SSI Large Installer of the Year: Vector Security Takes Another Victory Lap
No stranger to the winner’s circle, Vector Security has once again earned its stripes. Leaders of the 2020 SSI Installer of the Year explain how the company continues to outdo itself.
Vector Security is a classic overachiever. Like the greatest scientists, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, architects, musicians, authors, athletes and teams, the company is continuously observing, analyzing, strategizing, evolving, pushing, pivoting and seeking to grow.
All the while it is driven by an obsession for excellence in every facet of what it means to be an elite security systems and services provider. This article is the result of Vector Security being named the 2020 SSI Large Installer of the Year, but it could just as easily be a decade or even lifetime recognition.
After all, among its many other accomplishments, the company also received this honor in 2016, was the first to nab two Police Dispatch Quality Awards and both President and CEO Pam Petrow and her predecessor (John Murphy) were inducted into the SSI Industry Hall of Fame.
Never content to rest on its lofty laurels, during 2019 Vector Security continued to innovate its business and effect positive industry change and advancement. The firm closed one of the flashiest transactions of the year by acquiring Nashville, Tenn.-based ADS Security.
That deal nearly doubled Vector Security’s branches, added a third central station, expanded its monitored subscriber base to almost 400,000 and lifted RMR to nearly $20 million.
“Vector Security is focused on the needs of the customer,” says Vice President, Marketing Art Miller. Our tagline reinforces this commitment through ‘intelligent security tailored for you.’ We consistently focus on improving our customer service standards by building trust, gaining loyalty and receiving feedback. Our customer value proposition reinforces, to all employees, our dedication to our customers’ security goals and objectives.”
Headquartered in Warrendale, Pa., with 58 total locations, Vector Security is a sister company of The Philadelphia Contributionship (acquired by the 268-year-old insurer in 1982), and both are wholly-owned by TPC Holdings Inc.
Vector Security, which offers a full range of residential, commercial and national account products and services, employs more than 1,700 people and recorded more than $360 million in revenues during 2019.
Vector Security’s strengths and methods unfold ahead through the shared insights of Petrow and Miller.
Vetting as Science
Art Miller: We continue to monitor competitors’ products, nonsecurity competitor products — such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Nest and DIY manufacturers — and work with our existing product vendors to make sure we remain competitive in the markets we serve.
We have a New Products Committee that represents sales, operations, finance, IT, central station, marketing and senior management, who evaluate and determine what products and services will be offered. We have a defined process that includes all aspects of product evaluation from market demand to contract language, which engages the appropriate individuals within the organization at the appropriate times.
Once we have determined the products and services we will offer, marketing builds the plan to support the internal sales effort as well as external, customer facing material. Sales participates from the initial product review, but is also called upon to assess market opportunity, competitive offerings, pricing and existing customer impact. Sales is then responsible for determining compensation for the sales reps as well as quotas for performance.
Within our ADS Security Division, our team scans new products coming on the market and has a small group of employees test these products to see if they are worth introducing. Once that product has been approved by the testing team, it gets introduced into select markets for further testing and training. If the new device is liked by technicians, is easy to use and is profitable, it will be rolled out across the remaining branch locations.
Based on the product evaluation, we have an expectation for performance on each new product or service. We evaluate the actual performance against these measurements, especially if an investment was required to bring the new product/service to market. If we are not achieving the expected results, we assess where we are falling short and make the corrections that are needed.
We assess the offices that are outperforming their peers and speak with the successful reps to see how they are going to market and what challenges they are seeing, how they are overcoming any obstacles. For example, we learned that the sales representatives that were successful had a high comfort level with a certain offering, had quick success and were focusing on specific markets.
We then did the same assessment in the unsuccessful branches and found out that the sales reps did not have a level of comfort with the technology. This resulted in us providing additional training with some of our successful representatives who would relay true field experiences and develop confidence with the sales team.
We also had our manufacturer offer all sales reps the opportunity to have the equipment installed in their homes so they could gain experience. And we simplified our product offering and revised pricing.
Vector’s Intelligent Initiatives
Pam Petrow: Business plans are developed by each business unit and then presented and approved by senior management, and then our board of directors.
The financial success of the plans are evaluated on a monthly basis via meetings with business leaders, where performance against plan is measured and we make decisions on what isn’t working and the corrective actions needed, or celebrate the success of plans that are at or above plan.
Performance is reviewed on a quarterly basis with the board and the strategic plan is updated each year. The growth expectation is that each business unit will not just replace attrition, but have a growth factor that, depending on the business unit, is either high single digit or double digits.
Some recent initiatives include … one-year residential contracts for customers who prefer a shorter term commitment; FamilyKIT camera so customers can check in on loved ones they might be unable to visit; a self-install starter package alternative to having technicians in the home when social distancing; expanded wellness offerings to include a medical pendant, mattress pad and large emergency/panic button, as well as wellness packages in certain markets; moving into the multifamily housing market; increasing brand awareness via multiyear security partner agreements with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets; and, in response to COVID-19, sales reps doing contactless, virtual consultations and our program to help businesses return to a “new normal.”
All In on Community, Industry
Petrow: Community involvement continues to be a pillar of our identity. At a corporate level, we maintain long-time support of The Salvation Army, including their Project Bundle Up and Red Kettle Campaign. We volunteered with the American Red Cross to install over 1,000 free smoke alarms to those in need.
At the branch level, our team members continued their involvement with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, ALS Foundation, Girl & Boy Scouts of America, local law enforcement agencies, churches, schools, community sports teams, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Adopt-A-Highway, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, American Heart Association, breast cancer awareness, SPCA, Toys for Tots, food drives, school supply drives, marathons, neighborhood watch groups, and many others.
