A System of Support

A System of Support

Dealers benefit from a monitoring company that keeps the customer top-of-mind

In today’s ever-evolving security landscape, the “next best thing” often eclipses the importance of the fundamentals. Even as new interactive services and home control systems are introduced, at its core home security in particular relies on dependable systems, fast response and, as always, good customer service.

For dealers, quality customer service is essential. It’s important for a dealer to partner with a monitoring company that takes the lead on customer service, which keeps dealers free to continually find new accounts, do service work and grow their business. By supporting the customer, a monitoring company in turn supports its dealer base, making both parties more successful in the long run.

Setting Priorities

John Mejia, vice president of customer care at Monitronics International, has made customer and dealer support the primary focus of his department. “It’s all about support,” he said. “Our agents are here to support our dealers and the customers they sell to Monitronics. They eventually become Monitronics customers. We’re on their side to make this a positive transition—because if a customer is happy, we all win.”

Mejia and his team take a multi-pronged approach in their efforts to lead the industry in customer service. Among other priorities, they focus on resolving customer issues, retaining customers and protecting them from competing dealers who use less-than-honest methods that lure homeowners from their current alarm company. In the last few years, Monitronics has become even more proactive in resolving customer issues and complaints, all to better support the dealers and their customer base.

Dealers should look for a monitoring partner that maintains customer service as its No. 1 priority. As a growing company with more than 700,000 customers and 600 dealers, it’s vital for Monitronics to develop focused, effective customer service programs that work. Consider the volume of calls the company takes. The Retention department averages 45,000 calls a month, and the Account Resolutions department fields up to 1,500 calls a day—with an average call time of 11 minutes. Numbers like this illustrate the time and effort each rep devotes to each customer.

A Proactive Position

Tevis Roberts, account resolutions manager at Monitronics, said the company has initiated a true culture change in order to foster positive relationships between customers, call center representatives and dealers.

“Right now, we’re trying to take a more ‘customer advocate’ approach to our calls,” he said. “We’re partnering with our dealers—who are really our internal customers. I think that’ll help us better serve our customers and our dealers.”

Roberts and his team are on call to help customers with concerns about their alarm system or contract. This saves the dealer time and simplifies things for the customer.

Being proactive also means continually improving. For Monitronics reps, training is an ongoing process. Mejia and his team are constantly examining patterns in customer calls, looking for ways to improve service and the customer experience.

“We have a goal of giving our agents 20 to 30 hours a year of additional training, on top of their basic training,” Mejia said. “And that initial training lasts three to five weeks and is a really involved process. We try to provide some flexibility in how we resolve customer issues by really personalizing the approaches in communicating to them. In the end, this team helps to save the dealers money and headaches.”

Better and Better

Another major initiative at Monitronics began nearly two years ago, when Mejia set out to improve the company’s Better Business Bureau ranking and achieve accreditation.

For alarm dealers, a company’s BBB ranking is important because it illustrates a commitment to customer service. Dealers who partner with highly ranked companies can rest assured that their customers will be taken care of. In addition, a positive BBB ranking is a huge draw for many customers. “By our standards, we initially had a less than ideal rating,” Mejia said. “We started a bottom-up approach with customer complaints, examining each one and working to fix it.”

Monitronics began sifting through every BBB complaint, seeking to resolve the issue with the customer, one by one.

“The company really started to focus on the customer experience even more, especially as it related to the BBB complaints,” Roberts said. “So we started digging in and actually looking at the complaints, all the way down to a granular level, to really examine how we can grow and get better as a company and better serve our customers.”

The team discussed every single complaint and listened to the customer service calls relating to each. They reviewed every rep who had touched that account to find out exactly what was done—and whether something could have been done better. The Account Resolution team also worked to create a better, more direct relationship with Monitronics’ dealers, which enabled the reps to better understand customer issues in a broader context. This helped to resolve customer complaints faster and easier.

“That’s how we’ve gradually improved over the months,” Roberts said. “It didn’t happen in a month or two or three, that’s for sure. So far it’s been about an 18-month process.”

The company’s BBB rating is now in the A range—but there’s always room for improvement, Mejia said.

“We have to maintain that,” he said. “And it’s the right thing to do, of course, by the customer and the company. We want to become an A+. That’s our goal.”

Dealer Love

Part of the challenge for dealers can be finding a monitoring partner that acts like one. It’s a simple concept, but many dealers find themselves in dealer programs with a monitoring company that treats them like the competition.

Monitronics works to make dealers feel like a true partner. The company never competes with dealers for customers, backs them up with training and ongoing support, and provides them with industry-leading customer service. Part of Mejia’s and Roberts’ job is ensuring the dealers really are part of the company.

“We’ve seen a change from our employees, who now truly consider the dealers as partners and coworkers,” Roberts said. “We can see the positive impacts of this through improved communication and even our reduced attrition rates.”

This type of cooperation provides seamless support for customers—and helps keep things simple. Too often, home security customers feel overwhelmed by the dealer/monitoring company relationship and may not know who to call. Monitronics customers—and dealers—are covered by a call center team that understands the value of simplifying this relationship.

High-tech on the Horizon

Monitronics believes in continually investing in new technology to better support its dealer base. Mejia said there are several new capabilities on the horizon that will benefit dealers—and customers—even more.

One is workflow-based decisioning software, which guides customer service agents through a series of questions with each customer, enabling them to get more detailed information and provide more accurate assistance.

“This will help us in two ways,” Mejia said. “One, we’ll be able to resolve more customer issues in real-time, over the phone. Two, the series of questions helps the agent focus in on the problem and gives us more information to send to the dealer, which lets them better serve the customer.”

New automated technology also simplifies customer service at Monitronics. Now, customers can confirm or change service appointments using an automated system from Varolli Corp. Eventually, Mejia said, Monitronics will be able to push informative text messages out to customers.

“This is going to be a great value-add for the dealers,” he said. “There are a lot of ways they can use this new technology for their benefit.”

In the near future, Monitronics will also be implementing a new interactive voice response system for customers. The system, which is in the design phase, will automatically identify a customer based on his or her speech patterns.

This will enable customers who call Monitronics to verify their information and pass code and automatically be routed to the correct department. “This will save customers time and effort and really streamline a lot of processes,” Mejia said.

The IVR system also will benefit the customer service reps by automating certain tasks. For example, Monitronics can survey customers about their alarm systems or reach out to customers who need to update their contact information. Automating these types of processes creates a smoother, easier customer experience at every stage.

Experiencing Empowerment

Monitronics’ shift in focus has had long-lasting impacts on reps’ attitudes, the relationship between the call center and the dealer base, and more. As Mejia says, it’s all about empowering each employee to do his or her job well.

“It has that kind of exponential effect,” Mejia said. “People start doing it themselves because they feel empowered. Reps need to feel empowered to fix the issue for both the customer and the dealer.”

That sense of empowerment means Monitronics employees take responsibility for their role in customer service, as well as dealer support. After all, they’re all in it together.

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.

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