Dealer Profile: Post Alarm

Like most technology, current security systems make their predecessors look ancient.As far as security systems have come over the last few decades, though, the industry has perhaps never seen faster technological evolution than during the past several years. Today, the ability to control a system remotely using an iPhone or iPad has worked its way into the mainstream and it's only the beginning.

Yet as the industry has made strides from 70s rotary phones, to analog dialers and digital communications, many dealers historically have grappled with knowing how to sell customers the "latest and greatest" security technology to increase user convenience and gain additional RMR.

Mastering this skill is more important than ever. That's because in a world where methods of communication are changing rapidly, security professionals who don't embrace new technology and its multiple transformations can put their businesses at risk.

"If customers are engaged with technology and their systems on a regular basis, they're less likely to drop service," said Post Alarm President and Owner Bill Post. "We use the technology of today to make a much stickier customer and protect our business."

Personal service and top technology
Post Alarm began with Bill Post's father, Sam, one of L.A.'s first narcotics detectives in the mid 1950s. What started out as a small guard company founded in a garage grew into an alarm and monitoring business, composed of only a few family members. Today, all members of the Post family work at the more than 50-year-old, full-service alarm company in Southern California.

Post Alarm's philosophy of personal contact has transcended three generations of family owners. It's the philosophy that has helped Post Alarm—which also takes advantage of marketing tools offered by dealer programs such as Honeywell's Commercial Security Systems (CSS) program—navigate through numerous technological advancements that have fundamentally changed how the industry works. The key is using the technology to give prospective customers a personalized experience.

"When potential customers come in to see us, perhaps with outdated equipment and defunct technologies, we provide them with on-the-spot demos to show them the technologies out there in action," Post said. The company has an impressive theater used to demonstrate a control panel, show a remote video of a child returning from school on an iPhone or arm a keypad via an iPad console to show current-day remote technology.

One customer, for example, visited Post Alarm looking for a new solution to arm/disarm a multi-partitioned system. After seating the customer in the Post Alarm surround-sound theater and discussing their current system's capabilities, the company turned the discussion to new technologies. "We showed him the old standby 'workhorse' system he'd been insisting on for years. After showing him what else he could do with his iPhone, the lighting speed of the system helped push him forward. He had to have this new technology," said Post.

From Post's point of view, engaging with customers early and often has helped the company reduce attrition and achieve a steady stream of RMR. "It was true in the era of the rotary dialers and it's still true in today's fast-paced security world. If customers are engaged with a system from the get-go, we see they're less likely to drop service," Post added.

During the last few years the industry has seen customers coming forward wanting additional enhancements and more control over their homes and businesses—consequently, this scenario has helped move the industry to start enhancing security technology. Cluing customers in on the industry's evolving technologies, especially the ever-changing world of alarm communications, has gone a long way for Post Alarm.

"Ten years ago customers were not very engaged with their systems. Standard alarm equipment hadn't evolved with the rest of technology, despite the high-speed connectivity of the Internet," Post said. "This all changed with the digital phone line. We decided five years ago we had to make a choice and started looking at the future." With the last few years' demise of home telephone service, Post Alarm made a decision to standardize all customers on GSM and completely stop using POTS lines.

Making technology 'stick'
Engaging in the latest developments and products undoubtedly helps Post Alarm sell itself and gets new customers in the door. According to Post Alarm, the key to getting a 'sticky' customer, however, is tapping into security users' 24/7 connected, mobile lifestyles.

"We work with a good majority of cell-only installations and that's now almost the standard way to communicate," Post said. "If a customer has an iPhone, we're 100 percent certain he/she will want something like Honeywell's Total Connect, which we offer."
Post Alarm offers Total Connect free for the first three months to any customer with an iPhone. By utilizing the same devices that consumers use to send e-mail, download music and update Facebook or Twitter statuses, Total Connect reaches users in the way they are comfortable communicating, making security more appealing, convenient and easy to use, according to Post.

"We want to be in a position with clients where we've offered them everything and made them aware of features and lifestyle enhancements for homes before they bring it up," Post continued. "The logic is that it gets us back into houses for more services with additional new technologies."

Being proactive with customers has paid off for Post Alarm in low attrition and cancellation rates. Customer retention is especially critical for Post Alarm because customers are not held on contracts. "If a customer wants to leave for whatever reason, we're not happy about it but don't restrict anything," Post said.

Seizing upon new technology and being upfront with customers has always helped Post Alarm push the envelope of services with customers, ensuring the company keeps its existing subscribers and gains new ones. Technology alone, however, isn't enough to make the sale.

"Since the days of my father Sam, Post Alarm has brought together the traditional attributes of an integrator and alarm company up-to-date with technology," Post said. "We've always given our customers as many options as we have in the security space so we simultaneously protect our accounts and advance our business."

About the author: John Lorenty is the Commercial Security Systems leader for Honeywell Security & Communications, Louisville, Ky.