Cornerstone leverages technology to help centrals get paid

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.—In a economy that has been tough on nearly every sector of the security marketplace, billing and collections has perhaps never been more important. Responding to dealer need, Cornerstone Billing Solutions has launched services like Billing Plus collections support and the AlarmPayments.com online payment portal to take the burden of managing billing and collections off of small central station operators’ shoulders.

Cornerstone president Scott MacDougal said Cornerstone’s services were a valuable resource. “We can offer central stations the ability to offer a valued dealer service—billing—without the risk and administrative cost of running that service themselves,” MacDougal said. “We’ve found that central station automation platforms don’t offer the flexibility or real-time access that our online system and software can. So central stations that decide to partner with Cornerstone will give their dealers a far more feature-rich and comprehensive service.”

Frank Icuss is owner of Chicago-based Early Warning Alarms, a Cornerstone Billing client for about five years. “I’m a small business—I started out as a one-man shop and then we went up to five,” Icuss said. “I had put together my own applications using Microsoft products—I did my billing and everything and I thought, I’m already doing it, and I don’t have to pay anyone to do it, and at the time it was still manageable for me to do it. But then we acquired a new company that had 360 accounts, and we moved into a new office and we hired some new people, and suddenly I had a lot going on all at once—and I just felt I was wearing too many hats … Cornerstone figured out how to migrate my database into theirs and the rest is history.”

MacDougal also said Cornerstone has been quietly helping central stations collect money they’re owed while helping keep some dealers afloat in a down economy, avoiding a possible lose-lose-lose situation in which the central loses money, the dealer loses monitoring service and the end-user’s alarm company goes out of business. “In some cases, we’ve been able to help central stations who have dealers who have fallen behind in their bill get caught up. What we’re starting to offer is an option B—option A is get paid on time, option C is cut the dealer off completely when they fall behind—we’re a middle ground,” MacDougal said. “In several cases we’ve gotten dealers caught up who were six months behind on their central station bill. We’ll bill the subscribers and carve out a small piece of the receipts each month and take a past due amount and whittle it down till it’s paid off.

“We work well with central stations … We have economies of scale that even larger central stations who try to bill do not have,” MacDougal continued. “Our biggest competitor is the dealer who wants to do his billing inhouse, and who doesn’t want to give control of their data, so we do have to overcome that. But what they realize is that we free them up to do what they do well and it gives them more control of their business where they don’t have to deal with the large number of small dollar transactions—the recurring bills.”