Two weeks ago, we published the first part of this series "Best Practices in Managing the Central Station: Part 1", which sought input from two companies that were recognized by the CSAA as top central station companies. Vector Security was named Central Station of the Year, and Rick Raper from Alarm Detection Systems was named Central Station Manager of the Year. SecurityInfoWatch.com sought the input from both of these companies to talk about issues like employee retention, customer service, business accuracy and more.
The first part of this series addressed how the companies developed hiring practices to ensure they get the right employees, and then touched on incentive programs designed to keep motivation and satisfaction levels high among employees. The one thing that all our respondents shared was that good central station service comes from satisfied employees. Now, in our second part, we look at how these companies get beyond simple incentive programs to create real community among operators, and then we close with a look at how "soft skills" of central station managers shape monitoring best practices.
While incentive programs and other forms of recognition like those mentioned in Part 1 can keep your central station monitoring employees sharp, Vector Security's Pam Petrow, the company's executive vice president, says that keeping satisfied employees means creating a positive work environment and creating a sense of community among central station operators.
First off, says Petrow, the company's central stations aren't designed to be sleek impersonal facilities just for show to potential clients. At Vector's central stations (they have four), you can expect to see collages of employees, murals, recognition of community services projects.
"We've taken a very different approach, at least different from most of the central stations that I've visited," says Petrow. "Vector central stations are different from what I call one of the "showpiece" central stations where a lot of times those central stations are designed for the customer to see. What we found is that although our central stations are always open for our customers, the people that are living there are our operators, so we try to spend more time making the environment more friendly for our operators than making it cosmetically appealing to our customers. It's not that we don't care about what our customers see, but that's not as important as the environment we're trying to create for our employees."
Creating a sense of community, of course, extends well beyond photos of employees on the walls.
Petrow and Ted Stoler, the assistant vice president and manager in charge of Vector's East Central Station in Plymouth Meeting, Penn., say that good central station managers can create a continuing calendar of events to keep employees looking forward to work.
"We are a huge believer that you've got to create an environment that's a fun place to work, that people want to come to," says Petrow. "Each of our central stations has multiple events each month. We have minor events and major events. If it's summer, we might have a barbecue outside where we'll supply the meat and the grill, and the operators bring in the sides they want. Or we've had some very elaborate programs; we've had Oscar ceremonies that we've even been able to use for team building. Each of the teams picks a movie they want to do, and they dress for the day, and they may even decorate the central station. It can be very elaborate, or it can be quite simple. For the Kentucky Derby, everybody picks a horse and we have a derby day. We try to do days and events continually so people have something to look forward to and something to get excited about."
Vector Security's operators also become involved in community service projects. One station is responsible for a highway clean-up. Their Pittsburgh station is heavily involved in Project Bundle-Up, a Salvation Army-coordinated project that provides needy and disabled citizens with warm clothes. Food drives are also a staple of Vector's stations community service projects.