The Big Idea with Ron Davis
Lessons in Customer Service by Way of the Caribbean
Idea of the Month
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month’s great idea is from Michael Aboud, chairman of Amalgamated Security Systems Limited (ASSL), located on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.
Aboud’s great idea:
Customer service is not a support function, it is the reason we exist!
Michael Aboud is the chairman of Amalgamated Security Systems Ltd. (ASSL), which is headquartered on the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, located in the Caribbean off the northeastern coast of Venezuela.
I have a hunch you’ll be hearing a lot more about Aboud and his company in the coming months and years. Several of my associates and I visited ASSL this summer and came away overwhelmingly impressed. On an island with a population of about 1.2 million people, ASSL has thousands of customers that are serviced by more than 3,000 employees.
In various ways the company performs functions that a branch of the government might carry out: Cash in transit, prisoner movement, hostage negotiations, access control, CCTV, as well as alarm system monitoring. We were in Trinidad and Tobago to provide advice and counsel on the opportunities of moving into the U.S. market. I believe that will happen for ASSL, which is why I suspect you’ll be hearing about the company before long.
Dining with Aboud one evening provided me the opportunity to tap his insights for this column. He knows of what he preaches. Starting with a singular service (guarding) and only one employee — Aboud, himself — ASSL has grown into a multimillion-dollar firm that operates throughout the Caribbean.
During the course of the evening, Aboud continued to go back to the concept of customer service, mentioning the fact that every new customer is followed up with on a weekly basis until they are 100% satisfied. Even then there is continued contact on a monthly basis for as long as the customer is onboard with the company. And yes, the chairman gets involved in any dissatisfaction on the part of any client at any time. In other words, no matter how trivial or regardless of whose fault, issues are resolved to the customer’s contentment.
Has this paid off for ASSL? In talking with the senior management, Aboud’s beliefs echoed over and over again. “No unhappy customers” is not just a phrase, but a working philosophy of the company.
Most of us in the alarm industry tend to think of rapid growth and high margins coming as a result of marketing and sales. Although I am a “marketing guy,” I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the real reason some companies achieve outstanding success is because of their follow-through and support of customers after the sale.
Providing a Service, Gratis
One of the interesting events that happened to us occurred on the second day of our visit while driving down a four-lane, divided highway on our way to see a typical branch office. Sitting in the front passenger seat, I suddenly heard police sirens coming up on our side, very fast. Several motorcycles with lights flashing and sirens blazing preceded a large armored vehicle. On the side of it was lettering that stated the vehicle was a prisoner transport vehicle, and yes, there was ASSL’s logo emblazoned on all sides.
Later that evening, Aboud spoke about something else that he does, hostage negotiations in kidnappings. Because he’s an expert at it, his advice is sought by the victims’ families and the authorities. When I asked him what he charges for this service, his answer was simply, “Nothing at all.” You see, people at the company believe in providing service to the community, any way they can. When you think about it, some things you can’t charge for. The group at ASSL understands that, lives it, and has seen the company grow dramatically because of it.
What can you give back to the community? How can you improve customer service? How can you build your business as a model for every other firm in the industry? You can either fly down to Trinidad and Tobago as we did — yes, they will be happy to show you around and answer questions — or wait a little while and see if the company can replicate their success in the U.S.
Ron Davis is a SSI Hall of Fame inductee and President of Davis Mergers and Acquisitions Group Inc. Also known as The Graybeards, the company is active in acquisitions and mergers exclusively in the alarm business.