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Security Dealers should ask questions when selecting a monitoring company

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.

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