Drawing a Fine Line

Drawing a Fine Line

People are fascinated by innovation

Drawing a Fine LineTechnological advancement drives our society, our feats and failures, our hopes and possibilities. Samsung’s 2013 ad for the Galaxy Gear, best described as a phone and computer inside a wristwatch, hit all the nostalgic high points by taking us through the old TV programs and movies that featured this “futuristic” device. Their unique selling proposition: “We’ve made fantasy a reality.” Their tagline: “The next big thing is here.”

“The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” are classics for good reason. We’re fascinated by what can happen in the future. Technology has touched all industries, and home security, in particular, has transformed itself over the last three years. Sales representatives are pitching a new kind of system that taps into our gadget-driven urges.

“Home automation” just sounds cooler to a consumer, doesn’t it? As a consumer, I say, “Yes, it does.” It references a more comprehensive product with the ability to manage a security system from anywhere on a computer, smartphone or tablet, delivering a new comfort level to homeowners. Traveling or working parents can know if their child returned home at a certain time because they can watch live or recorded video of their home from virtually anywhere. And, they can control home temperature, lights or appliances during seasonal months, when electricity bills can swell to hundreds of dollars.

Dealers just need to remember one thing: Security— the promise to help protect customers’ lives and property—must remain at the core of their business.

Growth and a Cherry on Top

A 2013 study by ASIS International (ASIS) and the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM) showed a booming market for security. It is a $350 billion market, according to “The United States Security Industry: Size and Scope, Insights, Trends, and Data” report, with some $282 billion consisting of private sector spending.

What’s more, 17 security companies made “The 2013 Inc. 5000 List” that recognizes America’s fastest-growing businesses based on self-reported, growth data.

Technology has redefined the meaning of home and commercial security. It’s now just as much about having a “smart” home as it is about having a “secure” home. Monitored alarm systems are great, but remote control usage of the system and common household appliances means unprecedented RMR ranges for dealers.

Some customers must be convinced that they need an alarm system in their neighborhood, because everyone wants to save money. Dealers can stress that a $50 to $60 monthly monitoring rate is a practical exchange for lower, “greener” energy bills, along with 24/7 monitored protection of property. And, of course, there’s no price on knowing that loved ones are safe.

Sales representatives are reaching a new type of customer who may enjoy the idea of daily interaction with their system on a Web-enabled device, just as they would with Facebook or Twitter.

For many homeowners, however, automation is merely a helpful add-on in their efforts to stay safe. Adam, a home security customer, for example, installed cameras in and around his house after the birth of his first child. He enjoys having the freedom to check in on his baby’s crib from his smartphone while he’s at work.

“It’s just an added benefit, another safety measure,” he said. “And, it’s a pretty cool feature, too. Like a cherry on top.”

A Stickier Customer

Let’s face it, home security isn’t nearly as exciting as home automation. Most people won’t buy the Samsung Galaxy Gear because it’s a watch that tells time. They’ll buy it because it’s an all-inclusive, electronic gizmo that lets them call friends and family, check their email and listen to music.

Despite security’s large growth potential, some prospective customers already feel safe and don’t see the need for yet another monthly bill. Statistics say only 15 percent of U.S. homes have an alarm system and certainly the entire 15 percent isn’t using theirs on a daily basis.

A home automation package can, in theory, lead to a longer-term customer. Interactive services give people daily interaction with their system. For example, after checking a text message, they can arm their system or lock their front door with a simple tap on their phone. It reinforces the value of that extra bill.

That’s great, but security companies— new and traditional—can’t lose sight of their overall mission.

Superior Monitoring, Customer Service

As the security market grows, so does the competition. Telecom giants AT&T and Time Warner now offer home automation solutions with their cable, phone and Internet packages. It’s an evolving digital gold rush for all players involved with new products and new upsell opportunities. But, the keys to sustained industry success haven’t changed: elite alarm monitoring, customer service and customer education.

Bells and whistles aside, most customers buy an alarm system because they want to feel safe, and they want their family to feel safe. A burglar attacks a U.S. home every 15 seconds, according to Alarm.org. A mother or father doesn’t want to feel as if home security is merely bundled with TV service.

In addition to home automation packages, traditional companies, like Monitronics and their authorized dealers, can lean on decades of monitoring experience. Their Five Diamond Certified Alarm Response Center has highly-trained and certified operators standing ready to assist customers during burglary, fire, carbon monoxide and medical emergencies. Monitronics has partnered with agencies to reduce false alarms and dispatch emergency information electronically in select cities.

It’s critical that a customer understands home automation at the time of sale. Walking customers through a triggered remote event that fits their lifestyle will help prevent future dissatisfaction with their system and provide an extra service touch that often nets referrals. A company’s technician should not complete their install until the customer has proven they understand the fundamentals of their new interactive services plan—at least the most common things they’ll do with their security system.

There’s real value and peace of mind in being able to check on your house at any time. There’s also comfort in having a 24/7 certified operator there.

It’s every company’s goal (or should be) to validate current and potential customers’ trust as a security provider. This business is, after all, about protecting people.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Security Today.

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