Quality Product Needs Quality Customer Support
- Published: Tuesday, 28 October 2014 09:26
In our experience, a professional installer will often spend considerable time researching a product such as smoke alarms to see what is best suited to their or a particular project’s needs.
They may ask colleagues for their advice, look at online forums and trade media to see what is available and see what other people are using in a similar situation to make a reasoned judgement. Often or not they want to see the product first hand and even trial it before committing to using it on a larger scale.
Clearly it is vital that quality smoke alarms are selected to provide a high level of protection and a low level of false alarms – and not just for large housing providers but for every single domestic property, large and small. Lives may well depend on these small devices.
However, ensuring you have a quality smoke alarm is not enough. It’s also extremely important to ensure you have as much support as you need from the alarm supplier / manufacturer. Why? Because firstly you’re dealing with a life saving device – getting it right, from product selection through to siting, installation and maintenance, is considerably more important than many other household items.
Secondly, smoke alarms are not as straightforward as many people think. There are different types of fire and therefore different types of sensors and alarms to detect them. Getting the right alarm in the right location and siting it in that space correctly needs a good level of knowledge.
Furthermore, with manufacturers now delivering more sophisticated and flexible systems with wireless alarm interconnection, accessories such as alarm controllers, and the ability to integrate smoke alarms into other systems such as Warden Call and sprinkler systems, a good level of expertise and support from the manufacturer is more important and necessary than ever before.
Every manufacture is likely to claim they offer a good level of support (have you ever heard otherwise?!), but what should you actually expect them to deliver on this front?
At the very basic level, the product should be readily available to purchase and come with comprehensive, easy to understand instructions. That’s the easy part. Where manufacturers often come unstuck is in the more in depth sales and technical support.
A good manufacturer will be able to supply both centralised and regional sales and technical support across the breadth of the UK. A dedicated Technical Department is a prerequisite.
The sales and technical teams should not only know all there is to know about the product but should also have hands on experience of the product in the field. These support staff should be able to advise on all matters relating to selection, installation and maintenance of smoke alarms and any associated accessories in order for you to improve safety, meet standards and get the most from your alarm system.
With some companies, the only option to make an enquiry is via email, or an online submission form on their website, which can be very frustrating! Ensure the alarm supplier has a dedicated, technical product support service contact number (that’s not premium rate!). In more challenging cases, a visit to site may be required; is the alarm manufacturer willing and able to do this and are there are any costs involved?
Some manufacturers offer product training, however quality support comes in the form of more in-depth training schemes. The Aico Fire Products Trained Installer Scheme (AFPTIS), for example, provides the information and training necessary for contractors working in the public sector to achieve a successful and effective fire alarm installation. Furthermore, a good training scheme will be ongoing, providing regular updates on best practice and changes in Standards and Regulations.
You may also want to see if the manufacturer operates a preferred installer scheme and how it promotes that.
Lastly, you should confirm what support material is available and in what format (print and digital). Check out the quality of this material. In the case of smoke alarm installation - does it cover best practice, the latest standards and what that means for you, as well as first rate advice on product selection, siting and installation? At Aico, we have a comprehensive range of printed and online customer support material that is audience specific. For installers we have the industry leading Electrical Contractors Handybook (now in its third edition) which features all you need to know about choosing, installing, testing and maintaining Aico alarms, along with our Expert series which provides alarm solutions for a variety of different applications. We also have a range of smart phone apps to provide installers with instant, easy to access information on site.
By selecting a quality mains powered smoke alarm with battery back-up to ensure the very best protection for residents, you have done your bit, so make sure your chosen manufacturer / alarm supplier does theirs: demand the very best in customer support.
By: Martyn Walley, National Technical Manager, Aico Ltd