Give and Take

Dealers’ success tied to customer service, relationships

Monitoring is the cornerstone of the residential security industry—whether a dealer is maintaining an account itself or selling the contract to a third party. It is vital for dealers to establish a strong relationship with a monitoring company that understands the vision and direction of the dealers’ business. A monitoring company helps dealers ensure their customers are protected while delivering exceptional customer service to retain the account and add services over time. A good relationship also can help grow the dealer’s business through a partnership based on key principles and best business practices.

Success starts with an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the dealer and monitoring company. In some cases, monitoring companies often become residents’ most common point of interaction, so choosing the right one is crucial. Dealers using wholesale monitoring— in-house or through dealer-owned accounts—need to make sure their central station partner is reliable and responsive.

Focus on the Customer
In-house accounts allow a dealer to maintain a personal relationship with customers while using a large central station to manage monitoring. This consistent interaction offers dealers the opportunity to build brand awareness on a foundation of strong customer service from properly trained operators and advanced technology only found with a monitoring company. Third-party monitoring companies provide dealers with a cost-effective way to guarantee a high level of customer service, a streamlined management process and additional methods to increase revenue.

“Keeping my accounts in-house was an easy choice because I wanted to develop extended supplemental income,” said John Loud of Loud Security, a Georgia-based security dealer. “In addition to selling and installing, I retain recurring revenue on a monthly basis because I receive the customers’ monthly package premiums.”

An alternate option for dealers is to sell a customer’s account to a central station. This allows dealers to focus on what they do best—selling and installing. By removing the arduous tasks associated with managing a monitored account— billing, updating contact information and ongoing customer service—dealers can concentrate their efforts and specialize in other aspects of the business.

Many times, dealers who are selling customer accounts opt into an authorized dealer program to take advantage of product discounts, co-op marketing programs, sales and management training, structured funding programs and other opportunities that come with the deeper partnership.

“We have both wholesale and retail accounts. The biggest benefit from our retail accounts is the cash flow we receive on a regular basis,” said David Gray of I Am Guarded, a Florida-based security dealer. “Originally, we were strictly a wholesale dealer, but when we saw how selling accounts would contribute to sustaining our business by providing consistent up-front income, it was the right fit for us.”

Strong monitoring companies excel in customer service, and dealers experience increased confidence that their customers feel secure with the monitoring and services they receive. Because central stations are, in essence, an extension of the security dealership, dealers need to feel comfortable with—and rely on—the customer service the central station provides.

“When we selected our monitoring company, we were looking for a partner who did business the way we did,” said Dan Lanier of Amsafe, a Florida-based security company. “Our monitoring partner builds personal relationships with their dealers, services our customers and continues to build its reputation with each success.”

State-of-the-Art Monitoring
Up-to-date technology is another component of successful monitoring. Several new technologies have emerged in the last few years to improve monitoring, making services more accurate and efficient. The Internet is not only providing a new transmission method for alarm signals, but also allowing for a new monitoring interface for both dealers and residents. Cellular communication is becoming an indispensable technology as more residents choose not to have a land line. And, video monitoring appears to be the next must-have in a growing number of markets as alarm verification becomes a reality.

Internet interface systems, or Webbased monitoring systems, are becoming increasingly popular because they allow dealers and end users to monitor account activity such as alarms and supervisory notifications. Customers see great value in this service, and dealers are able to increase the monthly package premiums and improve their recurring revenue streams as a result.

“Web-based monitoring enables us to analyze the signals from our accounts every day and remain on top of problems as events occur,” Lanier said. “Our staff can review the activity at any time and notify customers of supervisory or alarm activity even before they are aware something is wrong. In turn, we are adding an additional service to better protect their homes.”

Web-based monitoring also allows customers to self-monitor the activity at their homes and businesses. End users receive a notification from the dealer or central station via e-mail or video over the Internet and are able to verify the activity with the authorities, regardless of location. This convenient service is becoming increasingly popular among latchkey-kid families and as a reaction to the implementation of verified- response and no-response policies.

“We look to the monitoring company as the first line of defense for our customers,” Lanier said. “Our customers are confident they’re being looked after by advanced technology and competent people.”

The Role of Cellular
As the business and personal worlds become increasingly wireless, cellular emerges as an important technology. According to a recent study by Mediamark Research, there are more cell-phone-only households in the United States than not, and only 29 percent of houses use land lines exclusively.

This trend presents both a challenge and an opportunity for many dealers and monitoring companies. One answer is a cellular-based or a cellular backup alarm system—sending its alarm signal not over traditional phone lines, but over the same airwaves the cell phone uses.

Another important evolution associated with cellular communications is the ability to self-monitor. By notifying customers of alarm activity via short message service, central stations can transmit information at any time, improving customer confidence in security systems and monitoring. Providing cellular communication interfaces as additional services to customers encourages their involvement in monitoring the security of their home and increases the overall value they see in the system.

Policy may dictate some of the next technology trends. Alarm verification is becoming a reality as many jurisdictions implement or head toward no-response policies. These policies require confirmed verification from end users prior to dispatching authorities. Video verification and other video services are entering the market in answer to this problem. The technology enables monitoring stations to verify a problem and take the necessary steps to respond to the situation.

“With both residential and commercial customers, states are heading toward video verification,” Gray said. “It’s a great way to reduce false alarms and taxpayer expense.”

Dealers, manufacturers, distributors and installers will be incorporating innovative monitoring technology into their systems to respond to new regulations and policies. The dealer/monitoring company relationship will become more imperative as technology advances and increases the dependency between the two entities.

Securing the Partnership
The dealer and central station relationship, and the partners’ ability to work together to provide quality technology, directly affects the customer’s experience. For customers to see value in their security systems, it’s necessary that the relationship be consistently developed and maintained.

The residential security industry is bursting at the seams. It’s crucial for dealers and central stations to work together to provide the most up-to-date technology equipment and services for customers. Each relies on the other to supplement what they’re offering, and only when the relationship is firing on all cylinders can each party maximize service to its respective clients and residents.

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