The Circle of Life for Your Central Station

Lack of integration in your accounting, service and central station can minimize profitability

What job function does the staff of full-service central stations spend the most time performing? Processing signals? Taking calls? No! The answer is data entry.

Data entry is the foundation that drives the central station’s business. The customer’s basic information, contact information, central-station related information, recurring billing information and service information are all vital components. Not only do central stations data staff enter this information once, they are doing it multiple times over multiple software platforms.

Let’s take a moment to review the cyclical relationship between these main functions of a fullservice central station. First and foremost, at a basic level they monitor the customer’s accounts. Second, they need to bill those customers on a recurring basis. Third, they install new customers and service existing customers. Fourth, they need to “bill” for those installations and service calls. An integrated software platform delivers a single point of entry for central stations and has built-in checks and balances to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Starting with the basic customer data entry, an integrated system requires you only enter the information once. You shouldn’t need to enter the same customer information in two software platforms— accounting and central station automation software. There also should be an automated process to verify that all accounts being monitored are being billed. How much time does your staff take to perform this audit manually? This inefficient use of time is eating away your profits.

Next, there is the service department performing installation, testing accounts with the central station, and making service calls. A lot of service departments still run manually, using a combination of a white board, Outlook and paper. These departments have service technicians who tie up operator’s time-testing accounts in the field, rather than processing real signals. They continue to provide service to customers who owe them money because there is no link to the accounting program. And the only service history that’s available lives in a seldom used file cabinet.

Most alarm dealers try accommodating this obstacle by scheduling appointments using Outlook and a big white board in their service department. Guess what happens the next day? All your service and scheduling history is gone. Not to mention that you may or may not have provided service to a customer who owes you money, throwing good money after bad money. Too much emphasis is now placed on hoping the technician remembers what calls/services he did that day so you can accurately bill your customers.

Service departments also should be using technology to place accounts on and off test via smartphone or tablet devices versus calling in and speaking to an operator. Operators can handle true signals versus tests. Using this type of technology will decrease operator staffing requirements and ultimately leads to increased efficiency of your service department.

We are living in an age of evolved and affordable technology. The level of manual, inefficient, duplicate data entry that exists in central stations is astonishing. Efficient and industry-specific technology not only increases an organization’s bottom line, but also enables them to provide superior service to their customers. One of the most important investments a full-service central station can make is selecting an integrated central station automation and accounting solution. An investment in the right solution will eliminate duplicate data-entry headaches, increase the efficiency of the service department, and ensure that you are billing and collecting money for the services you are providing.

Tackling these three problem areas of your business will increase your profitability and bottom line.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Victoria Ferro is the president of Micro Key Solutions.

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