Jim Dellinger, VP of field service at Vivint Smart Home, on connecting with the right techs to support its 1M+ customers’ increasingly connected homes across the U.S. and Canada.


Jim Dellinger, VP of Field Service at Vivint

Embedding sensors and microchips into myriad objects has never been hotter, so it makes sense that the Internet of Things has found its way into American households. “Smart home” technologies, connected to the cloud, let homeowners manage their homes from a smartphone — and Provo, Utah–based Vivint Smart Home leads the way.

Originally founded in 1999 as APX Alarm Security Solutions, Vivint added smart home services five years ago. Since then, its 1,300 technicians have installed more than seven million smart home technologies — gadgets such as thermostats, doorbells and security cameras — in the homes of nearly 1.3 million customers across the U.S. and Canada. That breaks down to about 12,000 customers every week. For a glimpse into how Vivint manages it all, Field Service Digital spoke with Jim Dellinger, vice president of field service at Vivint.

Handling more than one million customers sounds like a tall order. Does Vivint have regional offices where technicians report?

You can’t do the traditional bricks-and-mortar, everybody reports to an office. We cover 7.6 million square miles through strategic placement all over the country, so our folks are all over the place by design.

So how does Vivint plan that strategic placement with technicians?

Each of our individual technicians in the field is essentially an owner of a customer base. We keep that technician’s customer base number as low as possible. We’re working toward 100 customers [per technician] across a geographical area. We’ll heat map all of our existing customers, plus forecast where [customers] are going to be and hire accordingly to have enough support personnel.

Wait, heat mapping?

It’s essentially taking our customer base over a geographical area. We use a mathematical formula based on run rate, customer-growth rate and service rate, and know we need to have a certain number of bodies in this area to maintain quality response times.

What does that look like in practice?

Remember the fires that happened in Fort McMurray, Canada, last year? The day the evacuation was announced, we had technicians installing door cameras so people could keep an eye on their homes while they were evacuated. We had around 40 technicians in that area, but we expanded it to 70. Then we put even more folks on the ground to help people get re-established.

Are all 1,300 or so of those technicians full-time employees?

I have three master service provider contracts with three of the largest providers in the country — providers who also do work for companies like DirecTV. These are master service agreements vetted by us. For all intents and purposes, they are a Vivint Smart Home pro. They just report to a different company.

But the training and the installation equipment is all done through Vivint, right?

Yes. All the equipment is provided by Vivint. We send equipment to third-party companies who then get it to the technicians. Our supply chain will go to more than 1,000 different technicians every single week to get the techs what they need for the week. As for training, there’s some online training and in-the-field training. They get technical training. They get a customer satisfaction training course. They get safety training and driver training. It’s five weeks total, including one week at Provo [Vivint’s headquarters], where everyone comes for a finishing course.

What do you look for in a potential Vivint technician?

We’re looking for folks with a good, savvy customer side but who also understand networking. All our equipment is vertically stacked and it’s operated through the Vivint app. So when, say, a doorbell camera is installed, it has to be networked to the system. Some folks get hung up on experience, but I’m on the other end of that spectrum. I would rather have someone who is new and is willing to learn what I need them to learn. And retain it. Those folks are far more reliable.

ABOUT Andrew Zaleski

Avatar photoAndrew Zaleski is a Philadelphia-based journalist who contributes regularly to Fortune and CNBC. He has also written for The Atlantic, Popular Science, Politico Magazine, Backchannel, and elsewhere. @ajzaleski