Nobody ever said operating a central station is glamorous. If CCTV and home automation are as exciting as Marilyn Monroe in sequins, then central station operation is as thrilling as Barney Fife in his deputy’s uniform. And that’s exactly how it should be!
The last place any security dealer wants to witness out-of-the-ordinary excitement is in the central station. To be successful, monitoring operations need to be as precisely boring (and perfect) as a Sandy Koufax no-hitter. The best way dealers meet that demand is by maintaining a rigid routine of central station policies and procedures that leave nothing to chance.
Following are 12 tips to managing a central station provided by several existing managers.
1) Obtain UL Listing or FM Approval
These two organizations—Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM)—are the “gold standard” groups of central station certification. These designations send the proper message to your clients that your facility (or the contract monitoring center you use) has the highest standards in every area.
2) Examine Using a 3rd-Party Central Station
If you are an expert in selling, servicing and installing systems, but not too adroit at maintaining a monitoring center, then don’t. There are gobs of qualified third-party contract central stations that can service your accounts.
3) Professionally Train Central Station Manager
Have your managers trained in the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) Central Station Operators’ Course (CSOp) or the Central Station Alarm Association’s (CSAA) Call Center Management course. These classes are each held several times per year.
4) Create Structured Training for New Hires
Once your managers are trained, establish new-hire training plans for operators. New training should include a segment on teaching proper voice inflection when speaking with clients.
5) Write Out Policies, Job Descriptions
Create a detailed central station policies-and-procedures manual, including written job descriptions for operators.
6) Be Able to Handle Foreign Languages
As a typical company’s account base diversifies in terms of ethnicity, language barriers will eventually crop up. Some central stations subscribe to translation services, provided by phone service providers like AT&T.
7) Ongoing Training, Evaluations Are Key
SecurityLink’s ongoing training not only covers topics, such as leadership and team building, but also specific monitoring techniques, such as handling opening and closing signals. Operators must “qualify” in specific topics to receive promotions.
8) Analyze Falses, Survey Clients on Satisfaction
It’s always a good idea to conduct periodic surveys of a sample of the account base to gauge your own performance. Those results should be analyzed carefully by management.
9) Establish Career Paths for Operators
Washington Alarm Inc. employs a checklist that includes sign-off areas for both the employee and the trainer. The trainer signs off on each function confirming that the employee has received training on the function and is now “certified” by the trainer to perform the function.
10) Set Benchmarks for Performance Analysis
There are several metrics a monitoring center can use to determine the quality of operators. One example is an analysis of the time spent on inbound calls
11) Maintain Flexible Working Shifts
Whether a central station maintains three eight-hour shifts or two 12-hour shifts, flexibility is becoming more important.
12) Write a ‘Welcome Kit’ for New Clients
The kit should include general information on the central station operation your company utilizes, as well as information on the importance of not creating false alarms, instructions on low-battery signals and self-tests, and an explanation of what happens when the station receives an alarm signal.