In December, Dallas moved to a verified response policy for commercial alarm systems, while keeping police response for residential alarm systems. The process leading up to the ordinance was one that was hotly contested, generating a great deal of public input, and seeing numerous "for" and "against" columns and articles in the local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News.
The policy was fought by numerous industry organizations, and none were more involved than the North Texas Alarm Association, which encouraged a letter writing campaign from its members and the customers of its members. Despite an effort to prevent the verified response policy from taking hold, the city council and police department got their way, and today, an alarm monitoring company must have verification from someone on-site that, yes, the alarm is sounding because of a break-in or other crime.
According to Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association and employed with Amazon Alarm Systems in Dallas, the policy not only has created confusion among alarm customers, but will effectively shift the monitoring business model. SecurityInfoWatch.com caught up with Russell, as well as Dave Simon, the senior manager of industry and public relations for Brink's Home Security, to discuss what these changes mean for today's security systems dealer. Their thoughts are shared in the following Q&A.
Dallas has created a policy that gives residential alarms normal police response, but it moves the commercial alarm systems into a verified-response format. How does this change sales calls to businesses, especially to sell systems to new businesses that may be "on the fence" about an alarm system following this ruling?
Chris Russell: Police not responding to burglar alarms does not make an alarm system lose its purpose. The principle reason the customer is looking for an alarm system and the job of the sales representative remains the same. The change involves price and value -- not reason and purpose.
Dave Simon: We emphasize the benefits that they will gain which they don't have now: First, the siren will scare away the perpetrator or at the very least significantly shorten the time they hang around because attention has been called to them. Second, although police are not the initial responders, there is someone coming to investigate that can identify the perpetrators and immediately call for police assistance; and thirdly, the owner and their designated contacts will be aware of the situation because they will also be notified.
How are company representatives (sales staff, monitoring personnel, etc.) being trained on the new policy?
Simon: We have posted general managers with information, and they then explain the changes to their staff. Regarding monitoring personnel, changes are communicated through our company intranet as well as departmental team meetings.
Russell: All company personnel that come into contact [with customers] must be prepared to respond to customer questions and provide directions to assure a smooth transition.
How has the policy in Dallas affected how your company responds to issues of retaining commercial alarm accounts (i.e., satisfying customer confusion, allaying their fears of 'unprotected facilities')?
Russell: This issue has created a great deal of confusion for alarm users. We have residential customers that think the city is not going to respond and some commercial systems (such as banks) that believe they are exempt. In every case, the customer has to be worked with on an individual basis, case by case.
Simon: We explain the changes to them in a letter, outlining what the city has decided and what options they have as customers as well as emphasizing the continuing benefits referenced above.
Is the private guard services industry coming to you with offers for the verification services?