Aurora, CO â€“ As you walk into the nerve center of ADTâ€™s national account monitoring center in Aurora, you are immediately struck by its vastness and silence. This would not be such a shock if it werenâ€™t for the fact that this huge well-lit open space contains 300 service reps all busy on telephones interacting with customers and supervisors scurrying from station to station monitoring the staff. This silence amongst the chaos of security incidents characterizes the strict regimen each employee in the center has adopted to help make the operation one of the most impressive of its kind.
Masked by a â€œwhite noiseâ€ apparatus in the central monitoring service area, the hush belies the urgency of the business at hand. The Aurora Center, which is the headquarters of ADTâ€™s domestic monitoring operations, is one of five major facilities in the US. Others are housed in Omaha, Rochester, Kansas City and Jacksonville. It was in the mid-1990s when ADT decided to move away from its small regional call centers into the present mega-center arrangement.
For Craig Sparkman, the executive director of national accounts monitoring centers, the move was an essential driver in ADT taking the next step in meeting customer demands.
â€œWe are now able to have traffic moved to the alarm center venue that is most effective to meet the needs of the incident. It has also allowed us a high-level of redundancy to move customers caught in events like hurricanes or power outages,â€ said Sparkman, citing hurricane Katrina and the 1994 New York City blackout as real-life examples of how the ADT redundant system has worked.
The monitoring center is divided into four major workgroups. The â€œOutboundâ€ emergency dispatch operators handle alarm monitoring and notification. The â€œInboundâ€ customer service specialist deal with customer issues, problems and complaints. The technical assistance specialists are present to solve technology and system issues, while the fourth group provides data management and down line loading exclusive to ADTâ€™s commercial accounts.
A typical day at the national account monitoring center is staggering. The center will handle more than 6,000 duress, fire or burglary calls; 3,500 supervisory alarms or trouble signals; around 7,500 schedule-related alarms that include fail-to-open and fail-to-close alarms; 6,000 customer service calls, and another 2,300 technical assistance calls.
â€œIf you just look at the numbers by themselves, the workload is potentially overwhelming. But that is why the training we put our employees through is so intense. We want them to have experience in every type of alarm and response scenario before they are ever allowed on the main floor,â€ said Sparkman, who runs three shifts of 125 people twenty-four/seven. â€œAfter two weeks of intensive training, all customer service personnel must pass a 21-point review and then they graduate as a group to the main floor. But even then, they are still heavily monitored during their first year.â€
These new â€œrecruitsâ€ are assigned to the outbound or inbound monitoring stations only for the first year and follow a strict script. They are not allowed to move into the specialized service areas in commercial or high-end monitoring environments until proving themselves under fire on the main floor.
While the volume of alarm scenarios are seemingly overwhelming, managementâ€™s expectations for performance is even more daunting, according to Sparkman. He related that his team is able to respond to 85 percent of inbound and technical assistance calls within 18 seconds and 90 percent of high priority alarms within a minute. Other alarm response times are just as stringent, he adds.