Brinks Home Thinks Big: Execs Talk Brand Refresh, Market Outlook & More
Already one of the industry’s largest and best-known brands, Brinks Home has its monitored services machine ready to rev up residential revenues.
From the point of view of a consumer you could count the number of security companies that are household names on one hand — and have some digits left over. More than likely the first couple of those fingers would account for Brinks, a legendary brand that has been synonymous with security since starting out as a delivery operation in 1859 and launching its residential security business in 1983.
From a security pro’s perspective, since the mid-1990s one of the best-known names in monitored central station services has been Monitronics. Those celebrated providers became one in 2018 when Monitronics struck a licensing agreement with Brink’s Co. to operate as Brinks Home Security.
With its moniker now streamlined to simply Brinks Home, the Dallas-based company is positioning itself to be the go-to for all things security, connected and smart in the home. Selling through its network of approximately 200 authorized dealers, along with agents, representatives and an internal direct-to-consumer sales team, the firm’s customer base has surpassed one million.
Amid ably and admirably adjusting to the rigors of the pandemic, Brinks Home has generated a whirlwind of operational news the past year. That includes changes in executive leadership roles, major accounts acquisitions from Protect America and Select Security, and most recently announcing plans to take the public company private. In support of the provider’s current direction, in January its largest authorized dealer, Skyline Security, inked a fresh five-year agreement.
“I was with the parent company that acquired Monitronics 10 years ago and am the one who negotiated the deal with Brinks for the license to use the brand. I believe in it 100%,” says CEO William Niles. “There’s enormous untapped potential in the marketplace for us to leverage this. Whether it’s in our call center, monitoring center, field service, even product, it’s all driven off the brand strategy of customer centricity, service and excellence. That’s resonated really strongly with our partners in the dealer channel.”
In the interests of discovering more about Brinks Home’s domestic market designs, SSI conferred with Niles and members of his executive team including Krystle Craycraft, vice president of marketing; Wade Gibson, senior vice president of network sales; Min Kang, vice president, chief product strategy office; and Kevin Lyons, chief human relations officer.
They speak to the company’s strong brand equity and current vision, strategies behind recent maneuvers, unique structure and value proposition, technology and service focal points, and overall market outlook.
How is the business structured organizationally and in terms of branding?
Krystle Craycraft: We are all very proud to have our Brinks Home Security name, which we acquired in 2018. It’s still relatively new to our partners and customers who are learning us as Brinks Home instead of Monitronics. It takes time to adapt, but we are very grateful to have it. We know that Brinks is a world-class brand. When you ask customers if they recognize Brinks as a home security business, there is high awareness. We get the benefit of that as do our partners. We’re focused on defining what that name means and prioritizing that this year as something we’re building upon. We still have our beloved Monitronics name that potentially could serve other uses in the future, but today Brinks Home is how we go to market.
William Niles: Everything we’re doing with and for our dealer partners is driven by this philosophy. The old model of having a dealer who operates under their own name and goes to market in a particular way, that’s not the model that we’re adopting. Our model is around a brand and our go-to-market is an omnichannel. We’re going to use that brand consistently whether it’s our dealers, our field sales, our inside sales, our authorized reps, or other partners. They will all operate with the same sense of excellence and focus on the customer. That is core to what we’re doing and I think that resonates with this brand. That encompasses how we present to customers and to our own employees. It’s about changing the culture of how we operate.
What we have been doing is transformative, which starts with your people and team. I stepped into this role as interim CEO not even a year ago and we have literally changed the senior management structure. We have probably six, seven, eight new executives, most from outside the industry, which was deliberate. I wanted to bring people in who had a fresh perspective on the business. We have assembled super-accomplished smart people, we have a brand new team all aligned around this cultural identity and brand strategy.
Central to your model is the authorized dealer network, how is that set up? Are there other sales channels as well?
Niles: Wade has done a better than the terrific job revitalizing our dealer network. Where we were 12 months ago versus today is just a 180⁰ turnaround re-establishing what had been Monitronics’ premier dealer program. I think we got a little sleepy over the years, and we’ve dusted it off and back to full bore in our dealer program. We are all about engaging with our dealers, treating them like true partners and leveraging the brand. They definitely see value in how the Brinks brand helps you get through the door. That is a huge advantage for us.
Wade Gibson: Prior to last year, we had one dealer channel, which is the traditional dealer. That model is they’re a sales and marketing organization, they make the sale, they install the system with their own techs, and then they sell the accounts to us. The dealer maintains it during the first year, we then take it over, and we do monitoring throughout the time. We still have that model, that is the core of our business, but we’ve also come up with two other models that allow us to create an arrangement that works best for the organization we’re partnering with.
We have another model called the Authorized Representative program, where we partner with individual reps and very often sales teams, where they don’t want to do the install. They want to go out and sell and focus on sales and marketing. That’s their core competency and we can handle the rest. This is our fastest-growing channel as there’s a lot of people who want to sell direct for Brinks.
Then we have the Authorized Partner channel, which works similarly to Authorized Representative but in this case we’re partnering with a sales engine that might sell something else. Maybe they sell satellite TV but they also want home security as an offering. We now are able to partner with them. They can place the order on our system and we’ll go out to install the system and monitor it from there.
We’ve created new ways for people and companies to partner with us and sell our product. They’ve been quite successful while we also grow our core, traditional dealer business.
The recent Protect America and Select Security acquisitions were significant. How do they fit into the business’ overarching strategy?
