For this edition of Taking Care of Business, we’ll look at another example of a company that went out of its way to show that the customer is valued with pain-free policy and a great support team. Read on to see how SimpliSafe gets it right.
Heather had a home security scare a month ago that triggered our decision to implement some more robust home security. We have plenty of options in the event of a break-in, but we had few options to prevent one from occurring in the first place.
Heather’s initial idea would have sent a strong message, but we were concerned about the legality of leaving heads strewn about the property (Fig. 1).
We decided to purchase a SimpliSafe home security system. Since we don’t own the home we live in, it was a perfect solution—easy to install and easy to move when we leave. We had previously discussed getting a security system on more than a few occasions, but we always found a reason to wait. It’s amazing how quickly coming face-to-face with someone attempting to break into your home will change your viewpoint.
We ordered the system and had it on hand all of two days later. I had previously installed one of their systems for a client, so I already knew what to expect. An hour and a half later, our home was all buttoned up with door sensors, motion detectors, and a new wireless smoke alarm.
We had a few hiccups with our setup, but they were trivial. The motion detector in our garage was positioned such that when the wind gusted, the garage door flexed and allowed a beam of sunlight to hit directly on the sensor. Three false alarms later, we figured out why the sensor kept tripping. Heather saw it happen while we were testing; I was dancing around like a voodoo shaman trying to trip the sensor while she was being more Sherlockian about the matter and using her eyes to find what was actually tripping it.
Through the false alarms and tests, SimpliSafe was in constant contact with us, letting us know they’d received a signal or when the system tripped by mistake, being very helpful in identifying exactly which sensor had triggered and whether any others had gone off, which would indicate an actual break-in.
One Saturday evening after three weeks of solid operation, we came home, disarmed the alarm, and entered the house. We settled in and re-armed the system in Home mode and curled up on the couch for some dinner and a movie. After a while, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard our phones notify us of the change in alarm status. I checked my phone and to my surprise, I hadn’t received any updates since 10:00 AM that morning. We had been coming and going all day so there should have been a half dozen text messages and emails. I checked the alarm panel and it had an error message: “Warning: No Link to Dispatch.” This meant that the cellular radio in the base station was not communicating any data back to the dispatch center, whose systems in turn send out the text and email notifications. Our system was functioning only as a local alarm for the time being.
I had repeatedly read about amazing service from SimpliSafe’s support department, so on a lark, I called their support number. It was 9:45PM on a Saturday evening, so I didn’t expect to get a human. I didn’t. I got a very brief message stating that they were closed but if I left a message, they would return my call as soon as they opened. Usually I would just hang up since no one ever returns those calls, but this time I left a message. I explained who I was, that we had lost our link to dispatch, and that I had already gone through the troubleshooting tips on the forums and support website. We went to bed and I made a note to call SimpliSafe on Monday after I got to work.
Why is My Phone Making That Sound?
The next morning, I was sitting at my computer (working on the server that now powers this website, actually!) when I heard the unmistakable tones of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” wafting out from the kitchen. When I had gotten up a few hours before, I had left my phone by the coffee pot in my un-caffeinated state. I darted out and saw it was SimpliSafe. The alarm was off and still showing no link, so how could it have triggered a phone call? My brain refused to even consider the possibility that they could be returning my call at 9:03AM on a Sunday.
A cheerful support agent greeted me as soon as I answered. She identified herself, asked for me by name, and said she was returning my call (thus clearing my suggestions for what to do when you receive a support call.) After we established that she was talking to the correct person, I sat down, expecting to have to go through some script-fu.
[script-fu (v): The process of lying to a tech support agent by telling them you have done whatever their script is asking when in fact, you are sitting on the couch rolling your eyes. Most commonly employed by other support personnel who know the industry.]
“Okay, I see the issue. Do you know if you have good Verizon Wireless service at your house?”
I was unprepared for this question and it took me a minute to process what had happened. We’ll touch on that in a moment.
“Yes,” I answered. “Verizon Wireless’ service is okay at our house. We’re in a depression so we really only get a bit of theirs and nothing else. Thirty yards away you can get full signal from T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon.” (When you work in IT, you tend to notice things like the position of cellular towers as you wander around.)
“Great. You have a T-Mobile card in your base station and that explains why it’s not able to maintain a consistent connection. I’d like to send you a Verizon card, then we can talk you through how to swap it out. Afterwards, just mail the old one back to us. Is that okay?”
I agreed that her solution sounded perfect. I already knew how to change the cards from forum searching the night before. She said she’d send the card out immediately and I should have it the next day.
The card was delivered Monday morning at 10AM. I changed it at lunch in about 90 seconds, then spent about two minutes packing the old card back into the mailer and dropped it off in a postal box on my way back to work. The entire process, including all my time on the phone, was less than ten minutes total. There was no cost to me other than that ten minutes.
So why do I feel that SimpliSafe did such a remarkable job?
The actual call SimpliSafe made to me was perfect. The technician was personable, clear spoken, friendly, and seemed genuinely interested in helping me. That only happens when you hire people who like what they’re doing. It says something about the work culture.
But what is far more interesting to me is what happened before she called:
- She actually listened to the message I left and then did her homework before she ever picked up the phone. She didn’t have to ask me to go through troubleshooting because she knew I already had.
- She knew I was having connectivity problems.
- She looked and found out that I had a T-Mobile card.
- She checked T-Mobile’s towers and saw that I was on the very edge of their service area.
- She checked Verizon’s and saw I was in the middle of a service area.
- She got the part ready for shipment.
- Finally, she called me to propose her solution and see if there were any other issues.
My entire conversation with this delightful tech only took three minutes, and some of that was time I spent to tell her how impressed I was that she called me with a solution rather than a checklist.
This is a great example of how you take care of your customers: hire people who genuinely want to help others, let them work in an environment that fosters that spirit of helping, and give them the tools, training, and time to investigate an issue before they call a customer. It’s a lesson that the folks at Comcast and Time-Warner have repeatedly refused to learn, which is why they can’t operate without a local monopoly.
It only takes a small number of businesses operating like SimpliSafe does to start a trend and reverse the downward spiral of service and services offered in America. If you find a company that’s Doing it Right, let them know, and then tell everyone else you know as well.