Much at Stake When Selecting a Monitoring Provider

You know monitoring matters, so make your customers aware of how important it really is.

Consumers today want to know all that they can about potential service providers to which their personal and/or professional safety would be linked. They will search Web sites, check addresses and look for images of your company and monitoring center. Many will rely on Web site information and facility aesthetics as part of their decision-making criteria.

Why not take a proactive approach by providing prospects with marketing material about your company, including your preferred central station? Be sure to tell them about your company’s training and certifications, as well as that of the central station, including how many years it has been in business. 

Monitoring most definitely matters after the sale because once all the planning is completed and the detection devices are installed, your selected monitoring company will likely have more interaction with your customer than you do.

In effect, the central station takes on the personage of your company and its actions reflect directly on you — good or bad.

Valuing Central Station Audits

Most consumers assume they have reliable protection with a monitored system. However, there is a tremendous difference between third-party audited central stations and companies that maintain an alarm receiver and employ a few call-takers.

Yes, some call-taking companies do offer dirt-cheap services (and in some instances, it’s free), but the single most important aspect of alarm monitoring is that failure is not an option. There must be built-in fail-safes, contingency plans and multiple locations to achieve true redundancy. A small generator does not cut it. Further, there are training and staffing provisions that must be followed, as well as periodic testing procedures that must be performed.

If a central station does not follow the industry’s best practices, have N+1 redundancies to account for every conceivable point of failure and open its facilities to outside auditors, you are betting your customer relationships that  operation never encounters a utility problem or suffers the full wrath of Mother Nature.

Just like a $2 wager on a longshot horse, it’s a gamble that rarely pays off. In fact, it’s just bad business to take that type of risk when you consider the cost of customer acquisition and true value of the account compared to the possible savings for a basic digital account (not to mention complex IP systems).

When evaluating monitoring companies, keep in mind that they must be able to monitor all types of accounts. That includes the archaic, current and next-generation technologies that will come to the market. It means acceptance of all of the standard reporting formats and communication technologies in case you purchased accounts from multiple dealers. It should also allow monitoring of specialty accounts, like jewelry stores, banks and even commercial fire.

By choosing a central station that can meet the needs for every type of customer in your portfolio, alarm contractors streamline “office work” by dealing with only one company. Plus, they benefit from tiered pricing structures when more accounts are with the same company.

Move Accounts With Caution

If you are considering moving your accounts for a small but immediate saving, be sure to figure in the cost of reprogramming systems as well administrative time to complete the transfer, which takes away from service revenue and new customer acquisition.

To help make your decision, create a business plan and spread out those costs and savings over two years to determine the true average monitoring cost. Now compare that with your current figures — it’s likely the difference is not terribly significant.

Also, think about the impact should you lose customers and you will see that any savings is quickly nullified.

With that data in hand, you are better prepared to decide if you are willing to switch to a bare-bone service provider and risk the loss of customers. Although price is always a consideration when buying a service, a much better metric to use is long-term company value, which comes from protecting your customer relationships.    

Kevin Lehan is Manager of Public Relations for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Emergency24 Inc. He also serves as executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA).

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