State of Residential Security 2021: Reasons for Optimism, New Opportunities & More
The work-from-home imperative figures to have long-term ramifications for the smart security home market. Executives from four leading residential dealer firms tell where they see the silver lining around the dark pandemic cloud.
Do you see the work-from-home trend or other pandemic-related factors driving any particular product or service opportunities?
Karchut: Working from home should be. I’m definitely writing that down so I can push it to our next sales team meeting to start looking at accountants and lawyers and people who have sensitive information at home now who will need that enhanced level of security. Here in Ontario, Canada, if you’re working from home and you have an alarm system because you have sensitive information, your corporation can pick up 100% of the tab as a tax-deferred expense. Definitely you gave me something to think about and add to my sales meeting agenda!
Otherwise we’re going full steam ahead with the [Resideo] ProSeries, which is so easy to deploy. We’re leading with that for new residential, using the convert-to-wireless modules to take over hardwired homes. The product allows us to take over pretty much any style of sensor. Our clients love the functionality and Alexa capability, and there are fewer truck rolls for us thanks to the over-the-air updates.
Coassin: Our biggest partners in terms of referrals are IT companies. It’s that delicate balance of taking business away from them or thinking your bigger picture of referring more business to them, so therefore they refer more to us on the commercial side. We’ve thought about it. I’ve realized, at least in Connecticut, that the best IT companies stay in their lane and do what they’re really good at, which is IT. The small ones try to pick up every dollar they can, so they do IT and then they try to do cameras.
Then the massive guys on the enterprise solution, they can actually do cameras pretty well and IT. We’ve looked at it. We’d rather bring in a partner so they can bring us referrals down the road. We purchased an electrical contractor in January, so we have an electrical division in Connecticut. We’ve done some pre-wires for customers for wireless access points throughout their house and then we’ll bring in a partner.
Petibon: I believe all the products we or any security professional offers are still going to be part of a robust market. As for newer technology, if you’re doing access control is managing it charging a fee per door, that’s a huge market. We’re constantly getting new accounts. When you do those buildings you might start off with 12 doors they end up being 25 doors. Whatever you’re charging per door, that’s a lot of recurring monthly revenue. The other thing is on the video system, we do not sell video to catch people.
We sell video to manage a business in a home, landscapers, manage painters that are at your business, and a deterrent. We’re very clear about that. A really good line that I use is that cameras are like tattoos, beer and wine. You’re always going to get another one. Sell the system, eight cameras, 16, always have that infrastructure because they’re definitely adding more cameras. Then down the road when a van goes out there the technician has the opportunity to upsell additional cameras, which we do every day.
Karchut: I don’t understand the whole love of cameras without an alarm system, especially for commercial, but businesses love it, residential loves it. They don’t love the price, but everybody wants to see what’s going on around their home or around their business. The misconception a lot of the time is cameras will protect your home. They really don’t, to be honest. As an industry we need to go back and push up against Amazon and say, “No, your Blink cameras don’t protect your home. You need a professionally installed alarm system or a do-it-yourself installed alarm system supplemented with cameras.”
Being as specific as possible, how does your company differentiate itself from competitors?
Petibon: There are four unique things we’ve done since 1991. Petitbon Alarm does not have a term contract. Petitbon Alarm pays all false alarm fees caused by equipment or installation. Petitbon Alarm has never raised the fee on an existing client in 30 years. Petitbon Alarm will only install nonproprietary, open architecture equipment. We disrupt the market with those four things. Everybody in the security industry is crazy because they don’t have a term.
Every single contract is breakable for cause. If you feel comfortable with a five-year contract, great, but if somebody wants to get out of it they’re getting out of it. We’re relationship-driven, all of our business comes from referrals. We don’t do any advertising. We give three months free for every referral. Those things set us apart.
Which one of them is the hardest to maintain?
Not raising the fee. I would love to raise it 3%, 5%, but a deal is a deal. Integrity, hard work, relationships, stick with what you do.
Donnelley: The biggest thing we do different is being nationwide and online. When we started the idea of doing it online was fairly new. I don’t know that it is that different today because traditional guys are doing it and there’s a ton of new players. Certainly that was our biggest differentiator when we started and we think in today’s environment it’s a good place to be.
Another thing is spending more time on the phone than other companies may like, in terms of with a customer in the presales process or tech support side. Since we’re not in the home we don’t get the chance to establish that relationship. So for us it’s that consultative presales approach that wins their trust and shows them we’re industry experts that can help them navigate all the different options and get the system and services that are right for their home or application.
Karchut: At Alarmtech, we are your local pro. That’s how we brand ourselves. We also don’t raise fees on clients. We have no fine print, no hidden fees, no accelerated clause and you can cancel it anytime for cause. You give us the appropriate notice, you’re good. Whether it’s a text message, an email or time on the phone with our service team, we make sure we give you the customer service you want. Every single time you call our company, a human answers the phone and not one of those human automated voices.
My desk phone does not stop ringing because it doesn’t matter if you’re the operations manager or if you’re the service coordinator, if you’re in finance, every single person’s phone rings. We will all take turns answering the phone and we’ll all make sure that you get the help you need when you call.
Coassin: Our size really makes us unique. We’re at that mid-tier where you actually call and get customer support. A lot of times we’re either up against ADT, the big boys, where when you’re calling you’re getting an answering service. Or smaller companies where you’re calling a guy who can’t pick up the phone because he’s in a ceiling running a camera wire.
We actually have the backbone to have a customer service team that can answer the phone, hold your hand through the process and try to minimize your costs of rolling a truck. We’re flexible, whether that’s in our pricing, contract designs. Then our people. We’re very fortunate to have people who view their colleagues as an extended part of their family and are going to do everything in their power to make us successful.
Donnelly: Another thing we do differently is always trying to leverage what’s already in the home. There are so many companies that will come in and say, “Hey, you got to get our fresh brand new system,” and that’s it. We’re always probing. Even when the customer says, “Hey, what can you sell me new?” we’re always like, “Tell me what you’ve got now.” We’re really good at understanding what we can do to upgrade an older system to bring on some of today’s new features like interactive control or remote programming capabilities or cellular communications, whatever it may be. We’re always trying to save our customers money.
Petibon: One of the things that’s also helped us is that the first tech we hired in 1991 is still employed at Petitbon Alarm. My average technician has been with me 19 years. Invest in your people. Keep your team and then your customer service, your referrals, it will really, really benefit you. Figure out a way to bonus your techs. Bonus your office staff for everything that gets produced revenue-wise. When they have a piece of the game, you’d be amazed at how many add-ons you get, upsells, saving accounts, etc. Invest in your people.
Check out an extended version of this interview in podcast form, here.
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