“We have a top-down commitment to excellence in all aspects of our operation,” says Commercial Sales Manager Brian Shrake, one of HST’s 25 associates. “Starting with excellent, engaged personnel at every level committed to providing the finest products and services to our customers and then following that up with a tremendously effective customer service program. Every individual in the company takes personal responsibility to ensure our customers receive the attention and support to remain happy and loyal.”
That approach has been carried through to HST’s alarm management practices, which function so well because they have been interwoven into the fabric of the entire enterprise. The program includes emphasizing installer/user training, implementing Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) and GSM cellular technology on new installations, tracking and following up on all false alarms, ongoing customer communications and reminders, and establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with responding law enforcement.
Program Points and Benefits
The planning of HST’s false alarm program took several months over the course of a year. The company had regular monthly meetings to discuss what each team member would be responsible for and developed an outline with a timeframe for implementation. Toward the end of the process weekly meetings were held to fine tune the process.
Highlights of the program include: advertising, sales literature and contract give a realistic expectation of the response that will be made when an alarm occurs; salespeople explain how alarm permitting and fines work; information provided on false alarm prevention and the false dispatch issue; customers instructed about verification and call lists; ongoing customer communications on false alarm prevention; detailed training of alarm users including how to cancel a dispatch request; and use of other devices like checklists, postcards, fliers, etc.
“Most people hesitate and feel the need to question change, especially when it requires additional work or responsibilities,” says Forchheimer. “We asked our staff to view these changes as if they were our customer and how it would positively affect their experience. Since implementing the new procedures, our staff takes pride in knowing our customers will get the proper education from a company that truly cares. Once we began to receive good suggestions we knew they were embracing the program.”
Additional technical and procedural aspects of the program include: installing SIA CP01-compliant control panels; employing ECV (two-call verification) on all intrusion alarm signals; and installers certified as National Training School (NTS) Level I or II, or equivalent as well as additional training. As Forchheimer details, while these elements can be costly the payoff is well worth it.
“CP01, ECV and additional training are all beneficial and should be incorporated into any successful alarm management program,” he says. “Yet there are tremendous costs associated with updating legacy panels, educating customers on why they need to be updated, the cost to convert a subscriber base to ECV, as well as the additional costs associated with the time for the training of the staff and technicians. However, the investment brings reducing of false alarms and our customers receiving improved support and a lower dispatch rate.”
Indeed, the return on investment (ROI) in terms of results is quite measurable. According to Forchheimer, it includes the amount of time spent working central station reports being lessened because they become smaller. Plus, systems are in place to handle repeat offenders and customers’ municipal fines have dropped dramatically.
3rd-Party Reliance & Client Care
One of the trickiest aspects of implementing a comprehensive false alarm reduction program can be when the installing company does not handle the alarm monitoring itself, but rather must coordinate with and rely upon a third-party provider. As it turns out, there are pros and cons to both scenarios. But in either case, the bottom line is it is entirely manageable and no less essential.
“The biggest challenge we faced was asking them to participate in helping us manage our program,” says Forchheimer. “They are an independent third-party central station and most of what we asked for was never discussed when we signed up. But working with a third-party central brings a lot of benefits to the table as well. They can help us model our program with ‘what has worked’ for some of their other dealers.”
Having access to this information, according to Forchheimer, along with HST sharing what is working on its end, helps Lydia Security Monitoring (COPS) become a better third-party station as well, and provides added benefits to other dealers seeking to cut down on false alarms. Lydia has offered to provide HST with mailing services, customized E-mail and text message alerts, customized bill stuffers and more. “The real key is in working with us to reduce our overall signal traffic as well as developing a platform for us to manage our E-mail and text message alerts for our clients.”
One of the most critical considerations for a successful false alarm reduction program is contacting customers after every alarm. The objective is to determine what took place, identify the cause of any false activations and implement corrective measures to curb future issues. In cases of repeat offenders or “problem” accounts, more serious action could entail discontinuing service. HST continues to fine-tune these procedures.
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