The Ackerman Security Wireless Communicator Upgrade Letter

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Last week I started a two-post blog about examples of marketing communication letters to customers. I chose two examples that show when a marketing group is out-of-synch with the operations group of an organization. The letters are good case studies about syncing instructions, or the call-to-action, to a customer to provide a better customer experience. Last week was the Takata Airbag recall. This week is about a letter I received from Ackerman Security Systems.

Quick background.

I use Ackerman Security for my home security and monitoring system. I’ve been a customer for over six years and thankfully I’ve never had to use them in a real emergency. Several years ago, when we removed our home phone land-line, I switched to their wireless monitoring service.

Fast forward a few years. One night our security panel made a noise we had never heard. It wasn’t an alarm signal, but it wasn’t normal. When I called for service, they told me my wireless unit had malfunctioned and needed to be replaced. When the technician came on-site he told me I also needed to upgrade from the 2G to the 4G receiver to be compatible with the new carrier systems. The upgrade was installed.

The Letter.

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This month I received a letter from Ackerman telling me I must upgrade to the 4G digital cellular communicator because my existing model would soon no longer function on the carrier’s network. It’s a two-page form letter telling me I must buy the upgraded equipment to continue service.

Click for full size
Click for full size
Click for full size
Click for full size

But I had already changed my device two years ago.

Just to be sure, I took the cover off the central communicator unit to look for the model number. I found it labeled Honeywell GSMX4G. I searched online and found a few other complaints about this letter from Ackerman Customers. When I tried to call them to verify I listened to music for 20 minutes before hanging-up. I sent their customer service group an email letting them know I already had a 4G cellular communicator and to please update their records. No one acknowledged my email or contacted me after this.

So what’s the lesson here? I am giving the company the benefit of the doubt this is not an intentional practice and they are not charging customers to upgrade to equipment they already have. I assume the real issue is they don’t have accurate records of the device installed at each customer location. If true, then my suggestion is to word the letter slightly differently with the understanding you “may need to upgrade your cellular communicator.” The letter could include some simple instructions about how to find the equipment type. As-is, this process leads to confusion and mistrust.

Onward and Upward!

 

The Takata Airbag Recall Letter

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In my next two blog posts, I’m taking a couple of businesses that I buy from to task. I received a letter in the mail from each business that did not properly describe what I should do as a consumer of the product/service. The letters are good case studies for marketing communication groups about syncing the instructions, or call-to-action, of a message with the operations of the business.

This week is about a letter I received from the American Honda Motor Company. I will preface my Honda letter experience by saying that I’ve purchased multiple Honda vehicles in my lifetime. I am a repeat customer for Honda with no plans to change.

In March of this year I received a letter about the Takata airbag recall. The letter has many strong points:

  • “Important Safety Recall” is in an enlarged point size that is all caps and red. – That caught my attention. I wanted to read the details.
  • “What to do if feel this notice is in error” – This was good because I may no longer own the vehicle. They were sending this to the address of record for the vehicle VIN. They enclosed an update form and envelope in case their records were wrong.
  • Information is included in the document about how to contact Honda if I have further questions or feel the resolution is inadequate.

But the letter has a flaw.

In bold letters it states “The defect in these vehicles could kill or injure you or other people in your vehicle”. When I read about the fatalities caused by this part defect I understood just how serious this issue is.  

Directly following is the instruction of what to do. It essentially says that I will be contacted with another letter when parts become available. I highlighted this statement and set it aside on my desk so that I wouldn’t forget about it. A few weeks later my daughter received the same letter for the Honda vehicle that she drives. The instructions were the same.

Click for full size letter
Click for full size letter

Fast forward to early August. My daughter is getting ready to go back to college. I wanted to make sure this part replacement was completed prior to her departure so I decided to call a local dealer. What surprised me is the answer I received was “that part just went on back order but I can order you a new one and it will be here in a couple of days.” I called an Acura dealer about the other vehicle I own and received the same answer. I made appointments for both vehicles and had the recall part replaced.

What if I hadn’t called?

As I think about the problem, I understand there is a huge supply and demand situation to replace the airbags. The Takata airbag recall affects more than Hondas. I know the supplying plants are trying to keep up with demand for new vehicles while at the same time trying to make replacement parts for older vehicles. If Honda had told me to contact the dealer right-away it would have created chaos and a backlog of requests.

When I read the history of events about this recall in the updates of that blog, I can see that auto makers are scrambling to cover their affected vehicles. Perhaps a better way to set expectations would be to have a schedule of availability based on production capacity, year/model/make, and location (high humidity zip codes first). Then provide the affected consumer with an estimated availability date. That approach may not have sat well with consumers in the back of the line, but it would have provided a better estimated time of replacement. The message of the existing letter is both open ended and for me didn’t accurately communicate when the parts were available.

I spoke with a couple of friends who received a similar letter from a different manufacturer and they had the same experience. In fact, both of them were still waiting on the letters, months later, to confirm availability of the part. As it stands right now, you may want to call your local dealer if your vehicle is part of the recall.

Onward and Upward!

 

Get some Wi-Fi feng shui

Happy Wi-Fi happy life.

When the Wi-Fi in my house is working well then life is good! When the Wi-Fi isn’t working so well then there is discontentment and restless natives. The quickest way to call a family meeting is to turn off the Wi-Fi and then walk to the center of the house. (wait for it…..)

