Ask Every Question
Security Dealers should ask questions when selecting a monitoring company
- By Jim McMullen
- Apr 01, 2017
Dealers and systems integrators who specialize in selling
alarm equipment know that once the sale is made, the
transaction may be complete, but the customer relationship
is just beginning. How the central monitoring
is handled is a direct reflection of the dealer or integrator
providing or subcontracting the service. Therefore, perhaps one
of the most important decisions a dealer can make is to partner with
a reliable and professional wholesale monitoring company. After all,
what good is an investment in alarm technology if the monitoring
service fails to deliver?
There are several critical areas to consider when choosing an
alarm monitoring service. On the surface, monitoring companies
may look the same, but when you know what questions to ask, you
may discover significant differences:
Type of monitoring company: Does the company focus on being
the best at one thing, or is wholesale monitoring a side business?
Do you want a company that is 100 percent wholesale, or are
you comfortable doing business with a provider that also has their
own retail accounts? Companies that are 100-percent wholesale are
100-percent reliant on revenue from alarm companies (“Dealers”).
As a result, you may find wholesale-only monitoring companies
are more in-tune with meeting the needs of their Dealer customers.
On the other hand, companies that also have retail operations essentially
have three business focuses: Selling/installing alarm systems,
monitoring their own accounts, and monitoring accounts for Dealers.
People: Does the alarm monitoring company you are considering
select the right employees, and emphasize training, industry certification
and employee retention?
The success of central station monitoring is all about service, and
service is all about people. Central station alarm dispatchers are essentially
a representative of the Dealer that sold and installed the system.
The person representing your company matters. It’s important to
choose an alarm monitoring service that carefully selects employees
who want to be and are fit to be dispatchers.
COPS Monitoring, for example, conducts personality profiles and
industrial psychological testing of all potential employees to discern
whether their skillset and personality type are a match for the demands
of being a dispatcher. COPS engages employees in vigorous training,
ensuring they work to achieve industry accreditation such as Central
Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Five Diamond certification.
Redundancy/Load Sharing: Does the alarm monitoring company
you are considering have multiple monitoring stations that can
share the load to ensure 24/7 coverage, even in the event of a natural
disaster or emergency?
It’s important to probe what methods the potential monitoring
service has in-place to ensure 24/7 coverage. Today’s monitoring
companies need to have more than one location, however, just because
a monitoring company has more than one facility doesn’t mean
they will always work together to provide continuous coverage.
A monitoring service might offer redundancy that provides backup
that “fires up” so to speak if a primary central station goes offline.
This is coverage and it is beneficial, however, the preferred—and better—
coverage is active load sharing. Active load-sharing means there
are not really “primary” and “backup” facilities from an alarm-handling
perspective. Alarm response and related tasks are distributed to
second, third—or more—stations regularly to ensure more consistent
and reliable response times and other quality levels.
Technology/Services: Does the alarm monitoring company you
are considering continually invest in research, software development
and exceeding industry testing standards?
It is important that any monitoring company being considered
by an alarm dealer anticipate—and not just react—to technology
demands. First and foremost, it’s essential to ask what services are
provided. Does it include fire, burglary, and medical (Personal Emergency
Response Systems/Medical Alerts) monitoring? Do they have
two-way monitoring, video monitoring, or even customized monitoring
solutions that might lie outside of the realm of routine needs?
With all that is involved in delivering services—geo-diversity, hot
redundant systems, network and data security challenges, alarm traffic
load balancers, GPS technologies, bandwidth needs, and the like—
a monitoring company has to be very sophisticated.
Ask what software the company uses, what their in-house capabilities
for supporting their software are, and if they have integrations via
an application program interface (API). Find out if they offer a customer
relationship management (CRM) program for your business. You
should know what they do to help ensure that the private data on Dealers
and their customers is secure. UL or ETL listings/certifications are
an absolute minimum in considering an alarm monitoring company.
It’s important to ask how the company has exceeded UL standards. FM
approval is another important consideration, as is IQ Certification. The
Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Five Diamond certification
is an indicator of excellence and commitment and should be at the top
of any potential monitoring company’s credentials.
Company Stability: Does the alarm monitoring company you
are considering have an established reputation in the industry and
a commitment to providing services to your company indefinitely?
The alarm monitoring industry is based on trust. Customers seek
help when they are often at their most vulnerable moment. When
considering an alarm monitoring company, it is important to ask how
long they have been in business to determine if they are truly committed
to the cause. Also, ask about their future plans concerning the
business. Central stations are routinely bought and sold; therefore,
you should ensure you are choosing a company with roots, longevity,
a solid reputation—and a vision for the future.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.