ARC keeps personal touch

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

EUCLID, Ohio--At its annual meeting last month, American Response Center promoted planned software and hardware upgrades as tools for better customer service and not as a way for its dealers to disconnect from the central station.
At a projected cost of approximately $100,000, the wholesale monitoring firm installed new workstation computers this summer and plans to complete an upgrade to the Bold Group's Microsoft Windows-based Manitou software by the second quarter of next year. AMC now runs on the Bold Theos 7.2 platform, which the company first started working on in 1981.
"We'll slowly just switch it over," said Jim Osborne, president at the company. Osborne explained that one of the reasons he chose to upgrade the software at this time was to prevent any issues with Bold no longer supporting the older application.
Manitou will enable ARC to operate access control, video and global positioning systems applications on the same platform. The company will also be able to offer its dealers an enhanced browser-based remote access service. In the past, Bold supplied dealers with software for this function, not so with the newer software.
"It's more Microsoft compatible, it's a more traditional Windows environment," said Jerry Winslow, vice president of sales and marketing at Bold. "We're just enabling (Jim) and his dealers to offer more services to the customer."
ARC already supports video monitoring products from Dedicated Micros and OzVision, as well as GPS products from Guardian Mobile Monitoring Systems. Osborne said he would consider adding access control products once the integration is finished.
But any investment in technical enhancements will not mean the loss of a personal touch from the central station's employees, according to Osborne.
"All these different functions are great, but you don't use them to run the operation," he said. "We're not looking to Manitou to reduce manpower. Our whole key is to have human operators answer the phone and deal with the customers and the dealers."
ARC, which works with 185 dealers and monitors 28,000 accounts, hosted 100 dealers last year at its annual conference, now in its third year.
This year, manufacturing representatives from Guardian, Bosch Security Systems, Napco Security Group and General Electric are expected to attend the meeting to discuss the latest trends within the industry, including technical advancements in GPS, video and how these applications affect dealers' businesses.
One hot topic is the infiltration of Voice over Internet Protocol services in the home and the technology's impact on monitoring. Manufacturing reps and Osborne will use the event to discuss how best to bridge the divide between more prevalent products and this emerging one.
VoIP "is probably one of the main topics that will go on for the next few years," he said.