Niles: We’ve got our dealer go-to-market, we have a field sales channel now, we have our inside sales. That’s our core strategy. Adjacent to that there is an opportunity to help other companies, and Protect America and Select Security are good examples. They were in a position where the capital markets weren’t there to help them, they couldn’t refinance. We’ve created a model whereby we can actually take their customers, there’s a profit-sharing arrangement in that, and put them on our platform and introduce them to the Brinks experience. Importantly for the folks who own those accounts, we’re best of breed today. Our attrition numbers are plummeting, the lifecycle of those customers is being extended through engagement and also predictive analytics.
As part of our transformation we literally are building the past eight months a data warehouse, which we call the Enterprise Data Hub. It is an aggregation of all the information in this organization, where you have a common language, common nomenclature. This allows us to become more active with machine learning and AI applications. We understand what’s happening in the customer base. We get an understanding what’s happening with the devices. There are millions of events and this company is making that digital transformation. Business intelligence and analytics is something we’re driving throughout the organization be it field service, field care, customer care, sales.
The Protect America deal has been a terrific transaction for us and the banks on the other side. Select Security we think is going to be terrific as well in terms of the customer experience. But also we’re excited to welcome onboard some true industry experts on the commercial side.
What prompted the deregistering company stock and taking the business private? What advantages is that going to provide?
Niles: There was a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of remaining public. What we agreed to, and this was going back almost two years now, is that we would remain public for a period of time. Allow people to trade in, trade out, participate, but ideally this is not a company that should be public right now. We are going through a transformation and even though our numbers were the best they’ve been in 10 years it’s not something we want to be publishing on a quarterly basis. Nor do I want to share my playbook on what we’re doing, for instance in our bulk-buyer strategy. As a public company, you have to publish those things. I’m not interested in doing that right now.
I’d like to kind of close the curtains, get everybody aligned, transform the business, and then we’ll see what we want to do. We can go public again, what have you, but there really is no utility for being public right now. It’s cost, it’s exposure, it’s a lot of management time. I’d rather have my management team focused on transforming the business.
Let’s dig a little deeper into that culture, how do you keep internal staff up to speed with technology and in executing customer care?
Kevin Lyons: Most of our new employees take an education program we’ve named Brinks Home University, which covers our company and the industry overall. It consists of 10 modules delivered by senior leaders across all areas of the company including product, customer care, operations, finance, business intelligence, etc. We invest heavily in the training of all employees who are customer-facing. They must complete a multiweek training program and pass several tests before we put them in front of customers, and it doesn’t stop there. In making decisions we encourage employees to ask themselves, “How is this going to impact our customers?” That’s not something that comes naturally to everyone at first. But after a few weeks it becomes ingrained in all of our people.
What is the company’s vision for the connected security home and how does that play into the technology, product and service focus?
Min Kang: Our strategy centers on the things frustrating customers today in terms of protecting their house, their family, and monitoring and managing their house and things in that house. We’re trying to understand those pain points and provide the right solution with a seamless experience. Today it is so fragmented in that you have 10 different apps to manage your smart home. You have no idea what device actually works with what platform, which app. It’s a clunky experience that we’re striving to change, simplify and make more seamless and interconnected. Before it was more about how we could sell or monetize a service or device, but the real value comes in designing the experience around our consumers so they see the value and willingly open their wallets to pay for it.
People are more and more about video at the centerpiece of their security solution. With AI machine learning and computer vision, cameras are becoming smarter and it’s about creating more use cases for consumers. These cameras can now listen to what’s happening. Let’s say a fire alarm goes off, a camera can analyze the frequency of that sound and immediately start recording to capture video footage and send it to the monitoring center.
Our operators have access to audio analytics, video analytics, so they can know what’s happening and take an action on behalf of the customer. All these pieces of technologies provide us more opportunity to create more valuable services for our customers. Another example is leveraging all the video and sensors to provide remote care for the elderly.
We’re also looking at not just protecting physical assets but addressing consumers’ virtual needs as well. Their identity, their data, their information, should be also well protected. There are a lot of great opportunities out there and we are actively participating in this discussion with manufacturers.
What do you see as the top threats to the business, and what opportunities are you most excited about?
Niles: It is two sides of the same coin. It really is around customer trust and data. As we see advances in technology there is going to be more and more personal information collected and analyzed as part of the smart home experience. How we manage that information can yield tremendous insights and improvements in the quality of service. It also presents a risk as you have to protect that information. If you lose control of that information, if people are monetizing or otherwise abusing it you will lose customer trust. It’s a double-edged sword.
Industrial design is another opportunity for us as it has been really poor in home security. We talk about how do you actually improve the look and feel of the products? Do they have to be white plastic molding and stuck on the wall? What do you do to fix that? We’re rethinking everything about how you redefine the customer experience. Another opportunity is scale. There are a few players in the space that have the scale to actually use tech and data and product and product strategy to create a better experience in this industry. We’re one of those, so I see that as a huge opportunity. For those that don’t have that scale and the resources, I think that is a massive risk.
On area I am not worried about DIY or self-monitoring. There is a huge population that is going to value having someone 24/7 on standby to deal with an emergency. I don’t see that population going away.
What is the company’s outlook for 2021?
Craycraft: It’s all of the things we’ve talked about. We are in the midst of a transformation. The team is very focused on a lot of key initiatives that continue to build on our brand strategy of elevating the customer experience. The year’s off to a great start. We are growing across both our network sales side and our direct consumer side.
We are also expanding support for our partners to make sure they have everything they need to hit our goals for this year. Our organization is a little bit of a startup with a lot more structure and support than you normally have in that sort of environment, but it has a very similar feel and energy today.
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