June 12, 2013 in Business

Vivint cleaning up troubles

Company moving to area had complaints during fast growth
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Utah company recruited to Liberty Lake to open a call center and sales office has left a trail of consumer complaints across several states, a problem the company has said it’s fixing with better employee training and stronger efforts to curb aggressive tactics.

Vivint Inc., based in Provo, Utah, announced last week it plans to hire 400 people for new jobs after it was enticed to Eastern Washington by Spokane-area officials. The company expects to hire those workers over the next several months.

Launched in 1999 as APX Alarm Security, the company says it is enhancing training to avoid practices that violate consumer protection laws, said Lisa Davis, the company’s director of community relations.

In 2006 the privately held company changed its business name to Vivint. Over the next five years Vivint went through an aggressive growth phase. The majority of customer complaints came during that growth, said Davis.

“Some of our internal processes (to track sales practices) didn’t keep up with that growth,” she said.

In the past several years, five states – California, Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin – have signed agreements with Vivint following investigations of overly aggressive sales tactics. None of the states has accused Vivint of criminal wrongdoing.

The state agreements involve voluntary commitments by the company to adhere to lawful business practices. In some cases Vivint also paid for the cost of investigations and state attorneys’ fees.

Since 2009 Washington’s attorney general’s office has received about 40 complaints about Vivint’s practices. During the same period, about eight customer complaints were received by Idaho’s attorney general. Most Idaho and Washington complaints occurred in 2011 and 2012.

In both states, nearly all the complaints have been resolved, according to spokesmen for the two agencies.

Vivint also generated about 2,000 customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau involving concerns raised by consumers across the country. The majority of the complaints were about aggressive or misleading door-to-door sales tactics and confusion about terms of the contracts.

Those BBB complaints may be from customers who also filed complaints with state agencies.

All 2,098 complaints with the BBB have been resolved, the BBB reported. Davis said Vivint has a group of full-time workers dealing with those concerns and contacting customers.

“We’re a company with 700,000 customers,” Davis noted. “We don’t want to have any complaints. Even so, in context with the many customers we have, the number of complaints is extremely low compared to our customer base.” The number of complaints has dropped significantly in the past two years, Davis added.

Company Communications Manager Megan Herrick noted that Vivint has 3,000 regular workers but another 2,000 seasonal workers; many of them are hired to make direct sales door-to-door.

Vivint currently has no sales teams in the state working east of Moses Lake.

In the past few years the company also added pre-sale and post-sale phone calls from corporate sales teams with a potential customer ready to sign a contract. Davis said that provides a way for customers to review terms of a contract and avoid confusion by talking with another sales representative who’s not standing next to them.

“We want to make sure people we’re interacting with know exactly what they’re agreeing to,” Herrick said.

None of the 400 new jobs at Liberty Lake is involved with door-to-door sales efforts.

Robin Toth, vice president of business development for Greater Spokane Incorporated, said area officials knew of the pattern of complaints before helping find resources to recruit Vivint to Liberty Lake.

“We did a lot of research on the company,” Toth said.

GSI officials were convinced Vivint’s commitment to answer all complaints and to improve its sales practices outweighed the history of complaints, Toth said.

“We do our due diligence” before working hard to bring a company to this area, she added. “We were also very impressed by the quality of the people (Vivint) brought up here on meetings,” Toth said.

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