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Buying Remote Monitoring? Why In-Person Engineering Visits Matter

By Andrew Erickson

May 17, 2021


It's expensive for sales engineers to sit in airports, on planes, and in cars. In the Internet Age, you can have a video chat that closely mimics an in-person visit.

Many companies who manufacture and/or sell remote site monitoring gear depend exclusively on website articles, phone sales, and (increasingly) video chats.

While these all play a role (after all, you're reading this article now), there's really no substitute for having an engineer come out to your site for an in-person visit.

DPS Engineering team visiting clients in New York
In-person field trials are a core part of our operation to ensure innovation a perfect-fit solutions. Be sure any vendor you're considering has enough good sense to visit you in-person to evaluate your remote sites and monitoring requirements.

Let's take a look at the problems with long-distance B2B purchasing - and the benefits of having a manufacturer or vendor visit you in-person:

Why not buy Remote Site Monitoring over the Phone?

It's actually never a problem to start buying network alarm monitoring equipment on the web and over the phone. You should work the process like a funnel:

  1. Use the internet to develop a list of potential options.
  2. Make phone calls to narrow down your choices to a short list.
  3. Hold video meetings between your team and each vendor on your short list.

Unfortunately, many people stop at this point. That means they give up on all of the benefits of an in-person visit...

DPS training class in the Los Angeles area
A vendor visit is a great time for a little bit of product training. It can be very informal, like a one-on-one session at a workstation. It can also be more involved, like the group training shown above.

Why Does a Pre-Purchase Visit Matter So Much?

Let me start with an example, years ago, that really illustrated the value of in-person engineering visits for all of my clients:

It all started with a highly custom radio-system project in New York City for one of our long-time clients. We had sold our monitoring systems to this client for decades, but this new device was something entirely new.

The project absolutely necessitated several one-week trips from our HQ in California. We'd develop a prototype, fly to NYC for 5 days of testing, revise the design, then return in a month or two for another round. This, in itself, speaks to the value of visits during custom development - but then something else happened...

On Wednesday, the sales team back at HQ told us about a troubling situation with a different client in upstate New York. As we learned, a key member of their staff had retired. Now, they were locked out of the administrative functions of the system.

The next day, as the rest of the team continued working, I was on-site with this other client at 9AM. Before lunch, I had achieved the following:

  1. I captured the current problem keeping this client locked out of the system.
  2. After everyone agreed on a plan forward, I worked with engineers back at DPS HQ to reset the forgotten system password and restore access.
  3. I got a pretty excellent reaction from the client team: "This has been very, Very, VERY, helpful!"

After burning a few more gallons of gas and buying another train ticket into NYC, my total incremental cost for this one-day visit totalled less than $250.

My client got exactly what they needed without having to pay anything for it. This later turned into a "pre-purchase visit", as they upgraded their system soon after I got everything back online.

When was the last time you got something like that from one of your vendors without paying for it ahead of time?

The 5 Benefits of In-Person Visits from an Engineer

Here's what you get from in-person visits:

  1. The channel has maximum richness. There's nothing like an in-person meeting to really communicate from person to person. Think of the differences between an email, a phone call, and a video conference. An actual meeting is the ultimate form of communication.
  2. You get one-on-one engineering expertise from the vendor/manufacturer who can look at your remote sites. You won't end up buying something that doesn't actually suit your requirements.
  3. It's "an event". You can get everyone from your team out at a tower site, in a server room, or around a conference table to get everyone on the same page.
  4. The boss is likely to join - or just stumble in. Getting purchase approval is impossible if your boss isn't on board. When a vendor visits you in-person, you don't have to sell the project internally on your own. Let your vendor do the work.
  5. You get more attention from everyone in the meeting. In the "Zoom Age", everyone knows how to mute their mic and mentally check out of the meeting, so it's hard to keep your team focused. When you're actually in a physical meeting, this won't happen nearly as much.

Asking Vendors to Visit You is a Great Filter

Aside from the intrinsic benefits of a site visit, asking vendors to visit you is a great way to separate the established industry players from the rest.

At DPS, we leverage our 35-year install base to make site visits an efficient part of our operation to best serve our clients.

Obviously, we like visiting clients (present and future), but there are limits to what we can do for smaller projects. For a single $750 alarm remote, we clearly can't buy 2 plane tickets and hotel nights for a dedicated visit.

What we can do (and what we DO do) is cluster our clients together into trips. A typical trip for DPS involves flying into a major airport on a weekend, visiting one or more clients each day (depending on whether they need basic information or in-depth tech support), then flying home the following weekend.

This process makes it possible for us to have factory-based product engineers (not just regional salespeople) visit you at least annually.

A DPS engineer builds a customized RTU
When a manufacturer like DPS visits you, that can lead directly to the creation of a customized remote monitoring device to suit your unique requirements. At DPS, the same engineers who develop equipment also spend time on the road making site visits.

Top 5 Benefits of an Engineering Visit for your Remote Monitoring

In our years of visiting DPS clients, we've learned that 5 different activities comprise the vast majority of time spent on-site. These include:

  1. Feature/Configuration Wish List Review
  2. We'll ask: Do you have any equipment that is not currently doing everything you need to monitor your sites properly? (DPS & non-DPS)
  3. Let's talk about what else you wish your equipment could do. (DPS & non-DPS)
  4. Tell us what perfect alarm notifications would look like for you, whether from RTU/master screens or email/SMS/etc.
  5. Site Review
  6. We'll analyze your current setup (DPS & non-DPS) to determine how you can better monitor your sites.
  7. Training for You and Your Team
  8. We'll teach you how to use your remote site monitoring equipment more effectively
  9. Equipment Turn-up
  10. We'll help you install equipment that you've received, whether you're already started or it's still in the box.
  11. We'll perform minor adjustments & optimizations to your equipment for you.
  12. We'll upgrade your firmware/software for you.
  13. Discussion about Customization
  14. We're an engineering firm. We'd love to discuss designing a perfectly tailored monitoring platform for you.

Ask any Vendor for a Site Visit, including DPS

For all of the reasons and benefits above, you should always ask for a vendor visit before any significant purchase. This absolutely includes remote site monitoring equipment, which must be custom-tailored for your particular network.

I can't speak for the rest of the industry, but we'd love to visit you and discuss your project. To set something up, give us a call at 559-454-1600 or email us at sales@dpstele.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...