Cruzin’ with Susan: The New Age Central Station

Jim German
Senior Vice President
Security Associates International, Inc.
Technology has always played and will continue to play a huge role in central station operations. Accuracy and the speed at which information is accessed is probably the number one benefit the more recent advances in technology have provided to central stations. The faster information is relayed to our operators, the faster they can respond to the situation and hence the safer the subscriber.

Technology has also allowed subscribers to be more a part of their security process. Improved technology allows customers to remotely monitor their systems, video images can be transmitted in seconds to a PDA and customers are now going online to check their daily alarm activity. Thanks to technology, subscribers see how their security system is working for them every day, providing for increased usage and frequent recognition of the value their system provides. As a result, companies are seeing lower attrition rates—a direct result of getting the customer involved in the process.

At SAI, we are constantly introducing dealers to new services, technologies, advancements and up-sell opportunities. At times it can be somewhat overwhelming for any dealer to keep on top of it all. However, dealers are excited, just like we are, to provide their customers with more value and expand their relationship with their customers.

The introduction of new technology and products takes time. First, you must introduce dealers to the new service or technology and ensure they understand the features and benefits. Then, of course, they have to turn to their customers and educate them on the service as well.

Dealers always need to look for fresh ways to approach customers with upgraded or new services. It’s simply not the same as selling the basic monitoring services of the past. New products and services need to be clearly presented in such a way that consumers quickly comprehend the benefits, but more importantly, believe they can easily adopt these new technologies into their everyday lives. Educating and reminding customers you are looking out for their best interest and only introducing them to the services they truly need will enhance the dealer-customer relationship.

What has surprised us and our dealers is the end user’s desire to become more actively involved with their security system’s information and operation. Many of our new services support both the dealer’s and customer’s wish to have more hands-on involvement with their security purchases.

Three of the most popular services SAI provides, in addition to our residential and commercial monitoring services, are: WebNet, a service that provides dealers with real-time access to all subscriber accounts through SAI’s WebNet Account Management service; and Customer Internet Access (CIA), an online service that gives subscribers control of their security system’s account information. Additionally, MyFunding allows SAI’s Authorized Dealers to see in real-time where their accounts are in the funding process. Dealers are notified of any issues that may delay funding so they can rectify them immediately, and they also know exactly when and how much they can expect to be paid.

Don Maden
Executive Vice President
COPS Monitoring
Primarily, technology is allowing us to give our dealers more time through convenience and simplicity. Also, since COPS Monitoring uses proprietary software, we have the ability to more easily implement almost anything we feel will truly make us more effective, efficient, and reliable. The bottom line is that our dealers realize better service and cost savings.

Because of the new technology, there is often a change in the way dealers sell, since these are not the traditional types of alarm services, but they do complement them. As more dealers get into integration, there is a more open-minded approach to what else they can sell to their account bases.

The industry trend is toward selling more services because a large percentage of end users like purchasing “bundled” services from companies they feel are reputable. Dealers need to continue to think more along the lines of delivering high quality, bundled services. One of our most popular services is Radio & Cellular “back-up.” It is being used more and more as a primary reporting path due to the challenges dealers are facing as many homeowners change their regular telephone service to VoIP.

Another very popular service for COPS Monitoring is Dealer Access, which allows our dealers to access and manage their accounts through a secure, access portion of our Web site. They have robust database management, customizable reporting, and various other abilities.

We also offer this service on a subscriber-level that can have the “look and feel” like the dealer’s site. This frees up a dealer’s time by empowering the end user and reducing the amount of phone calls made to their office personnel.

COPS also offers GPS vehicle tracking and monitoring through COP-A-TRAK. This is an ideal service for commercial, fleet-type vehicle companies or individuals that will add to a dealer’s recurring revenue. We provide a number of other services that will add RMR and help with false alarms such as enhanced verification, notification to customers via text message to their cell phone or e-mail and of course, video monitoring.

Michael Riley
Director of Central Station Service
Michigan Monitoring
Internet monitoring is bridging a gap in today’s alarm market by providing solutions to accommodate end users who have started utilizing TCP/IP, VoIP or cellular.

Dealerweb is allowing dealers and their staff to perform some rather time-consuming tasks in a more efficient manner. For example, a dealer meeting with the local AHJ for a fire inspection can now provide a copy of the alarm activity by logging into the dealerweb account and printing it out.