I’ve been in search of Wi-Fi feng shui for a few years because the place where I chose to put my cable modem and Wi-Fi router created some difficulties with a strong signal throughout my house. Since I cut the cord on cable TV, I heavily rely on streaming video content. Stable Wi-Fi is a must.  The good news is that it my setup has improved and good enough to have multiple devices streaming simultaneously without lags.  So I wanted to write down some simple things you can do that may help you find that happy place too.

Some of this may be technical mumbo-jumbo to you but there are few good tips that I will underline. I’ll also add a picture that may help to visualize the wording.

My Setup

First, a little about my setup. I have a two story house sitting on a basement. I chose to put the cable modem and Wi-Fi router in the basement where the cable enters the house so that I didn’t have to look at the equipment in the main living area. A few years after doing this I hooked all the cable outlets in the main house to a HD antenna in the attic.  What that means is my only connection to the cable company is in the basement, so the cable modem is there to stay. The basement has some data wires (CAT-5) running to a few outlets that were installed a few years ago, but there are no data wires to the main levels.

This is not a typical setup. The important thing to get out of this is that the primary Wi-Fi router is in a corner of the basement (farthest distance from the main living areas).

Improvements I’ve made along the way.

  1. The first improvement I made a few years ago was moving from a Wi-Fi router that only supported 802.11b/g to one that also supported 802.11n. This isn’t a technical dialogue, but 802.11n Wi-Fi came with more range, faster speeds, and the ability to use the 5GHz frequency in addition to the standard 2GHz frequency. (It should be noted that there is a newer standard now 802.11ac that promises even faster speeds. Most new routers sold today should support this and the price is coming down.  Both your router and device have to support the protocol.)
  2. The next improvement was to get a Wi-Fi extender device to put on the main level. This device takes the signal from the main Wi-Fi router and rebroadcasts or strengthens the signal. I located this device as close to the center of the main level of the house as I could to provide the best chance of getting Wi-Fi signal to each corner of the house.
  3. Despite doing these things there were still issues from time-to-time with signal strength. I attributed this to the main Wi-Fi router being in a corner of the basement where the cable modem was. There are many obstructions in the way to degrade the signal (doors, walls, ceiling, and insulation). Remember I said that I had hard wiring to other parts of the basement. So I moved the Wi-Fi router to a bedroom in the basement more centrally located. This made a noticeable difference in the signal strength throughout the basement and main levels and also gave a stronger signal to the Wi-Fi extender. It follows a typical guideline that says to locate Wi-Fi as centrally in the house as possible.
  4. After some time I started getting some periodic Wi-Fi disconnect/reconnect events. The Wi-Fi would just drop and then automatically reconnect seconds later. After looking into this I believe the main cause was signal interference with all the Wi-Fi units from surrounding neighbors. The 2.4 GHz frequency (default for the Wi-Fi) is also a crowded space with other types of wireless signals. To help with this I moved some of my Wi-Fi to the 5 GHz range on the Wi-Fi router. The 5 GHz range was built-into my Wi-Fi router. It runs at a shorter distance but offers less interference. So I set all my Roku devices in the house to connect to the 5Ghz Wi-Fi. I also changed the channel my 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi was using by a Wi-Fi analyzer tool.
  5. One of my Roku devices used for streaming video is located in the basement. The device supports Wi-Fi but it also supports a wired connection. Even though the Wi-Fi was working well with the unit I decided I wanted to make the connection better and less likely to have interruptions by using the hard wire. My problem was the hard wire terminated at the location of the cable modem but I had moved the Wi-Fi router to an adjoining bedroom. To accommodate for this I had to insert an old Wi-Fi router between my cable modem and Wi-Fi main router to act as a data switch.
  6. After I completed “improvement  4” I realized I had taken a step back for all the Wi-Fi even though I had created a hard-wired connection for a Roku device. The problem was that ethernet connection of the new router I added was capped at 100Mbs. Effectively, I had created a slower connection to the cable modem for my house. The ethernet connection in my newer Wi-Fi router (the one I moved to central spot in the basement) supported Gigabit ethernet. The solution was to swap the two Wi-Fi routers so that the Gigabit ethernet port was hooked to the cable modem, the other Wi-Fi router, and the hard-wired Roku.

20160807_091542

Results

Speedtest.net is a popular site to measure the speed you are getting from your internet connection. I have started using the tool from Google and Bing that shows in-line with search results. Just type “Speed Test” in Google or Bing.

After completing step 1 I went from speeds below 10Mbps to speeds consistently above 20 Mbps. Somewhere in this time frame my cable company provided a new cable modem and more bandwidth to the house. When I had the 100Mbs ethernet connection (step 5) I would top out around 20 Mbps on the Wi-Fi speed. After completing step 6 I now register speeds consistently between 50-60Mbps on the Wi-Fi. That’s plenty of bandwidth for streaming video content and hopefully enough to keep my data hungry family happy. I call it Wi-Fi feng shui.

Summary

  1. Locate Wi-Fi routers as close to the center of the house as possible.
  2. Use a Wi-Fi-extender if you have multiple levels in the house.
  3. Set permanent connections, like TV streaming devices or gaming devices, on the 5Ghz Wi-Fi.
  4. Check your Wi-Fi router to make sure the ethernet connection supports Gigabit ethernet for the connection to the cable modem or DSL device.
  5. Check your Wi-Fi router to make sure you are at least supporting 802.11n protocol but preferably 802.11ac.

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Onward and Upward!