False Alarm Reduction Is Customary at Custom Alarm

Proven techniques that cut false alarms and police dispatches are business as usual for Custom Alarm. The company’s assimilation of practices like two-call verification and following up on all false alarms helped it earn the 6th annual Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award. Find out what makes its outstanding false alarm management program tick.

[IMAGE]12228[/IMAGE]So as not to skip any key points, during the sales phase Custom Alarm representatives follow a checklist to educate customers on how a system can be tailored and used according to their unique needs and lifestyle. This includes discussing exit and entry doors, and how the system can be armed in different ways. The rep makes certain the customer fully understands how false alarm fees are incurred from local authorities and, if applicable, explains the permit process.

Minimizing System, User Errors

As it did when measured against most PDQ criteria, Custom Alarm earned high marks in the key installation areas of equipment, installer training and customer instruction.

SIAC recommends control panels meet the Security Industry Association CP-01 standard, with all programmable options set to default, and all applicable UL standards. These are practices Custom Alarm has adhered to the past five years. In 2007, the firm introduced a loyalty upgrade program to help longtime customers migrate to newer alarm systems at virtually no cost to them. The upshot of enticing them to put their older technology out to pasture is ensuring the system operates with fewer problems — and less chance of false alarms.

“This was a big investment on the front end for us as a company, but the continued loyalty by these customers as well as knowing their systems are updated and communicating on the latest technology was worth it,” says Nikki Johnson.

Custom Alarm has 10 technicians with some level of NICET certification, and 26 techs who are state certified for power-limited systems. In 2010, an online e-learning training program was established via Total Training Network (TTN) in which each department has required courses to complete. Employees are expected to undertake at least 12 hours of annual training beyond what’s required.

“We have set up a space arranged in classroom style with adjacent computer stations for online training equipped with headsets for multiple users,” says Johnson. “It is used for departmental or technical training sessions. We also have a product rollout group to handle anything from new motion detectors to security panels. The team lays out details from product literature for salespeople to training requirements for technicians.”

Once the installation is complete, a technician shows the customer how to use their new system properly, discusses exit and entry delay times, and how to prevent false alarms. The training includes telling them how to change the master code and add additional user codes. Other points include: “stay” and “away” arming levels; how to cancel alarms if they are accidentally set off; how to obtain service if the system malfunctions; and how variables such as an answering machine, call waiting or DSL may impact the alarm system.

Why It’s Nice to Call Twice

Custom Alarm then smoothly hands new customers over to its central station. Hallmarks of its alarm management strategy on the monitoring side of the business include use of ECV and contacting customers after every false alarm.

“ECV has really changed the landscape of the way we dispatch on alarms,” says Brinkman. “For example, in the first five months of 2011, without our two-call verification program we would have seen a 23-percent increase in the number of law enforcement dispatches. Had we called law enforcement instead of a second keyholder, they would have all resulted in false alarms.”    

Custom Alarm also places a premium on follow-up. Central station personnel review a daily dispatch record to identify alarms reported as false and schedule those subscribers to be called. Dispatchers determine the nature of the false alarm and offer service based on its cause. The outcome of the call (service ticket written, customer declined service, additional training needed, etc.) is logged in the account history. The information is then entered into a false alarm activity report summarizing all dispatches, history of the call, cause of the alarm and result of the dispatch.

[IMAGE]12229[/IMAGE]If law enforcement had been dispatched, Custom Alarm follows up with them for an update and adds that to the account as well. If law enforcement had been dispatched without the central station being able to contact a keyholder, the next day the customer is notified so as not to be surprised if they receive a notice in the mail from the police. Additionally, a disposition of events report is distributed to salespeople so they might personally call their customers to see if there is anything they can do to help.

And how does Custom Alarm handle troublesome accounts where false alarms spiral out of control? “We do not have any accounts that have a bad false alarm record,” says Johnson. “We have such proactive procedures in place that we do not have anyone who is problematic. We also offer customers that have false alarms free system inspections to ensure everything is working properly.”

Custom Alarm also accepts electronic cancellations from the system’s keypad following an alarm activation, but still calls to make sure everything is OK. Systems are set up to automatically test at least once a week, with any issues being noted and addressed. Caller ID on incoming calls to the central station in many instances helps operators know immediately who they are speaking with.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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