QUESTION: DO YOU OFFER TELEPHONE TECH SUPPORT AND IS IT FREE AND ARE YOU LIABLE
We appreciate all the good info over the years. Had an issues the other day and thought I would send it your way to see how everyone deals with this.
We offer tech support to all our customers that we have installed systems over the years. We are located in an area of Florida where our customer base is on the elderly side, most of the time it is an easy over the phone help with resetting or changing of a code , etc. But once in a while we have a person that has a siren going off and cannot clear it and insists on no service call but wants to disable it themselves. Customer then gets a step stool or ladder to disable system per our instructions and then falls off ladder, would we be liable.?
Another question is that we have 35 years of customer base and sometimes tech support gets very busy, is it customary to offer this service for free? Or do other companies have a program to help them.
Erick Toth, Operations Manager
Security Alarm Corp
Not every alarm company has the resources to employ personnel to provide telephone technical support. Whether you try to avoid an on site service call by offering to discuss and remedy the problem over the phone depends on a number of factors including size of your company and your business philosophy. The issue is actually a bit more complicated because the support may not be entirely selfless. Repair service should be pursuant to written agreement [Service Contract} which is included in the Standard All in One Agreements. Repair service is pursuant to two options:
- per call, for which subscriber pays at time of service call, though not obligated to call you and you're not obligated to provide the service
- RMR repair service, whereby your subscriber has been paying a monthly charge for you to provide the labor and material to repair the system and render it operational
You obviously have different incentive to try and resolve the service issue over the phone if there is a service plan [RMR model option]. You're not going to get paid any extra for making the on site service call, unless the repair falls outside of the Service Plan [which is frequently does since repair is limited to ordinary wear and tear]. If you're on the Per Call repair service option then you're going to be able to charge for the service call, and that would apply whether it's an on site repair or telephone assistance.
Good will versus revenue from repair service [unless service is per RMR and included, in which event you may try and avoid the on site service call]. How does your company handle the issue?
- Do you provide for telephone support or do you simply schedule a service call
- Do you charge for telephone support
- Do you use the RMR model to provide a service plan
- Do you limit service to Per Call only
What liability exposure do you face if you provide telephone support and the subscriber suffers an injury performing the repair? How about if the repair actually doesn't solve the problem and the subscriber suffers a loss. burglary, fire, PERS, environmental, etc?
Liability is going to depend on how the scenario plays out, because I could certainly structure the scenario to create at least an issue of liability. Think not? How about this:
- Your operator or customer service rep is on the phone, tells the sub that a service tech isn't going to be able to get to the house or premises until the next day. The alarm is sounding and won't turn off; the sub is leaving and needs to arm the system [its a jewelery store]; smoke detector keeps going off and its on the ceiling. Your rep encourages the sub to try and resolve the issue; tells the sub to get on a chair to reach the smoke detector and to take the phone along for continuing instruction; or go open the alarm panel and check a few wires, including the one leading to the 110v outlet. Falls off chair or gets a shock that causes serious injury.
- Remote pendant isn't communicating with PERS base station. Tell sub to change battery. It works. That night it doesn't because the problem wasn't the remote but something lose in the base station that caused it to intermittently miss remote signals. [ I'm making this up so if it's impossible play along]
One thing is clear to me. If you can come up with a scenario where your employee intentionally misleads the subscriber and causes injury or loss, there can be liability.
These repair issues cause your employees to go off script, and that's the problem that leads to liability. If all the employee is supposed to do is schedule an appointment then staying on the line to help the sub figure out the problem for self help may not be a good idea. Keep in mind that "no good deed goes unpunished". No matter how you handle your Repair Service it should be clear to you that you need a properly written contract. Get the All in One Agreement. It includes repair service and all the other services you likely provide, and it will provide the best contractual defense available [within your budget, or otherwise !!].
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