The GSM Upgrade Nightmare

So, you find yourself staring into the face of a monster headed your way.  It’s coming and not going away.  You have valuable alarm accounts that must be serviced to abide successfully in an LTE world.  There are so many of them, and all are calling for attention.  You have only so much time in the week to get new installations completed, resolve other service issues and satisfy the panels that are crying for LTE connectivity.

It’s not a good place to be, if that describes your situation.  Other blogs and commentaries explain the need for a GSM upgrade, and what happens if you procrastinate in making the necessary changes.  This is all helpful and good.

I am going to give you some straightforward suggestions for getting these tasks completed, help in navigating between the GSM rock and the LTE hard place.  There is hope if you anticipate the need and create a plan for success, ASAP.

How you notify customers of the approaching GSM sunset is up to you and not in the scope of this article.  The best solution for one dealer may not be good for another dealer.  Just be careful not to create a situation where you suffer a massive influx of phone calls that you are not staffed to handle.

To begin with, please refrain from any reference using the term 4G.  Don’t say 4G LTE to your customer.  Don’t reference 4G networks or 4G technology.  Why? Because, your customer will inevitably ask you why the upgrade is not to 5G.  They will want to postpone the upgrade until a 5G solution is in place.  By that time, their outdated digital communicator could be be failing to send real alarm signals.  You may then have an unhappy customer who experiences an avoidable system failure in a bad way.  Although everything is not in place for 5G, the current LTE technology is expected to function with 5G as well as 4G.  LTE is the abbreviation for the industry term "Long-Term Evolution". There is no need to wait.

More so, if you charge your customer for a 4G upgrade service call, they may feel cheated when a 5G solution becomes available.  Then you may be viewed as upgrading intentionally to create unnecessary service charges.  This is a no-win situation, especially if no conversion is necessary from 4G to 5G.

Simply tell your customer the necessary upgrade is to LTE, the new global standard.  That will eliminate 90% of avoidable questions that waste your time and cause you grief.  Remember time is what you need to conserve.  If a customer asks deeper questions, then they are likely going to understand and accept your truthful answers.  Such customers are typically your most loyal clients.  They are worth the time, and the dialogue will further cement the mutually beneficial relationship.

Planning for the transition to LTE takes a little preparation, but worth every second.

  1. Identify all of your customers that need an upgrade and sort them by postal code.  Vendors such as Alarm.com and Napco provide the ability to download summary user information into Excel that include this data.
  2. In that list identify the type of communicator so you know what to change out. You won't waste a trip and suffer embarrassment.
  3. Stock a few extra upgrade units on your vans.  If you are on a service call for another reason, then it will be cost effective to also perform the upgrade.  Be prepared for such unexpected visits.
  4. When you have an opening of time in your schedule, use the list sorted by postal code to easily locate customers in the area, who need an upgrade.  Finish a job early?  Make a call to a nearby customer and offer to perform the upgrade same day.  So what if they say "No".  You have just advertised that your company services others in their area and that you are providing excellent customer care by reminding them of the approaching GSM sunset.  Be sure to ask if there is anything else you can do for them regarding their system in general, any questions or concerns.  Before hanging up, you may want to schedule an upgrade appointment for another day.
  5. When you are servicing an account in an outlying location, verify the route to and from that site and look for GSM upgrade needs that you will pass nearby along the way.  Make that long in-transit time work for you .

Be particularly aware that Napco 3G GSMs have a unique problem. If they are powered down for any reason, the communicator will not recover when powered back up. There will be a complete loss of connectivity. If any of your customers have this Napco 3G GSM, your service department and central station must be forewarned not to advise the customer to reset their system with a power down. This is all the more important to have that list of all pre-LTE communicators generally available in your office. You may want to consider giving the Napco 3G the highest priority for planned upgrade to LTE. Otherwise, the upgrade will possibly become the highest priority anyway but at the worst time.

Knowing how many upgrades you need to make, set aside blocks of time daily or weekly to do them as a priority.  When you plan to be in an area, contact your customers to set an appointment for upgrade. The filter function in Excel will help you make that identification quickly.  This is a great way to fill holes in scheduling service calls.

Setting aside time to fill with upgrades is no different than being booked solid for making new appointments.  If you don’t create the upgrade load yourself on your schedule, then others will likely fill the load for you. Then the promised land of LTE may never be reached in a timely basis.

Treat each regular service call as an opportunity to check off one or more LTE upgrades on the list at that site or in the area.  Don’t wait.  Every day that you don’t have a plan will likely have to be covered under emergency conditions later.

I hope that helps.  Remember that someday you will be replacing LTE devices, because they also will become outdated.  Plan ahead for that day as well, even as it is likely far into the future.  Your customers will be served, if you have a job management system in place that keeps an accurate list of all installed devices, including wireless communicators.

If you have questions or comments about this topic we would enjoy collaborating with you without cost to you. Don't hesitate to give us a call at (636) 349-7544. We are alarm dealer professionals. We understand your problems and points of pain.

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