Miller: Vector Security is also an extremely active member of the larger security community. Our CEO and president, Pam Petrow was The Monitoring Association’s first woman president since its founding 1950 as the Central Station Alarm Association. Our director of business process management, Amy Simpson, has served as president of the Pennsylvania Burglary & Fire Alarm Association.
We continue to support Loss Prevention Foundation scholarships, which provide financial support to LP professionals in the U.S. and Canada. We have awarded 284 scholarships totaling $283,795 since the program started in 2009.
Pam Petrow also helped develop the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol [ASAP] to Public Safety Answering Point [PSAP] technology in partnership with TMA and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. This technology speeds up alarm notification delivery, reduces the number of phone calls and processing time and eliminates human error.
Further, we are pioneering the use of this protocol to deliver verified video from alarm incidents directly to responding law enforcement. To our knowledge, this is one of the first deployments of such capability in the country, which is intended to better equip responding authorities with accurate information that can help to apprehend criminals.
To date, we have assisted in bringing more than 15 agencies online with ASAP, including Cincinnati, Virginia Beach, Va., and Montgomery, Ala. Vector Security is also one of the most active companies in the standards process. We have a team of technical and industry specialists that excel at reading and writing standards, a skill that has been lost in the downsizing/reorganization of large corporations or small companies.
Regarding false alarms reduction, we are active in organizations such as the False Alarm Reduction Association [FARA] and partner closely with first responders to implement and establish best practices. In October 2019, our dispatch reduction manager was named FARA’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter Associate Director for Industry. Our related recognition includes winning the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.
At Customers’ Service
Miller: Vector Security strives to build long-term customer relationships. Our customers have access to responsive service through our network of 58 branch locations. Our experience is that customers prefer this local touch as it creates a more personal experience. We commit to being accessible via phone, email, social media, text and chat.
We regularly survey customers through our call center, central stations, consumer review sites, etc. to continually improve our service. We conduct surveys after every service call via a customer review platform called Podium. All new customers are contacted within the first month to ensure satisfaction and system performance.
We focus on customer feedback to identify areas of improvement and make specific changes. We conduct 30-day tests on security systems — this is unique in the industry, as most companies don’t want the increased central station traffic. When a customer experiences a break-in, our monitoring center team follows up to make sure everything with their system is working properly and that they are OK.
The following programs are in place to provide exceptional service to our customers: In 2019, we opened a retail storefront in Chesapeake, Va., adding to those in Canfield, Ohio, and Ft. Mitchell, Ky., that spotlight home automation; a redesigned website to create a more user-friendly experience for visitors, including text chatting with agents; a self-service portal where customers can check account balances, past invoices, payment history and pay their bill online; our online Home Security Shop where customers can select security and automation packages we then professionally install; and the Vector Security Mobile App, allowing customers to control smart home functions via a single platform.
Customers of our ADS Security division have access to the ADS Aniware App. The ADS central station also uses text messaging for communicating nonemergency signals to customers, such as low-battery notifications, without making a phone call. This has been very well received and driven efficiency, dramatically reducing the outbound calls our monitoring operators had been making.
We also offer several customer perks, including options to help moving customers ensure their system is moved properly with minimal interruption to service; customers who refer a new customer can earn incentives toward their bill or additional equipment; and ADS customers receive a $50 credit on their anniversary date redeemable toward security and smart home products.
Vector Celebrates Success
Petrow: When we look to add team members, the most important characteristics are employee attitude and enthusiasm. We also look for integrity, communication skills, work ethic, competencies and loyalty. We can train on the software and technical aspects of the position but we can’t train people to be positive and customer-oriented.
The onboarding process is critical to make sure new hires have a positive experience. We recently revamped our personnel policy manual to make it more employee-friendly. We also took a large portion of our onboarding process and placed it online through our HRIS portal, eliminating a lot of redundant paperwork for new hires.
We added video to allow key members of the senior team to personally deliver a consistent message to new hires on company expectations and opportunities. We recruit through Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook, and other social media and job boards. We also use LocalJobNetwork to promote our jobs on their national network of 600+ employment and diversity sites providing outreach to more than 15,000 community organizations.
New hires then have access to our continued investment of millions of dollars in education. That consists of our learning management system’s Cornerstone Learning courses, ADS Academy, custom content, tuition reimbursement, leadership training and industry certification support.
For management, we have the six-part, two-year Vector University, which details each area of the business and how we all contribute to overall company success. Locally, our branches conduct “train-the-trainer” sessions and “ridealongs” to share and ensure best practices. Our operation managers are charged with ensuring technicians are trained for the task at hand through in-house and manufacturer-sponsored training.
We offer tuition reimbursement for employees who take work-related courses. We support and recommend individuals gaining certifications in their area of expertise. Our “career ladders” outline the investment required from team members to advance. Operators in our UL-certified monitoring centers have training during their new-hire curriculum to familiarize them with these protocols.
We formally meet with UL annually and continuously communicate with them to ensure we are up to date and train our operators accordingly. Our UL 2050-certified monitoring center features Department of Defense-cleared operators. We are also a TMA Five Diamond Certified Central Station.
Employee retention and engagement are very important components of our company philosophy. Including high turnover areas like central station operators and sales, Vector Security is proud to boast an average tenure of 7.5 years. To help keep employees motivated and fulfilled, we promote from within, with 130 during 2019.
Furthermore, individuals who outperform their peer groups are recognized and rewarded. Our Operations President’s Inner Circle recognizes the top performers in the operations function, with individuals receiving a travel voucher and additional paid vacation days.
Our Sales President’s Inner Circle winners participate in a celebratory trip to a tropical location each March. Other programs include our ADS division‘s President’s Club and YouEarnedIt for high achievers. We have also adopted the Oz Principle of Accountability, recognizing teams that exemplify it with a Ruby Slipper Award.
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