Top 5 Access Control Problems

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jul 21, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Here's what integrators say are their 5 top problems with electronic access control:

  • High cost
  • End-user knowledge
  • Lowball Competition
  • Complex Doors/Hardware
  • Low System Turnover

Inside, integrators explain in-depth about what these issues here, how it impacts them and what they do to handle this.

Open Ended Responses

We allowed integrators to share whatever response they desired, rather than limit them to multiple choice / set options. Integrators wrote pages upon pages of feedback on their problems.


See the chart below for the key findings shared by our members:

In the sections that follow, we share the color comments and insights they explain the answers with:

High Cost

With over 40% of total votes, the biggest obstacle cited is the price of controlling a door. Especially for und-users who have never purchased or budgeted access control before, the sheer number of devices required, the labor needed to install them, and the difference when contrasted to mechanical locks and keys catches them by surprise. Unfortunately for our integrators responders, this means not getting the job:

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  • "We find that the cost for a system is higher than what people imagine it will be so there is some sticker shock. Besides just a reader on the wall there is the cost of the server, software, cards, electronic locks, door hardware, etc. So everything required drives up the cost. If the customer sees what it will do for them they usually see the value in it."
  • "Cost is too high."
  • "Cost. People simply don't want to pay for it. This then means cutting out DPS and contacts, which then makes me not want to sell the solution at all. But, the customer simply doesn't care, they just want to pay the lowest amount."
  • "Customers want a Cadillac and only want to pay for a Chevrolet. When a client hears of the budgetary cost for a secured door, they usually cringe."
  • "For us it is fitting the right set of features a customer wants into a price they can accept."
  • "The cost. They see residential push button locks selling for $100 or so and they think that it all that is to it. The required hardware components, wiring, etc. add considerably to the cost and sometimes there is sticker shock. Once over the cost hurdle and they start using it they see the value in the system."
  • "Cost per door. hard to show that one lock is better than another, customers usually look at this as a electronic key and don't understand the work behind making one of these systems function like they want it to."
  • "Convincing the customer the cost is worthwhile. Security does not generate revenue for the customer. There is nothing exciting about it for the employees, often a nuisance to them. Especially difficult if they have been burned in the past."

In a follow-up, we asked the same pool of integrators "What is your average markup on Access Control?" to see how much money integrators typically expect to make on the systems. Expect those results to be released in the days ahead.

End-user Knowledge

The next common problem is getting customers to properly understand the features, operation, and potential of access systems. When customers have an incomplete picture of how the system can be used, it is most difficult proposing solutions based on functions, not cost. Educating end-users means they are able to firmly establish which features are important:

  • "Low customer awareness of the benefits - and convincing (cornflakes) sales reps that do not get the difference between varying levels of security."
  • "Getting over the traditional thinking of keys and locks. People tend to thick of EAC of having a high failure rate."
  • "Have to educate [customers] on what the technology can or can't do based on the owner's expectations."
  • "Customers often don't know what they want, or need."
  • "Getting the customer to see the added value and getting the customer to understand that the cost of the electronics can be a fraction of the cost of the lock/ strike solution."
  • "Our # 1 is educating the end users."
  • "Talking to a client about a comprehensive security plan [and how] the access system fits."
  • "So many diverse solutions out there. How does your customer decide which one they want?"
  • "Biggest problem is customer expectations & end-users being able to understand & manage what they have. There's a lot of hand-holding even for the most basic stuff."

Low-Priced Competition

On the flip side of high cost obstacles, are the threat of low cost competition and cheap products that skew expectations. As with the findings in our Security Integrator Competitive Survey 2014, pricing pressure results from more potential competitors and those willing to do the work cheaply but leave bad installs behind:

  • "Trunk slammer selling at low prices."
  • "There are companies in my area that are cheap, but horrible."
  • "Electrical companies and Network providers getting into the business saturating the market with installs and products."
  • "There are a lot of Chinese made cheap products here so it is hard to compete against that and most customers are not knowledgeable enough to see beyond a simple standalone system if they need access control."
  • "Competition with cabling companies. We haven't been good at reaching a building owner when new building are built."
  • "Price competition from Chinese products."
  • "Cheap laborers selling cheap systems."
  • "Low cost equipment competition (OEM from China)"

Door Difficulties

Doors look simple, but they can be complex to control properly and safely. Integrating access means interfacing with complex components like locks that can be exceedingly frustrating and costly if not expected. Furthermore, making modifications and maintaining high levels of workmanship can be a challenge for even experienced installers:

  • "Retrofitting existing doors. Just difficult to do it right and neat."
  • "Interfacing with door hardware that is specified by lazy Architects and installed by ignorant hardware installers."
  • "Knowing what door hardware would work best for their doors. Not being a locksmith, door hardware is my weak point."
  • "Door modification is the next biggest hassle, and typically why I do not get a sale."
  • "Specifying and installing door hardware correctly is always the toughest."
  • "Interfacing with non-Mercury hardware and custom doors."

 If working with doors and specifying hardware is a pain point for you, check these IPVM Guides and Resources for help:

Low System Turnover

As we noted in our Lifespan of Electronic Access Control Systems note, access systems are typically used for a decade or longer before being replaced. This means that once the initial sale is closed, reselling existing customers on new platforms just do not often happen:

  • "History shows they are much less likely to change the platform due to the amount of money in the current investment that has a lifespan of at least 8 years and from what I can see, usually much longer."
  • "Trying to unseat existing proprietary ADT/Simplex/etc Legacy systems."
  • "Not enough jobs out there compared to camera jobs."
  • "Customers hardly ever just obsolete existing systems, making new stuff hard to sell."
  • "High costs of old systems making clients hesitate to switch. If you've spent a bunch of money on your Lenel or Software House cabling, you will want to reuse that investment. If you've spent a bunch of money on a stack of servers and client PCs, you won't want to go back to your boss and tell them that those machines weren't necessary after all. If you've gotten used to just buying a pre-written (hilariously expensive) interface to PeopleSoft or whatever, you're probably going to be a little uncomfortable with an open API that will let you write your own for free."

Not only is unseating an incumbent provider difficult, customers often seek to keep current platforms operational until after obsoleted by the vendor and the cost of maintenance is just too high to bear.

1 report cite this report:

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