PERS is a term that is gathering familiarity in the electronic security industry vernacular. Known as personal emergency response systems, these monitored devices are designed to summon help in the event of various urgent situations such as when an elderly person falls.
The profit potential is plain: The market is booming as America ages collectively and the costs of assisted living and nursing care continue to skyrocket. As Baby Boomers join the ranks of the retired, the demand for PERS is expected to only intensify.
Although PERS is a clearly defined and growing market, not all dealers and integrators are clear on how to successfully approach it. There’s a reason for that, and one that Russell MacDonnell, chairman and CEO of Syracuse, N.Y.-based Rapid Response Monitoring sums up well. “PERS is a separate business and separate business model. It involves a different way of selling and networking.”
Dealers, MacDonnell suggests frankly, must understand this caveat: “You have to invest in the equipment and personnel and you won’t be cash flow positive the first month you start.” For those flexible enough to work within these parameters, the decision to offer PERS can be a wise one.
“PERS is one of the fastest growing marketplaces in the industry,” MacDonnell continues. “Unquestionably, the demographics are all moving in the right direction. The fastest growing segment of the population is the over-60 group.” That, coupled with the high costs of health care and the desire many seniors have to live independently, is paving the way for strong opportunities in PERS.
A Business Within a Business
The biggest challenge for dealers looking to enter the PERS market, MacDonnell believes, is having the commitment and discipline to run a separate business within their current business. There’s a different language involved with patients and health-care issues, he says, and they need to have the balance sheet, personnel and financial commitment to support a separate group in their company to really take advantage of this prospect. “There’s an investment and when they build up RMR, they’ll recoup and become profitable,” he says.
Jason Caldwell, operations manager of Carelink, a subsidiary of Select Security Systems in Albuquerque, N.M., started offering PERS more than a year ago and is finding it profitable.
“I’m having success in this,” he reports. “The more I get out there, the more referrals I’m getting.” He concurs with MacDonnell that PERS does call for a different business approach. Embracing, rather than resisting the differences between selling traditional security systems and PERS has played a big part in Caldwell’s success.
“There’s a huge psychological component to this I wasn’t prepared for,” he admits. “It’s much different for me than dropping off a fire alarm at a hotel in Albuquerque. You develop relationships with these people and are involved with the care of their families.” Oftentimes, the consumer purchasing PERS is actually the adult child of the elderly person it’s being bought for — who likely doesn’t even want it in the first place.
“The target customer absolutely is the adult child, usually a daughter, of the subscriber,” Caldwell notes. “Many subscribers start off not liking you because you’re often placed in the middle of fights where ‘Grandma’ doesn’t want to admit she needs it.”
Caldwell gets right to the heart of it when he describes how the PERS market differs from traditional burg or fire alarm installs: “PERS is exponentially simpler on a technical standpoint and exponentially tougher on a customer interface standpoint.”
Savings Are Obvious to Clientele
Delving into personal, sensitive questioning can be pivotal in forging PERS relationships and closing sales. What are the real needs? Does the subscriber need a simple two-way voice panic button they can use to call for help, or also require a fall detector, which is ideally suited to diabetics who are prone to fainting and potential injury?
Is more monitoring called for, such as tele-health options through Bluetooth technology that can check blood pressure or glucose levels and alert the subscriber’s doctor of any noteworthy changes?
Discussing these crucial, individual considerations is part and parcel of PERS, and being able to do that compassionately and professionally is a prerequisite for entering this market.
No matter the level of monitored protection, PERS, Caldwell contends, saves customers money in the long term.
“It’s inexpensive. When people are at this time in life they look at the cost of facilities, and they’re astronomical. PERS doesn’t come with all the benefits of a medical facility, but it costs only about $35 a month to monitor and a one-time $50 install fee, compared to thousands of dollars a month for an assisted living or nursing home facility,” he says. “Even with all the bells and whistles, depending on how much monitoring is needed, we’d never break $100 a month for the PERS service.”
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