On the Brink’s of No False Alarms
Training, Educating Customers, Staff Is of Paramount Importance
Whether it’s in person, via the mail or online, Brink’s channels a lot of energy to building long-lasting relationships with its customers by keeping them trained and well informed about all matters pertaining to their alarm systems. A recent decision to make ECV mandatory for all new residential accounts (commercial had been so since 1993) illustrates the effectiveness of these policies.
“We put a lot of effort into explaining ECV and permit issues to our existing customers through mail-outs and mybrinks.com. As much as possible, we worked to be proactive on those efforts by getting materials to them early so accounts could be updated,” Vanyo offers. “We also used bill stuffers to communicate. Our technicians and salespersons are fully trained in presenting this information to new customers.”
Brink’s has one of the most comprehensive technical training programs in the industry. In addition to being required to become National Training School Level 1 or II certified, technicians endure a rigorous 12-week in-house training course that includes classroom work, time in the field and online studies. Technicians who work in
the commercial fire sector are further required to obtain NICET certifications.
“For our sales folks and technicians, it’s an ongoing training effort, keeping them educated so they can teach customers about their systems,” says Vanyo. “Regarding ECV, we have not had any issues getting our monitoring personnel up to speed on the practice. One big key success story was standardizing installations and training, which simplified the process.”
It would be impossible for Brink’s to cultivate trained, informed and consequently happy and loyal customers without a corporate culture predicated on facilitating these qualities from the top to the bottom of the organization. The key is making sure employees know they are valued and instilling them with a sense of pride in their work.
“We have reporting practices that help employees,” adds Vanyo. “For example, we provide a monthly report to the field that lets them know what our current ECV base is. Similarly, through our Customer Activity Performance Scorecard, we give feedback to Field Operations on dispatch rates per customer in the first 30 days after installation. We also rank technicians for recognition purposes and to gauge training needs.”
Company’s Technical Aptitude Prepares It for CP-01 Standard
In the area of control panel standards, Brink’s had actually already been programming its systems to conform with many of the precautionary false alarm edicts and features specified in the CP- 01 standard (introduced in 2003) for more than 10 years. In fact, 99 percent of its total panels installed since 1983 include false alarm reduction features, and almost all the work the company installs today is CP-01 compliant. “Brink’s is committed to industry standards. What’s good for the industry is good for the company. Using best practices and industry-approved equipment is good for any company, as well as their customers and the local community,” states Vanyo. “We adopted equipment with about 90 percent of the CP-01 standard built in back in 1993. Essentially, we were in compliance long before it became a standard.”
Unique Law Enforcement Alliance Produces Amazing Results
The aforementioned actions have helped Brink’s foster a solid reputation with law enforcement. In Montgomery County, alarm companies are required to take an active role in the alarm system permitting process. Hence, the company has created a dedicated permitting department and works closely with the county’s False Alarm Reduction Unit.
In a testimonial letter, Norma Beaubien, director of the Montgomery County Department of Police’s False Alarm Reduction Section, wrote: “Thank you for your due diligence in reducing false alarms and for being a good corporate partner in our alarm management goals.” She also called Brink’s false dispatch rate, which places it within the top 1 percent of lowest dispatch rates for all companies with more than 50 customers within the county, “remarkable.”
“Communication and a willingness to listen to the concerns of the other side are two critical components in successful relationships with law enforcement,” advises Vanyo. “The more we understand each other, the more we can create an environment that is mutually beneficial. It really comes down to meeting with law enforcement and local elected officials before opinions are hardened. Ultimately, we are all con- cerned about the customer/citizen and what is best for them.”
Despite outcries for verified response in many municipalities around the country, Vanyo contends if the industry does its part to implement all available measures that reduce false alarms the vast majority of police departments will continue to respond to alarms as a normal part of their duties.
“There will be some communities that stop responding, but those are most likely to be cities that have severe officer shortages or an unwillingness to explore negotiated and consensus solutions,” she says. “Nonresponse comes with its own set of costs for the community.”
Cutting False Alarms Proves Rewarding on Many Levels
Clearly, Brink’s has invested a lot of time, effort and money in its false alarm reduction strategies. Apparently, management is more than satisfied with the return on investment (ROI), but what prompted the firm to commit so thoroughly to its plan?
“There were three main drivers: Retaining customers over the long haul, containing costs and improving our customers’ experience,” answers Vanyo. “The ROI was readily apparent as webegan to see the growing strength in these three areas. Since 1999, our customer base has grown 75 percent while the number of calls associated with alarm dispatch handling are actually below 1999 levels.”
Winning the PDQ Award now becomes icing on the cake for Brink’s as an additional reward for hard work and being driven to do the right thing. In addition to the validation, Vanyo and her associates remain magnanimous about what it means for the industry as a whole.
“One of the best ways to inspire other companies is to show results, and we believe the PDQ Award is a good example of that,” she says. “Clearly, winning the award sends a signal to others that we embrace practices that can help others. Successful alarm reduction is good business. It’s a selling point to customers, and something customers should look for when they choose an alarm company.”
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