The Right Recipe
Training and support creates effective monitoring
- By Robert Ogle
- Apr 01, 2015
If there’s any doubt about the value of live
monitoring as part of an effective home
security system, consider a self-monitored
system that sends an alert only to the
homeowner. What happens when they’re in an
important business presentation and their smartphone
alerts them that their house is on fire?
Precious minutes get wasted while they excuse
themselves to figure out the extent of the
problem and alert the authorities. When minutes
matter, they’ve got a front-row seat to the
destruction of their property, and that’s a show
nobody wants to watch.
That’s when quick reaction from a central
station becomes important. It can be a big differentiator
when dealers are trying to close a
sale or dissuade customers from do it yourself
Of course, a number of companies do central
station monitoring, so it is quality monitoring
that acts as a true sales differentiator. Monitronics
has spent more than two decades figuring out
the formula, and the results speak for themselves.
Its Alarm Response Center (ARC) didn’t achieve
Five-Diamond Certified Alarm Center status
and IQ Certification by accident, and that makes
a dealer’s case for differentiation even stronger in
the customer’s mind.
Selecting the Right Candidates
Darin Anderson, vice president for monitoring
at Monitronics, says effective central station
monitoring isn’t a secret recipe. It starts with
finding good people who don’t necessarily have
a traditional call center background.
“People who do better in this world are actually
people with good customer service skills
who may come from retail or even a fast-food
environment,” he said. “They’re attentive, customer-
oriented, and they don’t mind repetitious
work. They’re also squeaky-clean from a background
In an effective central monitoring center, repetition
isn’t a negative. Whatever situation may
arise, there has to be consistency, Anderson said,
and it takes a certain type of personality to be
able to follow a methodology that produces an
effective response to emergency situations.
“People who come from a traditional customer
service background like another call center
have usually bounced around a lot between
different types of calls,” he said. “They’re likely to
get bored in our environment. We’re not looking
for someone who’s robotic, but someone who is
smart and can stay focused.”
Scripting plays a big role in being a monitoring
agent, and the best candidates don’t mind the repetition
of following a script in virtually any situation.
“Every scenario has a different script,” Anderson
said. “That creates a consistency in service.
We want our customers to expect the same
service all the time. It also helps us to be more
efficient in handling calls. We want to guide the
call to an efficient, high quality resolution, and be able to move on to the next call. There’s always
another potential emergency waiting.”
Training and Mentoring
After hiring, the next ingredient is a blend of effective
training and real-world observation. Not
everyone who is hired will end up in the ARC,
and 80 hours of full-time instructor-led training
is a good way to identify potential standouts.
Classes ideally consist of anywhere from 10 to 12
candidates who spend their first two weeks in the
classroom, but also spend valuable time on the
floor listening in on real calls and observing action
in the ARC.
“Being paired up with someone and getting
the chance for interaction is an effective job preview,”
Anderson said. “That way, when someone
sits down to take their first call, they’re prepared.”
Once they have passed through the classroom
education and testing, Anderson said, the
training is far from over. Now the recipe calls for
an ingredient that sets Monitronics apart from
many central stations. Call center candidates are
paired with mentors who guide them through
the crucial first weeks on the job, starting with a
full 40 hours of intensive work in full shifts. Now
it’s a mentor’s turn to listen in as new agents handle
real calls. Mentors will jump in if necessary
to make sure that no one’s security is jeopardized
during the training process. The emphasis is on
taking learning to the next level.
“When you’re choosing mentors, you try to
match up the right personality types,” he said,
“whether it’s a new agent who needs a lot of attention
or someone who moves pretty fast and
catches on quickly. Mentoring also gives our
existing operators some sense of ownership in
training the new people coming on the floor.
They get to see who’s coming out and help guide
them, because those are the people who are going
to be sitting next to them on the floor.”
That mentoring process is pivotal, he said.
“The new agents are out there proving to us that
they’re going to be able to take care of customers,
and the mentors play a crucial role in determining
Attrition takes place along the way. Some
people simply decide it’s not the life for them,
while others don’t pass the class. There’s also the
reliability test: Not showing up is the cardinal sin.
“If someone violates the attendance policies up
front, there’s zero tolerance.”
The first three months are crucial, Anderson
said. “We lose some after 30 days, and some more
after 60 days, but if someone makes it through
90 days, it’s a good investment. We’ll generally be
able to keep them for at least a year or more.”
Consistent Staffing Levels
The final ingredient is staffing, and making sure
there are enough agents on the floor at any given
time to handle calls that might arise. It would
seem like an inexact science, but sophisticated
software—along with good old-fashioned intuition—
has helped to put a finer point on the process.
Employees don’t follow traditional “shifts”
in their work hours. Instead, there is a constant
flow of agents coming and going at various times
throughout the day.
“We try to staff differently than everyone
else,” Anderson said. “Service level consistency
is our goal. We want to have the right number
of people here around the clock, and that means
that people are here to handle a call quickly and
efficiently at 6 a.m. or at 6 p.m. We want to provide
that level of consistency no matter when
someone has an alarm event.”
When all the ingredients are combined, the
end result is the kind of customer experience that
Monitronics encourages throughout the process,
from the first customer contact at the dealer level
to the first alert for the Alarm Response Center.
“Other companies train their people, and
the material is mostly the same, but I think the
difference for us is the mindset,” he said. “We’re
here for a reason, and there’s a purpose for what
we’re doing. Our monitoring center concentrates
strictly on monitoring, and leaves customer support
or sales to other areas. In our call center, we
keep that focus on monitoring.
“So, if you get the right person, train them
correctly and give them good support, then
you’re off and running. It’s a whole system where
the right training, the right resources and the
right timing equals success. And that’s what
makes us different.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Security Today.