Wholesale monitoring company success: It’s all about the dealer
YARMOUTH, Maine—Wholesale monitoring centers use a variety of methods to grow their revenue and account bases, but dealer relations and support is the key to success, according to several executives who spoke to Security Systems News.
Affiliated Monitoring’s VP Daniel Oppenheim put it this way: “We are in a business, much like equipment manufacturers, where our success is dependent on the success of our dealers.”
Third party central stations grow by adding more dealers or supporting the business growth of current ones. “Any time our dealers are successful, so are we. If they’re able to add more customers, if they’re able to provide additional services to them, EMERgency24 would benefit as well,” Kevin Lehan, EMERgency24 PR manager, told SSN.
In order to support dealers, companies look to a few different methods, such as focusing on emerging technologies, fostering strong and lasting relationships with dealers, or by educating dealers about the state of the industry and the value of their business.
Monitoring company executives touted a diverse set of capabilities that they say draw dealers, such as: developing software in-house, the ability to support a dealer’s entire company, providing key account data to dealers, and a specially tailored funding program.
Lehan said that EMERgency24 has grown over the years by providing—and being known for—the latest technologies, and said that dealers seek the company out as a result. He said EMERgency24 was an early adopter of computerizing dispatches, pairing video surveillance with alarm signals, and offering Internet portal access for both dealers and end users.
Most recently, EMERgency24 developed its incident command and control offering, a system that opens two-way communications between people inside an emergency area and first responders, with applications in a variety of scenarios, such as public shootings or weather disasters.
“These are services our internal software development team brought to the industry and that’s one way that we differentiate ourselves,” Lehan said. “EMERgency24 writes all of its software in-house, all of the software we use is proprietary and written by our in-house staff of software engineers and telecommunication engineers.”
EMERgency 24 operates five central stations across the US, and monitors accounts in all 50 states. Lehan declined to release account or revenue figures for the company.
Affiliated’s Oppenheim also said that technological support facilitated Affiliated Monitoring’s expansion and the growth of its dealers. “The sheer breadth of our product and service offering is what gives dealers and their sales people the tools to go to market and never be constrained by the fact that their monitoring center does not have the service they want to sell,” said Oppenheim.
Oppenheim said it’s important for a monitoring center to support both new and old technologies, “whether it be video verification, the newest IoT technology or a legacy panel that was acquired as part of an acquisition.”
Affiliated was founded in 1977 and is based in Union, N.J. Oppenheim declined to release account figures for Affiliated.
Affiliated has benefited from “a keen understanding that we’re offering services to two customers—the end user, on behalf of the dealer, as well as support to the dealer—and not just help for the owner, but for their entire team,” Oppenheim said.
Supporting a dealer’s entire team means providing helpful apps and software tools to make technicians more efficient, sales people more productive and the owner more informed, making it “easy for an alarm company of any size to work with us,” said Oppenheim.
COPS Monitoring’s VP of marketing and business development David Smith told SSN in an email interview, “Our laser focus on providing third-party professional monitoring services has been the key to our long term growth.”
“We do not own accounts. ... This is a crucial point because a dealer puts it all on the line when they choose a professional monitoring provider. We believe it’s only fair if we do the same for them by deliberately ensuring that our success depends squarely on our dealers’ success,” Smith said.
COPS Monitoring has expanded “through grassroots, by acquisition, and by expanding its national footprint,” Smith said. COPS operates six central stations throughout the United States. “COPS monitors nearly 1.8 million customers. Just over two years ago, we celebrated reaching 1 million monitored accounts,” Smith said.
Tim LeBlanc, president of TriStar Monitoring said the key to success is simple. “Bottom line, it’s relationships,” he said.
One of the ways TriStar fosters trust with potential dealers is to allow dealers to move a few accounts to TriStar to sample their service. “You’re asking them to put their livelihood in your hands,” he said.
Scott Mailhot, VP of operations for Centralarm, said that relationships have been a mainstay of the company’s growth. “We’ve been around for almost 30 years … and our growth has been strictly based around our ability to maintain relationships and provide exceptional service.”
“For us, ‘relationship’ is not just that you do business with us but it’s really a function of an active, ongoing conversation, making sure that we’re providing services and technologies that are allowing out dealer partners to grow their businesses,” Mailhot said. “If they’re growing, then we’re growing.”
Centralarm currently monitors about 100,000 accounts and operates three monitoring centers.
Security Partners’ president Mike Bodnar also emphasized the necessity of communication. “You need to interact and listen and hear what you’re dealers are telling you in terms of their needs,” he said.
“Our dealers have made it clear to us that they were interested in a funding tool, to help them grow their businesses,” Bodnar said. Security Partners announced a new funding program for its dealers in June.
Based in Lancaster, Pa., Security Partners operates four central stations in the U.S.
COPS’ Smith said that dealers “don't typically choose or switch central stations on a whim. Their choice is built on relationships and trust, which is largely dependent on a central station's good reputation for providing quality services and supporting its dealer base,” he said.
Affiliated helps its dealers mine data for information about their customers. “We reach out to our dealers with key performance indicators and actionable data on how their account base is performing, allowing them to understand their business at a deeper level based on the information that we collect as their monitoring center,” Oppenheim said.
Educating dealers was a priority for several of the companies contacted by SSN. A couple mentioned formalized education efforts. “Partnering with our dealers to make sure they’re staying in the loop and educated in the technologies and service offerings that are available—that’s been key with us,” Mailhot said.
Centralarm brands its dealer education effort “Centra101,” Mailhot said. “We’re actively working and actively participating in partnering with both technology providers and manufacturers to keep our dealers up to speed on the latest and greatest.”
Security Partners has a formal program for dealer education called Security Partners University, which offers manufacturer webinars. Security Partners will also facilitate manufacturer sessions with key partners through this program, Bodnar said.
LeBlanc said TriStar sends out newsletters and conducts in-person seminars to keep dealers informed. Newsletter topics include: keeping contracts updated, what is needed to sell a business, and new products.
These offerings turn into RMR for TriStar when dealers stay loyal and referrals bring in new dealers. TriStar Monitoring opened in February 2013 with about 2,500 accounts; it now has close to 30,000, according to LeBlanc.