expect that ADT will receive its fair share of complaints. Plus, the Internet has certainly made life tougher for service providers in general. But ADT is reporting an annual cancellation rate of 13.5% - in other words, roughly one out of every seven ADT customers walks away each year.
A Better Alternative
How about a fully programmed and comprehensive wireless alarm system where you can even set the equipment up yourself in half an hour, then then enjoy the most advanced features you’ll find in home security and home automation? Then, if any issues occur, your alarm company can remotely troubleshoot the problems, and ship replacement equipment to you overnight if needed. These systems are out there, and FrontPoint offers just such a solution. And when it’s time to move, you simply take the system with you: no charge, no contract extension, and no hassle. That’s security with convenience.
As one of the few nationwide providers of advanced home security, FrontPoint regularly competes against ADT and other large companies who seem to act as if bigger automatically means better. As a younger and more nimble alarm company, FrontPoint has led the alarm industry with peace of mind that is safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. And we care deeply about every customer review we receive – both positive and negative. That’s why we’re the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.