Are You More Picky Than Your Customers?

I recently revisited a (former customer's) surveillance system that I designed and installed a few years ago. The customer had asked if I would (informally) 'check out' and diagnose a 'jittery camera'.

I sat down at the VMS and found things all out of sorts. The 'jittery camera' was that way because someone had reconfigured it for streaming at 1FPS. I corrected this, and the customer was really happy.

However, as I dug deeper, I found tons of problems with the configuration. Half the cameras were now recording MJPEG, (system storage was designed using H.264) most were recording at 30FPS (totally not needed), some were streaming at 640 X 480 despite being 720P cameras, and someone had monkeyed with shutter speeds for no apparent benefit at all. I recommended the customer take control of passwords and accounts for cameras and VMS, since it appeared to be a free-for-all.

The customer told me that the only problem they really had was the 'jittery camera', and they were fine with all the other sub-optimal settings and while they appreciated it, I did not really need to change anything else.

They also told me I was way too picky about things and just kind of laughed about the mess things were in.

If you were me, how would have you responded? Have you faced similar situations?

I run across this constantly.

Since, I play dual roles with most of my accounts (video & computer guy) and hence responsible for basically anything that goes wrong. I actually half-kiddingly scold them for playing with settings that they shouldn't be playing with. I also tell them that they wouldn't take their car to the mechanic to have it 'sort of' running correctly. Unless it entails a huge amount of time, I usually push through the "you're such a perfectionist" comments and tweak whatever needs to be tweaked and bill them for that time.

If it is personal settings then I just leave it alone. Like one client changed around all the camera viewing layouts to something that made absolutely no sense to me. I questioned the client if that is really what they wanted, and when they said yes, I left it alone. However, when it comes to performance settings, I'm very strict, because even though they say it does not matter, in the end when it does become a problem they will pin it on you....because you're the tech guy.

These kind of situations is when client relations is key. I nurture very close relationships with my clients and hence can allow myself some leeway in how I handle them. They kid me on how exacting I can be with my installations or upkeep of their equipment and even give me grief on how neat & precise my invoices are. lol However, in the end, they know my methods work and I keep them and their equipment running, so they let me do what I have to do.

Brian, we must share the same customer. I would have affirmed their comment, "yes I am picky". Or share as simply as possible that the setting changes make a big difference in system performance and evidence gathering.

I have found this to happen on a couple occassions, typically it is when the IT (term used loosely) has changed camera configurations to something they thought suited their needs better. This doesn't occur often as most customers only want us to service their equipment. I have never been accused of being picky when it comes to configurations as most customers don't really see that end of the installation. Some customers have laughed at me as they sit along side me while I name devices (cameras or door controllers) and make sure the capitalization format and naming formats are all consistent.

When it comes to cabling I have been told by several contractors that I am way to picky, "no one will see it anyway" or "it doesn't perform different if it is a mess" are typical comments I hear from time to time.

I believe the customer appreciates when a technician is thorough and pays attention to even the small details.

As others had said, I would have corrected the issues as well. I have clients that have had huge messes when I walk in the first time. I try to correct them a little at a time. I have found that if I tear their "world apart" all at once, they feel threatened and I get pushback. I have one client that is a small office for an HVAC company and their previous IT guy had sold them a gaming PC running Windows Home Server as their office server. I have been pushing for over a year to replace that POS. The guy had all of their profiles located on the server instead of their own PCs. He had no backup. No RAID. No security. And everything was running on an old 3com 10baseT switch. Needless to say, it was really slow.

Their camera system is an analog Nuvico system, which works pretty well. I'm trying to get him to upgrade his home system to HD. He recently had a woman across the street from his house get attacked and when he reviewed his footage, he was appalled that he couldn't even tell what make or model the assailant drove 50' from his camera.

I've run into the same customer, with same push back that 'the setting are fine'. Turns out, I discovered that the business owner himself had gotten into the configuration settings, poked around trying to adjust something or other, and made a real mess of things. It seemed to me that his ego wouldn't let him admit to me that HE had junked it up and didn't know what he was doing.

I didn't press, but fixed everthing back to my preferred settings - just mentioned a delicate 'balancing act' between the various settings that was needed. I chose to not ask further or to invoice him for few hours, and have since built a long & profitable relationship doing more work (with locked-down credentials that even he doesn't have).