Some dealers are starting to take advantage of alternate services, however more need to do so. Dealers need a better understanding as to the ramifications of attempting to transmit alarm signals over a VoIP. We encourage our dealers to understand that transmitting signals over VoIP is not recommended, and it will, in all practical sense, fail to work at some time or another. They also need to understand that technologies are available today to safely transmit alarm signals in these circumstances.

Our most popular service is Internet monitoring. It provides a clear advantage by providing a secure alarm transport path from the subscriber location to the central station. We can now offer encrypted, UL-listed services at very competitive pricing.

Peter P. Giacalone
Executive Vice President
SafetyCare, Inc.
Although the human aspect of the services we provide is the essence of what the clients subscribe to, leveraging the technology to enhance these services is the real magic. With the use of the robust GE MASterMind automation system, we have taken the central station business to a new level. Databasing detailed personal information such as full medical histories while giving clients full access to view and modify this information via the Internet opened the doors.

So, technology plays a huge role when you look at the integration of automation systems, IP telephone systems and digital recordings of both voice calls and video all working as one seamless system, even though the systems are from different vendors and platforms.

Dealers are finally seeing the value in services that are tangible to the well-being of the consumer. Initially it was, and in some cases still is, a challenge, as dealers have been put in a very unfortunate position in which even they view monitoring as a commodity.

Transitioning from monitoring services to robust services that may include services such as counseling, nurses, video, medical records, etc. is similar to the transition from tape dialers to central station monitoring. Offering and delivering these services will not only bridge a gap that will increase customer satisfaction, but it does this while delivering greater profits to the dealer through increased monthly revenue and more referrals.

We have found, through the results of an independent market research including focus groups with consumers, that the consumer is seeking tangible services. Consumers understand that security is the peace of mind that they attain from a variety of elements in their lives. Although it includes the physical security of their premise, it does not stop there. The biggest element is the well being of their family, which includes physical, medical and psychological security.

Steven Coppola, Jr.
Vice-President – Technical Division Statewide Central Station
Technology plays such an important role that we recently made a huge investment in new systems and new software. Our receivers are able to handle all signal types. Our system uses Caller ID to memorize and recognize format for quicker alarm transmission.

Of course, a major concern today is Disaster Recovery, and we need to be sure the clients served by our dealers will be protected even if our facility is compromised by a massive disaster. Thus, in addition to our “on-premise” back-up power supplies and generators, fortified and protected entrances and redundant building, premises, and personal security, our firm has invested in the most secure off-site back-up services available. We use a Disaster Recovery Center housed in a 27,000-sq.-ft. facility located in Michigan. The 28-station facility uses all of our central station automation features and has uninterrupted power supply and multiple PBX switches.

Our more successful dealers are the ones who are taking advantage of new technology, such as our Internet access, and having their designated clients/end users directly access their own accounts. End users are directly viewing account information, making changes, printing reports, etc.

Security dealers need to introduce customers to the benefits of new technology available today with the same approach that has worked in this business and in all businesses for generations: communication, communication, communication. Dealers who are growing (both in volume and in their use of new technology) are the dealers who communicate with their customer base frequently via mailings, reminders, newsletters, postcards, etc.

Kevin C. McCarthy
National Sales Manager
EMERgency 24
EMERgency 24 has always integrated new technologies into its services. Doing so enables our dealers to: stay competitive in the marketplace, build their businesses, increase their revenue streams and make their day-to-day administrative duties easier.

The nature of third-party central stations is that some of our dealers embrace technology while others shy away from change. The ones that do see the benefits of technology use it to increase their sales offerings by becoming knowledgeable on new product and services and then selling these solutions to their customers.

Our newest technological offerings for dealers include the various types of Internet monitoring: Icom, Ethercom and Netcom. We have developed the software solution to cross-zoning requirements. Dealers will no longer have to replace the panel on their legacy accounts, they may only have to add additional sensors to cover a premise and protect their customers.

EMERgency 24’s Subscriber Internet Service is very popular among our dealers. This service gives the subscriber limited access to their account information. They can make temporary changes to their party list, add or delete passcodes from the system, and even place the account on test and view history. This free service to our dealers allows them to increase their recurring revenue by charging the subscriber a monthly fee, if they should choose to do so.

Video monitoring is another service that is becoming more popular as equipment prices are starting to drop. Because of this drop, we are starting to see an increase in residential applications, where in the past video was limited to commercial users.