Pinnacle touts change in organizational culture

The Utah summer-model company says it has addressed such problems as ‘rogue’ sales reps
 - 
Thursday, December 16, 2010

OREM, Utah—Pinnacle Security COO Steve Hafen said Pinnacle has designated 2011 as “the year of the customer.”

He said everyone in the summer-model company—even, say, an employee in the accounting department—will explore ways to increase customer satisfaction.

Hafen told Security Systems News this month that being more customer-focused is just one of the efforts that Pinnacle, which is based here, has been making to improve its image, which Hafen said has been “unfairly tainted” by events in the past.

The company admits there were issues with licensing and “rogue” door-knocking sales staff in 2009, when the company saw its “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau drop to an “F.” Hafen said that occurred during a period of “explosive” growth for Pinnacle, which turns 10 years old in 2011 and currently has about 160,000 accounts nationwide.

However, Hafen said Pinnacle is now focused on working to convince the Better Business Bureau to improve its rating because of changes the company instituted in 2010.

“We’ve evolved,” Hafen told SSN. “We recognized we needed to get on top of things as a company. We’re still not perfect but compared to 2009, we’re at a different place.”

He said such efforts as a company cultural shift to emphasize a code of ethics for employees and the implementation of new ways to monitor employees’ behavior and enforce the code have resulted in a dramatic reduction in customer complaints.

In fact, he said, most Pinnacle customers are happy with the company. Hafen cited response to a recent Pinnacle survey, in which 89 percent of its customers gave the company a rating of 8 or higher (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best) regarding their overall experience with Pinnacle.

Pinnacle also is trying to get word of the company’s altered image out in new communities it does business in around the country, Hafen said.

Too often, he said, Pinnacle enters a new market only to find a “media blitz” taking place, focusing on its poor BBB rating.

To counter that, the company is reaching out to the nation’s approximately 122 local BBB affiliates and to local licensing boards in a variety of ways, including in-person visits and informational campaigns, to let them know the company is different from the way it has been negatively portrayed.

And how has Pinnacle evolved?

Among changes that Hafen said the company has made is a top-to-bottom shift in organizational culture.

He said that the company has “always had a sales-oriented culture focused on results and, in particular, sales volume.” In the past three years, the company sold about 250,000 accounts, Hafen said.

However, he said, that meant having as many as 1,800 summer sales representatives—most of them young college students—going door to door selling for Pinnacle around the country, and in some states being accused of unethical sales practices.

“Sometimes you get these rogue sales reps that make bad decisions,” Hafen said.

The sales representatives also ran up against licensing requirements in some communities, which Hafen said were in some cases so complex that sales might be legal on one side of the street but illegal on the other.

But to make sure that problems no longer arise, Hafen stressed that the company has “sought out every opportunity to emphasize a change in this sales culture, emphasizing the equal importance of compliance, integrity and ethics along with sales.”