How to Reach More Customers With Interactive Services

Remote connectivity to home alarm systems is allowing dealers to offer new types of services to their entire customer base. Two-way voice functionality between the central station and the client is driving additional revenue.

It’s likely your subscriber base comprises a wide range of lifestyles and financial means. A working, single parent whose kids arrive home from school on their own. A jet-setter who is constantly on the move for business or pleasure. A techie who samples all the latest gadgets. And customers who oftentimes forget about their alarms amid life’s hustle and bustle.

Like never before, installing security contractors have available to them an array of new products, technologies and services to attract customers of all sorts. Making it all possible are interactive services, which provide the ability for homeowners to remotely manage their alarm systems and offer some type of convenience for everyone.

Technology makes our lives progressively simpler and more connected, and the security industry is bundling those comforts to further protect customer lives and property through interactive services. As leading vendors continue to develop and contract these new tools, dealers can pitch security systems in unprecedented ways and take their recurring monthly revenue (RMR) to new heights.

Creating Customer Connectivity

With a simple click on a compatible smartphone or tablet, customers can remotely arm and disarm their system, set arming reminders via text or E-mail and create no-show alerts if a family member (like the child returning from school) did not disarm at a certain time. They can set specific codes for users who have panel access, receive severe weather alerts and track the system’s event history.

Another feature gives automatic notifications to traveling customers who enter or exit a specified geo-fence (for example, a one-mile radius around an address) without arming their security system. They can then arm it remotely from anywhere.

Notably, these services shrink the vulnerability people feel when they leave their families and homes unoccupied, whether they’re just across town or stuck in a different time zone.

Interactive services have revolutionized the industry, and companies have seen a distinct boom during the past 18 months. More and more dealers have adopted the technology and used it to offer customers superior service. The result: RMR rising considerably higher than they’ve been accustomed to previously.

This increase coincides with the gradual extinction of telephone landlines. According to a 2012 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, 34% of homes in the United States now have wireless-only service — nearly double from the end of the decade. (Households are defined as “wireless-only” if they include at least one wireless family and no working landline telephones.) What’s more, 16% of American homes received all or almost all calls on wireless phones despite also having a landline phone.

With some 165 million active smartphones in the U.S., security sales reps are covering fertile ground.

“The way our dealers approach consumers has changed over the past couple of years,” says Travis Miller, senior manager of dealer development at Monitronics Int’l. “Opposed to using crime statistics, they’re focusing more on building awareness of home automation and accessing your alarm system remotely. It’s kind of turned the whole approach upside down. You’ve got more and more dealers today that are interested in interactive services.”

Driving RMR and Retention

How much extra revenue can a dealer produce by offering interactive services? It depends on the dealer; namely, how they go to market and how much they’re willing to charge. Dealer programs have varying policies on rates, but a comfortable RMR range for these applications appears to be around $50.

Combine them with the two-way voice feature on panels and the total package becomes even more profitable. Monitronics serves more than 800,000 customers through its nationwide dealer network and has become an industry leader in two-way voice in addition to its interactive offerings.

Adding two-way voice communication to a customer’s system can simultaneously suppress attrition and increase RMR. Two-way interactive voice verification — the ability for central station operators to directly communicate with customers during an alarm event — is a key technological advancement that can help combat false alarms. The hands-free, two-way speaker system acts as an intercom and enables homeowners to verify an emergency with a monitoring center operator from anywhere in the home.

Fewer false alarms, particularly for new customers without security system experience, will reduce the dissatisfaction caused by fines and general frustration with recurring false alarms.

The majority of today’s new alarm panels are two-way voice compatible. During the past two years, two-way voice over cellular capability has also become an attractive option for the growing number of wireless-only households. It’s a logical bundle with interactive services.

Another benefit for dealers is initial payment. Customers are willing and able to put more money down in an agreement for state-of-the-art services. It’s a strong indicator for the quality of an account and the likelihood that it will remain with the dealer long-term.

There’s also an element of defense. Dealers can protect themselves against competitors and slam campaigns simply by offering the most cutting-edge equipment.

“We’re giving everything to the customer so that no other company can come in and say, ‘We have this and they don’t,’” says Curtis Kindred, owner and president of Texas-based American Defense Systems.

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