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NMC’s Sharon Elder Shares How to Improve Subscriber Experience

Sharon Elder discusses key topics in the monitoring space such as customer service, how to profit off DIY, 5G as a disruptor and more.

As technologies advance and independently operated central stations are increasingly a challenging proposition, wholesale providers are becoming a mainstay for security dealers like never before.

Sharon Elder, vice president of sales for NMC, joins the conversation to take up key topics in the contract monitoring space.

What challenges are ever-changing signal transmission methods impacting your dealers’ businesses?

At the end of the day, the dealer needs to understand all of the options of communication from phone lines to cellular to mesh networks to IP. They really need to make a plan now more than ever to standardize. What is that standardization going to look like? The only known that we have is that it is all going to change. Dealers need to master a platform so they can continue on and work with that provider to evolve in that platform.

Can you see a time when the industry agrees on a standard communications method?

I am forever the optimist on this. From a hardware standpoint you have seen Honeywell, DSC and DMP moving in this direction. The biggest challenge going forward is in the video arena and for video to integrate. The standard method of communication for video should be through secured integration such as I-View Now or SureView Systems. That is one of the bigger challenges.

Is there a concerted industry effort to achieve a standard communications method?

That type of dialogue is always happening; however, a part of the security industry still wants to move hardware boxes. When you look at the video space — because it is really blowing up and we see video as a huge opportunity going forward — up until now the manufacturers were able to just sell their hardware without regard to the recurring revenue element of connectivity.

Now, players such as I-View Now or SureView Systems are saying, ‘Hey, we have integrations that can secure your connection, enhance the service you are offering and generate additional recurring revenue and higher attachment rates.’ They can really tell you what is the root of that crime. But that remains a challenge because still hardware manufacturers are interested in pushing hardware. Until those integrations securely take place, the dealer has to rely on their central station’s backbone and choices to help them deliver those solutions.

Fill in the blank: Dealers’ future success will be determined by ___ ?

The dealer’s future success will be determined by their focus on the subscriber experience. The subscriber experience is everything. The subscriber experience is real or imagined, but the subscriber experience has everything to do with your attachment rates and your attrition. Again, this is where it is very important that the dealer and central station relationship is much more holistic today in terms of exchanging of data and services and really the delivery of those.

The dealer sets the subscriber’s expectations. The central station delivers that subscriber experience. There must be synergy between the dealer and a central station to deliver a superior subscriber experience. If you had to call your cable company, you are queued up in a ‘please hold.’ God forbid you have to call an airline these days; you will be darn lucky if you get a live person to talk to.

But that subscriber drives everything, and NMC very much focuses on that subscriber experience to deliver the dealer’s brand in the manner the dealer wants it delivered in their local market. These big, huge mega-monitoring centers can’t deliver that level of experience. That is now what is considered boutique. Boutique used to be something special. Boutique is now really focusing on the subscriber experience.

What is one piece of advice you have for dealers to help them stay in tune with the subscriber experience?

Dealers should embrace every opportunity to communicate with subscribers, whether it is through their billing to say, ‘Tell us how we are doing’ in the body of the bill. If you are auto debiting and electronically interfacing you should give every opportunity to ask your subscriber, ‘How are we doing?’ And the other thing is the dealer should be calling in on the phone number that they are giving their subscribers to dial the central station. In the central station world, the dealer calls one number and the subscriber calls a different number. Those experiences are not the same.

The dealer doesn’t even know what kind of experience their subscriber is getting. A two-second plug for NMC: We commit to answering your call in two rings or less in the name of the dealer. That is a phenomenal experience. Your alarm goes off, that phone is answered. It’s, ‘ABC Alarm, how can we help you?’ The experience builds from there. That you can count. If you are not dialing that number, do you have your finger on the pulse of the subscriber’s experience? You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

What are your expectations for 5G to disrupt the monitoring space?

5G wireless, never a dull moment. 5G continues to be an opportunity. We have seen the industry go from tape dialers to contact ID, through to cellemetry for communication, AES radio mesh networks and so on. Embrace the sunset because it never ends. It’s part of the opportunity for the dealers to make sure they are touching their subscribers.

Right now today it is called 5G-NB. Basically, that is a 5G narrowband. It is in beta and it has the ability to transmit small data packets, meaning security systems. Separately, you have everybody using this phrase, the IoT of Things. The IoT of Things has to be enabled to connect with all of these other devices.

