On guard: Firm watches its service, false alarms

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Friday, July 1, 2005

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.--Nine years ago, Michael Keegan and his wife, Luette, gave up the their lives in the East after purchasing security company Watchguard Security Systems in a tourism-driven locale in Wyoming.
Today, Keegan, president of the company and a security industry veteran who has worked for companies such as Sonitrol and Commonwealth Security, spends most of his time making false alarms a priority. And the attention to detail has paid off. Keegan has seen his business continually grow over the past decade because he is focused on being the resort town's "security man."
"We've been in a continual growth mode adding new accounts every year," he said. "Typically, we look to add 30 percent each year."
As Jackson Hole, Wyo.--the area receives almost four million visitors per year--has grown, so has Watchguard. But even with the company's year after year growth, Keegan is still the one handling a majority of calls.
"We are a high end alarm company," he said, "but if you call us in the middle of the night, you are going to get me, the owner of the business, which some people find amusing when they call."
Keegan said he is careful to not take on more than what the company, which handles 1,000 accounts and employs three technicians, can handle--he would not trade a few extra accounts for a slight slip in customer service.
Other than the service aspect of the business, the company, which employs verified response for all of its alarms, also focuses on preventing false alarms.
"When we dispatch a policeman, it is for something serious," Keegan said. 'I don't want to send an officer on a wild goose chase."
Keegan said that mentality followed an incident in Lancaster, Pa., when he was working with Commonwealth--owned by Patrick Egan who also owns Security Partners, the monitoring company that monitors Watchguard's accounts. There was an alarm that the police were responding to when a call came in that a child had fallen in a nearby playground.
"I was pulling an officer away from his rounds, which if I hadn't he would have quickly gotten to that child," he said.
To take his commitment to false alarms even further, at 6 a.m. each morning, Keegan personally reviews all signals received at the monitoring station the night before to determine if follow-up service is needed. Calls are also made to confirm a signal's cause.
Keegan said he feels these additional service steps are a main factor in securing the company's position in the area's security industry.
"If we are responsive and do what we say we are going to do, people are going to continue to do business with us," Keegan said. "And that's a formula for success."