It is an understatement to say that the home security space is getting crowded; in fact, it is a little like a poker game where traditional security companies have been joined by new players who are bringing sizable bankrolls to the table.
Established cable/broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast; worldwide brands like Google, Amazon, Samsung and Apple; and a growing field of DIY entrants are now placing their bets in home security and home automation. That would seem to leave many existing security providers in a precarious position — searching for a way to effectively compete with only a fraction of the resources.
The stakes are high, but experience means the established players have a major edge, according to CEO Jeff Gardner of Monitronics Security, which recently renamed to MONI. “Security companies have a wealth of knowledge in the space,” he says. “Home security is what we do, and we do it better than any of the larger new players who want to invade our industry. They don’t come close to our level of expertise or customer service.”
That expertise is a huge advantage in many ways, particularly when it comes to controlling false alarms. That’s where IQ — or “Installation Quality” — Certification can make a difference for both monitoring stations and security dealers.
Industry statistics and internal data and research from MONI reveals that approximately 99 percent of alarm calls are false alarms. They are a major source of conflict in the relationships between alarm dealers/system integrators, central stations, law enforcement officials and municipalities — not to mention customers who do not understand why their alarm sometimes goes off when there is no emergency.
Thus, MONI encourages the companies in its authorized dealer network to become IQ Certified. The program recognizes security providers who annually meet rigorous standards and follow best practices for installation, monitoring and customer education. “It benefits everyone when a dealer takes time to put the right system in place, performs a quality installation and trains the customer effectively,” says Grant Graham, MONI’s Director of Monitoring Operations. “Every dealer wants to keep a customer for as long as possible, so it makes a tremendous difference when the customer is happy from the beginning.”
Monitoring centers also can be IQ Certified, which is why MONI first achieved the designation three years ago. One of the requirements for being an IQ Certified-dealer is to use an IQ Certified monitoring facility. MONI is one of a handful of central stations nationwide — joining COPS Monitoring, Rapid Response, Cen-Signal, Dynamark and others that have the designation.
Inside the Program
The IQ Certification program was started by industry professionals in 1997 to help create a standard for best practices in the security industry. The program is endorsed by the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), Security Industry Association (SIA), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and the Canadian Security Association (CANASA). It provides specific guidelines and checklists for installation, as well as for training of technicians and customers.
It is widely acknowledged that the major reasons for false alarms are user error and poorly installed or poorly designed systems. The idea is simple: Reduce the number of false alarms by addressing the main problems of poor installation and inadequate training. “IQ Certification tries to tackle both of those drivers,” Graham says. “It requires that all technicians go through base-level training. While states have different requirements for installation technicians, a lot of them don’t require burglary technicians to get that level of education.”
Outside players such as telcos also aren’t required to undergo training before they perform installations, Graham adds. To access the full IQ Certification Guidelines, visit www.iqcertification.org/guidelines.html.
When you look at the IQ guidelines, you also start to realize how they can help an alarm dealer’s bottom line. If you take the time to install and configure systems correctly, then give the customers the necessary amount of training, it means less wasted time.
“Higher quality installations result in fewer false alarms, but they also allow dealers to spend less time servicing existing accounts and more time pursuing new customers,” Graham says. “Our dealers need to be as efficient as possible, and IQ puts them in a position to get the most out of their resources.”
Improving Relations with Law Enforcement
The sheer volume of false alarms and the resources devoted to them by law enforcement are staggering. Here are some of the stats:
• Los Angeles reports that approximately 11 percent of its police resources are wasted on false alarms.
• Phoenix spent the equivalent of $3.4 million in resources on false alarms in 2012. Police reported spending 17,644 hours answering 35,288 false alarm calls.
• Atlanta responded to 65,000 alarm system activations in 2012 — 95 percent of which were either false alarms or alarms that were cancelled en route. With each call taking an average of 20 to 30 minutes, the equivalent of 8 to 12 officers were dedicated to responding to false alarms.
Numbers like those are the reason why municipalities have begun fining homeowners or security companies for false alarms, or have occasionally ceased responding to burglar alarms entirely.
One of the benefits of IQ Certification for a monitoring station is the requirement of Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) — in which a central station operator places two calls in an attempt to verify the reason for the alarm before dispatching. In 2013, MONI was lauded for working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area of North Carolina to reduce dispatches to an impressive 18.5 percent.
Being known as an IQ Certified dealer — and emphasizing the use of ECV in monitoring — is a great way to establish a rapport with local law enforcement. By making sure that local officials understand that your company is doing everything possible to keep false alarms to a minimum, it creates the foundation for a cooperative relationship.
“As an industry, we constantly battle the perception that we are a driver of negativity and labor costs for public safety agencies,” Graham says. “IQ certification allows dealers to change that perception by putting forth the idea that we are paying attention to quality and other factors that help reduce false alarms.”
There is no doubt that IQ Certification makes a difference through increased efficiency, but there is another bottom-line benefit — by displaying the IQ Certification logo, it is an easy way to let a customer know that an alarm dealer offers a level of quality greater than many of the giant companies whose businesses involve more than just security and home automation. That can be a positive factor in the closing process for your sales reps.
“Dealers aren’t just facing competition from each other, but from outside the industry,” Graham says. “If you present yourself as a quality provider by explaining what IQ Certification means, you are selling to the customer based on the value of dealing with someone who understands security, and not someone who adds it as part of a bundle.”
Robert Ogle is a communications specialist at MONI. Request more info about the company at www.securityinfowatch.com/10216127.