February’s Business Issue of SSI features my article on what’s new with wholesale distribution (“Reeling in Resellers”) in which I interviewed representatives from a half-dozen of the industry’s leading distributors. Several of the participants went into much greater detail than the print piece allowed, so here is PSA Security Network Vice President of Sales and Customer Service Ric McCullough expounding on a number of trends affecting the channel.
What are your hottest product categories, specific products within those categories and why do you believe the demand is so high right now?
Ric McCullough: Video surveillance, managed services and video analytics are the hottest categories, with IP and HD video, 180- and 360-degree panoramic network cameras and hosted access to name a few products. An overall heightened security awareness and customer demand as well as technical advancements in products are driving these categories.
How are trends/technologies like IP, HD video, wireless, mobile connectivity, apps, integrated solutions, PSIM/VMS, mass notification, GUI keypads and cloud/interactive services impacting your business?
McCullough: Like any new product offering or service, all of these trends impact everyone involved in selling or servicing security systems. Staying current on technology, determining the best in class, understanding what products fit what customer needs and so on. It is a constantly evolving market. You need to stay constantly educated to stay continually relevant.
What is a product area or market security dealers/integrators should focus more on and why?
McCullough: Total security solution sales to the public sector including the education market. Project financing is another area as equipment rental/leasing can be powerful alternatives to an outright purchase.
How can security dealers/integrators combat margin squeeze and product commoditization?
McCullough: As margins have continued to erode for dealers and integrators, we believe that managed services can really counteract that erosion. PSA Security offers solutions for hosted access, managed video and remote guarding services. All of these bring RMR and added value to an integrator, which, in turn, increases their profitability. I would add that our integrators bring unique partnerships that enable them to deliver highly customized offerings and levels of customer focused local service that end users have come to value and expect.
What does your company do to help dealers/integrators manage inventory and timely delivery to customers?
McCullough: We offer a portfolio of products and services through our business solutions partners. That portfolio includes ERP software as well as project estimating and opportunity management software specifically designed for security integrators. If you truly understand your project and sales opportunity pipeline, you can better manage your inventory needs and turns. Also, we have great on-line order and order management tools available to our customers as well as a customer service team dedicated to meeting customer needs and ensuring timely delivery of products.
How have dealer/integrator ordering habits evolved?
McCullough: Approximately 50% of our order volume is placed online through our Web site by our owners and customers. That said, we have an excellent customer service center that is available for any customer need – whether that is a question on pricing or how to place an order, track an order, expedite an order, etc.
What are the top challenges facing security distributors today? How is your company dealing with it?
McCullough: Margin erosion has been one of the biggest challenges over the past several years. Switching to an RMR model has helped to alleviate some of that. Additionally, the whole online nature of our society today has an impact on distribution as well. Consumers expect immediate access to all types of data, i.e. product information, pricing, availability, shipping, tracking, etc. Large consumer retailers spend millions of dollars on their infrastructure to support and drive this trend. Security distribution struggles to keep up.
How do you ensure your dealer/integrator-facing personnel deliver the best possible customer care and technical service/support? How do you keep your personnel adequately trained?
McCullough: Each year, in conjunction with our board of directors, we develop and implement a strategic action plan. This year, one of our key process improvement plans centers around better response time on key customer service activities and metrics. We studied over 30,000 customer cases and stack-ranked them by type. These cases, for example may be about product pricing, delivery questions, order entry and so on. We then set response time improvement goals for each of the top three types of cases. We constantly analyze root causes to determine how to improve not only our response time but also our resolution time on our customer’s questions and product needs. As for training, PSA provides live monthly Webinars on timely topics from product partners and industry subject matter experts. Our staff also is actively engaged in leadership training that has been customized to their role and learning path. PSA also provides funding for individualized training plans for each employee. The employee and their direct supervisor are actively engaged in joint planning to support developmental goals for each employee.
What are the biggest reasons a security dealer/integrator should do business with your company vs. a competitor? What is the best way for a dealer/integrator to get started with your company?
McCullough: There are many reasons that an Integrator should do business with PSA Security. It’s the full complement of additional business services we provide that make us much more than just a mover of boxes – education, integrator committees, our business solutions portfolio, training bucks, equity on every dollar of purchased product, access to over 150 product lines, our competitive bid program, a great sales team, excellent customer service – the list goes on and on. The best way to get started with us is to just give us a call or go on line to www.buypsa.com and let us know you would like additional information.