We regularly survey area CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers for their feedback on services they have used. For our survey on home security system installers, we asked consumers to rate their experiences with companies they had most recently used "inferior," "adequate," or "superior" on several aspects of service, including "doing work properly on the first try," "starting and completing work promptly," "letting you know cost early," "advice on service options and costs," and "overall performance." Our Ratings Tables show the percent of each company's surveyed customers who rated it "superior" (as opposed to "inferior" or "adequate") on each question. Our Ratings Tables also show the percent of each company's surveyed customers who rated it "adequate" or "superior" (as opposed to "inferior") for "overall performance."
We have included on our Ratings Tables all of the companies for which we received at least 10 ratings on our customer surveys. If a company is not listed on our Ratings Tables, it simply means we did not receive at least 10 ratings for it.
Since many companies were rated by rather small numbers of raters, small differences between two companies in the percentage of raters who gave a particular rating (say, "superior") should be ignored. The table below gives a rough guide to minimum differences you should look for in deciding on one company over another.
When using these survey data, remember that the questions are to some degree subjective and that the differences among companies might be explained by differences in the personalities, backgrounds, critical standards, and other characteristics of the raters or by biases these raters might have.
For companies that were evaluated in our last full, published report, our Ratings Tables report the number of complaints filed against individual companies with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for a three-year period, and the number of complaints filed against companies with local government offices of consumer affairs for a two-year period.
Where we were able to, we have also reported on our Ratings Tables a complaint rate for each company, calculated by dividing the number of complaints by our measure of the number of full-time-equivalent employees who do residential home security system installation work for the companies. These complaint rates are intended as a rough way to take into account volume of work and the fact that companies that do more work are exposed to a greater risk of incurring complaints.
When using the complaint information, keep in mind that complaints are not always justified; sometimes the customer is unreasonable. Also, be aware that some companies may be at greater risk than others of incurring complaints because of the specific types of business they do. And remember that the measure of business volume we use in calculating complaint rates (the number of full-time-equivalent workers who perform residential home security system installation work) is at best a very rough indicator.
We always recommend that you look for substantial differences in complaint counts and rates. We also advise giving little weight to complaint counts if the total count against a company is less than three or four.
All of the data must be interpreted in view of timeliness. Our customer survey data are from surveys conducted from January 2006 to February 2012. Survey respondents were asked to report on experiences in the preceding year. Our data on complaints for the BBB are for a three-year period dating back from a date between December 1, 2011 and January 31, 2012. Our data on complaints for the government offices of consumer affairs are for a two-year period between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2011. The data from our survey of companies were collected from November 2011 to January 2012. Our price data were collected from November 2011 to January 2012.
For the most part, our tables include companies for which we collected 10 or more ratings on our customer survey during the customer survey period mentioned above, but we do not report data for periods prior to companies' changes of name and ownership. As a result, some large companies are not listed at all. If only name or ownership changed, we do report the data. Changes subsequent to the dates listed above may not be taken into account.
We give checkmarks to companies that score highest on a scoring system that we devise for each service field. Our scoring systems weight the various data in our tables and text based on our subjective judgment of their importance. Since the scores are based entirely on information presented, you can apply your own subjective judgments, and decide whether you prefer companies we have not given checkmarks. Where we do not have important data on a company, we cannot give our checkmark.