Every customer (and personality) is different, of course. This one just needed some discretion to nurture.

Hi Brian , Happens all the time.

Many Time s after time has passed, the customer is in charge and thinks they know best.

They, or the security guards change things to suit thier likes. After an event where something does not work do they call you out to find out why. Then you discover all the changes made in the interest of guards.

Thank the Vms Manufacturer for lock outs, and authority levels.

I always give the full key to the system s to the managers,They say they understand, after a time they always call you up and want a retraining as they really did not pay attention or fully understand.

I always look at what I would do different and make changes when on site while fixing the systems.

You find yourself looking at what you would do different, or make the system better, or looking at the newer technologies for upgrades to this system.

Always looking for improvements in the systems .

I always look for better ways of doing things. Keeps me alert to new technologies

Always on the cutting edge of improvement.

Does anyone have a smooth strategy of winning over customers bent on casualness to become more particular about their systems?

In the situation above, I explained the impact of those 'picky settings' in terms of reduced days of storage/resolution/video quality, but I think the customer only listened out as to not appear rude, not because they actually care.

I find that the 'casual' attitude towards quality is an inborn personal trait & hence very difficult to change. You might as well be asking them to not throw their socks on the floor at home, or not slam doors, etc. My approach is to stress the importance of smooth precise running equipment to guarantee the maximum up time for them. Bringing the issue back to the almighty dollar seems to get through the personal quirks. I also keep manufacturer operating specs handy in my mind to back-up me up.

Sometimes, I do have to pick my battles and let sub-par conditions slide. However, I find that often these situations come back to haunt the client (and their equipment) and ends up proving my case for me. For example, I had one client who completely ignored my specs for a cabinet for their network switch and modem. When I arrived I saw that their carpenter had built a solid cabinet under a desk with no venting whatsoever. I pleaded my case, but all the finish carpentry was finished and I was forced to make-do. I made sure to explain to them that this lack of airflow could cause overheating issues down the line. Six months later the modem failed due to overheating and ever since that client has hardly questioned my methods again.

To address your question, I don't think there is a convenient one size fits all approach to this problem. What has worked for me is to get to know my client, build a relationship, stress my point of view, but all the while remaining flexible.

I am an end user of the surveillance system. What I can make out in the above case is that the customer is not fully conversant with the system available to him and he is not clear the purpose for which he has installed the system. The customer should know the design of the system and the purpose of such design.

Though the integrator is not the one who decides the system settings, but he can definitely guide the customer to take maximum benefit from the design stage to full system utilisations.


Capt Ravinder

You find strangest thing to complain about! My customer always picky, plenty picky: they argue better way, argue brother-in-law do it faster/cheaplier (even if he lives in Albania!).

Trade my critical, crabby customer for soft and overeasy American consumer any year. Always 100% not satisfied. Always yabbering after me things like:

  • "Tedor, come quick, its doing it again!"
  • "Tedor, blinking red light not working, I fear robbery now."
  • "Tedor, your dome must be attract dust and dirtbugs."
  • "Tedor, why must pay full-color price when camera b&w half the time?"
  • "Tedor, please move camera view so not to pickup me. Ever."
  • "Tedor, as soon as you leave, its still not working.
  • "Tedor, camera stopped recording at worst time, right during blackout."

I say "That is because if no power to camera, camera not work". But he say "You said these cameras had Power-over-Internet!". My God.

Also, they do sneaky negotiatable things, like wait til after paperwork signed to spring up little extras, like "Tedor, what guarantee comes with system?". So I say, "When exactly did I say guarantee?, all you ever say was must be cheap!".

So then I only guarantee "This is the cheapest system that money can buy!"

That same casual client will not think you are too picky when their system isn't recording when they get broken into. They will blame you for not doing the job right and want you to give them money to replace loss or fix damage. Can't be too picky. Its just good responsible business and good defense.

I have this in common, but get it internally. As a salesman, my boss says I am too picky and technical. That the client doesn't care about these things and that I nit pick details of the job too much. I need to be more focused on closing the deal. I do often find myself pulling my hair out fretting over design details...however, my clients are happy and my repeat business is tremendous. We are a bit different though because we monitor and manage most of our client's entire systems including remotely reviewing and retrieving video from their onsite NVRs/DVRs so our end users usually only get a product and are almost completely hands off. I am picky because I know it makes our life easier.