Signing a third-party central station provider agreement is like signing a contract for a car — one you likely will drive for decades. A trade-in is rarely possible. Security dealers need to be aware that it is quite difficult — even painful — to change monitoring center services; thus, it is paramount to get it right the first time.
Most dealers are good at connecting with their local community, identifying potential customers, and servicing or updating boxes and panels. However, especially at the small-to-midsized level, providing 24x7 phone response, billing, advanced training and other services is usually outside the alarm company’s scope of competence. The answer, typically, is to sign an agreement with a third-party central station provider.
“It is a different kind of ‘purchase,’” explains Daniel Oppenheim, vice president of Affiliated Monitoring, Union City, NJ. “The day you pick your monitoring center is the day it all begins — not the end of the purchase.” He notes that it is important for any monitoring station to offer the tools to provide a local dealer with a full suite of interactive apps and services so the local dealer can focus on servicing customers.
What to Look for in a Partner
On top of a technology vision, a good central station monitoring partner has to provide training, both on sales and service, says Jay Stuck, vice president of operations and CMO for New Jersey-based Monitor America LLC. “As we get into new technologies, you need a partner who will help you sell — who will help raise your RPU (revenue per user),” he says.
“Look for a company with experience, the proper credentials, and proven reputation for reliability,” advises Jim McMullen, President and COO of COPS Monitoring. The Williamstown, NJ-based firm operates central stations in New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. He says dealers should look at a central station’s disaster recovery plan and response times when local conditions — for example, a blizzard or hurricane — affects their central station.
“Dealers often need to find third-party central stations that do more than just monitoring,” McMullen adds. “We offer services to answer a dealer’s phone in their name to make sure that their customers get the personal attention and expertise when the dealer is unavailable, perform subscriber billing on behalf of the dealer, collect payments if they need us to and more.”
Oppenheim says a third-party central station provider should be there to relieve the burdens of billing, overnight answering and other nitty-gritty activities that free the local dealer to focus on their own core competencies. “We know there are a lot of things only our dealers can do — build relationships, understand their local market, have a customer-service and install team,” Oppenheim says. “We tailor our services to the dealer.”
Other dealers need help giving their company and marketing materials a professional look. COPS, for example, will help dealers with marketing support, such as brand development, website creation, and business card and other marketing materials through exclusive relationships. “We can also help a dealer by giving them buying power and discounted equipment purchases,” McMullen says.
“Many dealers look for a central station that can also give them the tools and value-added services that can help give them a competitive edge,” McMullen continues. “They need fast and convenient access to their account base and a robust set of online tools to help them serve their customers,” he says, noting COPS Monitoring’s MPower dealer access system, which gives dealers information they need to serve their customers properly. Dealers can enter and edit their own accounts, run a variety of reports to help manage their business and to help identify false alarms, and they can even watch in real time as the signals are received at the central station.