5G-NB is a narrowband does not have the data packets size that is going to enable you to push all this IoT through it. But what it does do is it takes the first step. When it actually gets delivered to market, and it is 5G, it is not going to be a narrowband. It will be a deeply deployed 5G network that will enable all of the IoT of Things to communicate and connect.

Everybody wants to make that connection, but right now that connection is really tied to only having good WiFi. In the absence of good WiFi, cellular transmission is an option. Every time you expand you can look at 5G as a market disruptor. I look at 5G as a market opportunity, whether it’s residential and you are connecting all of the customer’s IoT devices, or you are working within the commercial space. In the commercial space you are talking about enterprise and you are talking about building controls and cost-savings for air conditioning and heating and lighting, all of those things.

Will 5G be a disruptor?If you are on your feet flat-footed, yes. You really need to look at it as a brand new opportunity and gateway to enable the connection of the IoT of Things.

How soon do you see the market disruption arriving?

It is here. In 2017 you have brands like Honeywell leveraging everything from DIY all the way up to enterprise. You have Nest, which NMC monitors through the I-View Now platform. These are serious market disruptors; however, every time the market is disrupted it opens up and you have to figure out what your vertical is in that disruption and what your lane is, take command of that lane and go.

Everybody gets concerned about Nest is out there and selling their product through Best Buy and they also have a Nest Pro channel. The reality of that is through the I-View Now integration, NMC dealers can walk onto a builder’s site where you have a new homeowner using Nest products. They may have purchased a camera from Best Buy and you have the ability to say, ‘Here is the Nest Pro cameras. If I put in a little Lynx panel I can contact a front door, and motion. And then we can monitor these cameras.’

Before, that dealer would walk onto that builder’s site and they would say, ‘Oh, OK, they bought a Nest camera at Best Buy and they have a Nest thermostat, and I can’t touch that.’ Well, no, you can. You can build RMR off of that. Studies show that regardless of where the product is purchased, the actual implementation of it still needs a professional channel.

We see that people buy DIY systems, and even some of the Honeywell dealers are putting together DIY systems they ship out and then there is an eventual attachment rate. They are interactive with the pro channel to make that attachment.

And virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa have a place within a pro channel?

I tested myself this past Christmas. I bought all of these devices and wanted to see if I could make them talk to each other. I have to tell you, it is the equivalent of a customer experience, ‘A sales rep just sold me this piece of hardware and this box showed up and this thing looks really cool. But I have to sit down and figure out how this is really all going to work together.’

It is not a plug and play sale. The opportunity in a disrupted market is that it is not plug and play. And as long as you know how to make those pieces talk to each other, you can deliver the service that your competitor can’t.

So you see real opportunity for installing security contractors to have a DIY offering?

Yes. The smart home is here to stay. What DIY and MIY has done is open up the renter’s market. If they utilize a video product and they still use a pro channel for monitoring, when they move all you have is a small hole in the wall that needs to be fixed, painted, and that is it.

And then again to bring 5G into that picture, 5G is going to make each individual wireless device capable of some form of cellular transmission. It’s not going to be required to be connected to the Internet. So you can’t just take how you see DIY today, you have to see DIY in the 5G world with this pipeline that gives me a chance to connect my devices via cellemetry, not only Internet. Right now our limitation is bandwidth.

What new markets might emerge because of 5G communications?

5G is the gateway to connected space. Whether it’s home, light commercial, heavy commercial or enterprise commercial. Everything heretofore has inhibited those connections because of power consumption and bandwidth.

The 5G-NB, narrowband bandwidth, has very low power consumption. LTE today is good bandwidth with low power consumption. You need the bandwidth to increase. You need the power consumption to stay as low as possible, and then it can be the gateway that allows you to connect everything within your building, within your home.

It will only increase video. Right now if you take video and you put video on the perimeter, what are your challenges? Power and path of transmission. As video evolves, you are going to see those passive transmissions incumbent upon the cellemetry route. Because if they are only working on Internet, they are only as good as A) the local pipeline and B) hopefully your central station has a pipeline to catch it.

A dealer’s pipeline is only as big as their central station partner’s pipeline. That is why dealers need to standardize. That is the challenge. You have to learn the gateway. You have to learn the services that come off that gateway. That’s what will differentiate you from your competitor.

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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