A bad pitch for decent technology

17 Dec

Last week, CBC Here & Now told us the story of a local man who got more than he bargained for from his home security system, when it sent video clips from inside somebody else’s home (including a man walking about in his underwear).

The company involved was Vivint, a name I remembered from a sales call earlier this year.

It is not a memory I cherish. A duo of orange-shirted salesmen came visiting on two occasions, delivering a pitch that was aggressive, obnoxious and unrelenting. They behaved like annoying telemarketers, refusing to listen and countering with a new pitch whenever I said, “No, thank you.”

One of them offered names and addresses of neighbours who had already signed up for the system, as if this would boost my confidence. Instead, I wanted to call my neighbours and tell them that this guy was violating their privacy.

After that first visit, I searched for Vivint on the Internet. I found a lot of complaints, including violations in several U.S. states for false, misleading and aggressive sales tactics. This is a company with a history.

With the layering of last week’s TV news item on my own experience, I wondered what Vivint was really all about. They’re still operating here, with orange signs on display all over town. So I did some crowd sourcing, and cast out a note to my Facebook friends. I asked if anyone was using Vivint and, if so, how was that going? And I asked them to message me directly, to avoid colouring anyone else’s opinion.

I received a flood of responses, and I will quote here only from people I know to be real and genuine. A fascinating pattern soon emerged. Vivint does indeed have a sales pitch that turns most people off. But they also have some satisfied customers.

Judy said the salesperson was “obnoxiously aggressive” and did “everything short of literally putting a foot in the door. I actually found it threatening. Interesting approach for a ‘security’ company.”

Christine #1 said she was alone with small children when the salesmen came to her door, talking for 15 minutes about home invasions, burglaries and threats to her children’s safety.

“If they are going to use scare tactics and try to create fear, they can’t expect someone to be comfortable with allowing two strange men into her home after the discussion. It made me uncomfortable, the attempt to create fear and then to prey on it. The request for entry into my home was incongruous with that.”

There were positive comments too, but most of these were tempered by complaints about the sales pitch.

“While I think the sales pitch was over the top and almost scare mongering, the system is very good,” said Kevin.

“Heavy sales pitch, which was irritating, but service has been excellent,” said Christine #2.

“The sales pitch is hard to the point you are skeptical but in action, it rocks,” said Robert.

Vivint is doing something right, even if they are being jerks at the front door. If and when you get past that roadblock, it seems Vivint is deploying some innovative technology and decent customer service.

There’s a cellular connection at the heart of Vivint’s control panel, so it works in a power failure or even if a thief cuts the phone line to your home. It also enables the customer to access, control and monitor the system from a remote location, using a smartphone.

“I can get a text when one of the kids gets home and uses their door code, the windows are covered, and easy diagnostics when something goes wrong,” said Christine #2. “The live response at the panel is spot on. Plus, I can lock the doors from my iPad without having to get out of bed!”

I’ve been using ADT for home security since 2003 but the system has been buggy for a while now, with a lot of false alarms. I called about these problems quite some time ago but was told that service calls would be billable and new equipment would cost extra. It felt like I was being held hostage. However, I called again last week and the service agent said I qualified for a free visit. Nothing like a bit of competition to shake out those unfair policies.

Not surprisingly, ADT is now offering technology similar to Vivint, so I am now researching these and other systems. There is more to consider than the monthly monitoring fee. Is there a cost for installation and activation? How much do you pay for equipment? What are the terms and length of the contract?

There is also the matter of signing up with a company that pursues such aggressive sales tactics. I’m not sure I can get past that one.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.

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