Are Video Doorbells Eating Your Profits?

Let’s face it.  People who own their home are sold on video doorbells.  Nearly everyone wants one.  If you don’t sell them, then you may lose out on also installing a full burglary and fire system.  Your company will be judged in the marketplace according to popular options that are in demand.  Failure to offer what the customer wants, even if faddish, gives your competitor an unearned advantage.

When they first came out, modern video doorbells were of high quality and consistently worked to the homeowner’s satisfaction.  However, as the market typically progresses, consumers began to differentiate between models, primarily on the basis of price.  Sensing an opportunity for increased profits, big box retailers jumped into competition with established alarm dealers and integrators.  Less expensive “do it yourself” installation also put downward pressure on price.  To compete, established manufacturers that supply the alarm industry began to cut corners on quality.  The lure of market share for video doorbells was just too strong to resist.

Integrators fell into the trap of pushing price competitive video doorbells as ancillary to the security alarm business.  It seemed like a good idea, until the newly installed units began to develop performance problems.  Sales people enjoyed the commissions earned by the addition of video doorbells to their repertoire, but service departments across the country became miserable with the overload of warranty calls.

This is nothing new.  The product cycle repeats itself time and time again in every segment of the market.  For those of you who are in the Boomers generation, you may remember the widely popular Muntz TV created by a self-taught engineer.  Earl “Madman” Muntz was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1914.  A high school dropout, Muntz became the biggest used car dealer in the world.  Having made his used car fortune in Los Angeles, Muntz began manufacturing televisions in 1946.

Similar to the video doorbell of today, televisions were a hot item during and after the war.  Muntz started by disassembling a working TV.  He would systematically remove parts from the ill-fated unit until it no longer worked.  This stripping down of a TV allowed Muntz to cut costs to make his TV affordable to the masses at the low, low price of only $99.95.  No other television manufacturer had ever sold a TV for less than $100.  Granted, it was a black and white tube television, but that was common technology at that time.  The Muntz TV was wildly successful and sales were through the roof.  In urban areas where the signal was strong, the quality of the Muntz TV was adequate.  Consumers, who were outside of the strong signal perimeter were often disappointed with the performance of their television.  After selling $50 million in 1951, the market caught up with Muntz quality with net losses in 1953.  The television manufacturer ultimately went bankrupt in 1959.

As a side note, you may find it interesting that “Madman” Muntz is credited with first using the abbreviation TV.  When he used skywriters to market his “Muntz Televisions”, the skywriting dissipated for “Muntz” before the word “Televisions” could be written.  He solved the problem by reducing the message to simply “Muntz TV”.  Aren’t you happy to know that you can offer this trivia at your next family get together.

Today, we find ourselves with video doorbells that are suffering in quality.  Homeowners have an expectation of reliability that all too often is not being met.  Similar to the Muntz TV, consumers are too often disappointed with the quality of their video doorbell.  The good news is that many of these doorbell units have been sold directly to consumers as DIY installations.  Those are not our responsibility as dealers. The bad news for many alarm dealers is the large number of doorbells installed by alarm industry professionals after the model changes reduced the quality of the product.  Regardless of what we may have done right in otherwise providing reliable security systems, consumers will hold it against us for failing them on the doorbells.  It’s understandable.  Video doorbells are not inexpensive.  They definitely cost more than a Muntz TV!

No doubt, certain video doorbell manufacturers will never admit reducing quality to maintain profits or to compete with the DIY industry.  The reality for alarm dealers is the potential loss of reputation and cost of servicing the doorbells under warranty.  Unlike the Muntz TV, it is unlikely that any integrator is going bankrupt over video doorbells.  Even so, the cost of correcting these poorly functioning units is significant for most of us.  Nobody is going to reimburse the dealer for replacing video doorbells with a more reliable model from a different manufacturer.  Nobody is going to cover the cost of return trips to fix a doorbell that has ceased to function as advertised.

My suggestion to you as an alarm dealer is not an easy one.  Do your research to determine if there is a more reliable alternative.  In the long run it will cost you less to simply replace the deficient doorbells with higher quality units as you receive calls for warranty work on non-functioning units.  Be honest and straightforward with your customer.  Turn a bad experience to a positive.  Let them know that you are eating the cost of upgrading them to a more reliable unit, because you are committed to providing quality equipment and professional workmanship. I am not suggesting that you replace all of your video doorbell installations.  Rather, make changes only when you receive calls of complaint.  Not all of your installations will go bad.

Keep in mind that you are already making a warranty trip for the existing unit.  The labor time for installing a new unit won’t be that much different than labor time to troubleshoot and make corrections to a problematic device.   Upgrading to a more reliable model will hopefully eliminate another warranty call later.  If it does, the cost of the upgrade is already at break even.  Consider that to be a victory.  Essentially, you are saving your reputation, which under the circumstances is not costing you much, relatively.  Even better, you are building a great reputation because homeowners have painfully experienced far too many times companies that over promise and under deliver.  Be assured that goodwill creates value in the minds of consumers.  If you follow my suggestion, the pain of a malfunctioning video doorbell will turn to delight over having you cheerfully rectify the situation.

Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  You may not see all the benefits coming your way because of how well you take care of the door bell situation.  You don’t really need to know each and every positive outcome that arises from excellent service to your customers.

Just have faith that doing the right thing will work out for the best.  Remember, “Madman” Muntz eventually went bankrupt selling cheap televisions.  You won’t when you install credible equipment and provide durable value to your customers for sharing their hard earned and taxed money with you.  Your customers trust you.  Return the blessing and give them good reason to continue in that trust.  Then trust your customers to speak glowingly of your service and praise you to their friends.  Goodwill to all people is not a slogan.  It is a promise!


External Links:

Earl Muntz - Biography - IMDb

Madman Muntz Self-Taught Engineer - Autodesk

Madman Muntz - The Movie (YouTube)

Muntz TV Commercial (YouTube)