Training, audits provide backbone as central’s technologies evolve

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Friday, October 1, 2004

With an increase in technology-oriented monitoring services offered through central stations, the level of training and accountability has also risen.

At Rapid Response Monitoring, it is mandated that employees have a minimum of two years of college or two years of military service, explained Jeff Atkins, president. “There is a lot of new technology now and we need a smarter person,” he said. “We need someone who is both phone and computer savvy. If you hire smart people who are then properly trained, they can do anything.”

In its new 40,000-square-foot facility, RRM will devote a special room to the monitoring of video, GPS and other special services, Atkins said. Thirty-six of the company’s 190 operators will be stationed there, he said, offering continuity to customers and a high level of training on the various products.

“As companies add more features, we want to make sure the response and customer service levels stay the same,” he said. Atkins said RRM has a half-dozen SIA-certified instructors, although training “goes above and beyond SIA because of what we do.”

Special training is paramount

Fred Rosenfeld at Amcest is a SIA-certified trainer. He said areas such as video and personal emergency response services take special training to respond to those types of alerts.

Video requires special adherence to the script, he said, while those in the medical area “have to be sensitive to medical alert,” including taking down correct information on medication and having a degree of sensitivity to the clients, many of whom are elderly.

Also special to the PERS area, said Rosenfeld, is the addition of operators who can speak Spanish and Russian.

“In our industry, our training department is what we consider research and development,” said Steve Baker, president of NACC. He said it takes a month or more to get a dispatcher ready to handle calls. Training with a quality control person takes 80 hours. And advancement between levels requires additional testing. The company is also getting operators certified to CSAA and SIA standards, which Baker said “will give them a broader knowledge.”

Baker said proper training provides a competitive advantage as well as a selling tool for dealers.

Affiliated Central has initiated a comprehensive class spanning eight weeks, said vice president and general manager Harvey Cohen. The course covers everything from the background of the alarm industry to how systems work. Employees are also taking the CSAA on-line course, he said, with about 40 people completing it so far.

The CSAA/SIA program is also employed at Diebold, said Steve Ipson, director of monitoring services. The course covers everything from phone courtesy to dispatch, he said.

Even company executives have gone through the course, added Jacqueline Grimm, Diebold’s director of security solutions. “It’s important for all the management to do it,” she said, and refresh their knowledge “from an operator’s viewpoint.”

The online course supplements six to eight weeks of regular training, said Ipson. “Everyone is trained on video and audio; we don’t separate that from regular alarms,” he said, adding “taking video is just one more step in the process.”

It’s about what not to do

One critical part of training, said Grimm, is knowing what not to do, as well as what is required, she said. “Our customers don’t want someone trying to hotdog it at their location and putting their people in jeopardy,” she said. That’s why all voice down work is scripted and approved by the customer, Grimm added.

Auditing is another area of focus, said those who spoke with Security Systems News.

Sampling performance is the only way to see if you’re getting to the problem,” said Rosenfeld, who noted Amcest typically samples operators on a monthly basis.

The company also uses digital recording, which makes it easier to pull up calls that were cited as problems.

Every potential discrepancy is logged in and reviewed on a daily basis, said Baker, who then uses the information as a teaching tool. “Most of our folks see it as beneficial,” he said.

Ipson said Diebold pulls 10-to 15-random calls for each dispatcher. Those calls are then audited by the supervisor of associate development. Dispatchers are graded each month, and poor performance can be grounds for dismissal, he said. But the audits also serve as a learning tool for employees “to help them learn and grow and get stronger in their weak areas,” he said. “It not only improves operations, but reduces attrition. They get experience and we get fewer customer complaints.”

“From an operational standpoint,” added Grimm, “(the audit) translates into a benefit of the customer. We are very transparent to customers,” she said, and will send audio and video to them so they know exactly how a call was handled.