The Circle of Life for Your Central Station
Lack of integration in your accounting, service and central station can minimize profitability
- By Victoria Ferro
- Jun 01, 2013
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
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
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Security Today.
About the Author
Victoria Ferro is the president of Micro Key Solutions.