APX, Five Diamond Certification, and policing dealer practices

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04/28/2010
csaa2 So after receiving a few CSAA-directed comments of a bilious nature after I posted my APX gets Five Diamond certified blog post, I decided to consolidate said comments and rebuttals from the CSAA here for all y'all. Of course the news I blogged Monday was that APX, a summer-model company based in Provo, Utah, and one of the largest alarm companies in the country, had gone through the vetting process and had applied for and received Five Diamond certification from the CSAA. The blog post ran with a list of companies that have chosen to go out and spend the time and money on training in order to receive the certification. I love getting comments on my blog, and it wasn't long before a couple readers voiced their displeasure that APX (a company whose dealer base has employed the door-knocking sales method) had applied for a certification for their monitoring center and that CSAA had given it to them. Steve Nutt over at IP Alarms had this to say:
Pardon me for being controversial but… I’m curious CSAA…. when going through the certification process, do you deduct points, or award extra points for the methods that companies use to 'attract' subscribers? I suggest that you use some of the money you earned from the APX certification to setup a help line to council victims of the door knockers that are traumatized on their own doorstep. As for the damage caused to the rest of us trying to earn a living in the security industry, I guess we’ll have to earn our 'bragging rights' rather than pay for them. A sad day for the CSAA.
Gary D over at Scientific Security also disapproved of APX's monitoring center's achievement, displaying a seemingly misplaced anger toward door knockers or perhaps an amorphous disenchantment with the industry in general. "APX CSAA certified? looks like Brinks and Protection One aren’t the only things money can buy." Five Diamond certification is monitoring-focused, not dealer-focused. CSAA is the association for monitoring centers, not dealers. Please note, ESA has issued it's door-knocking code of ethics. They sorta got the whole ethical/non-ethical thing covered, I think. I mean, it's not really CSAA's business to penalize a monitoring center for the morals (or lack thereof) of the company's dealers, is it? Five Diamond certification is about vetting a monitoring center's compliance with UL standards, vetting its operators' understanding of communications technologies, alarm processing procedures and best practices, etc... I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with anyone's sense of right and wrong. Celia Besore, CSAA VP of marketing and programs addressed the implication that a company can buy certification, that CSAA is selling monitoring cred.
There is no fee to be certified as a CSAA Five Diamond company. Most certifications, such as ETL, UL, etc. (and others outside our industry) require a submission fee. Obviously, CSAA is not in the certification for the money since we do not charge for it--rather it takes many staff hours to process and deal with the CSAA Five Diamond process. We are in it to raise the standards and the educational levels in our industry.
Besore did admit that there was a charge to take the online operator training course, but that does not mean a company is certified Five Diamond. Anyone can take the training. I did, but I don't have a monitoring center to bring into UL compliance, so I can't really get Five Diamond certified. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that one generally pays for most online training courses. Besore argued the value of the training was measurable, regardless of whether or not a company chose to go the extra mile and meet the other requirements for certification. "We’ve had hundreds of companies that have had their operators certified. The value of the training is that hundreds of companies (Five Diamond or not) have had their operators certified by it," Besore said. "Good training is good training no matter what the ultimate use." CSAA EVP Steve Doyle addressed the purview of the Five Diamond certification process.
There is no charge to become a Five Diamond Central Station if you meet the requirements which are, very basically, that you have a duly Listed UL Central Station, are a member in good standing of CSAA, have all operators trained through the CSAA on-Line Training program and agree to abide by the rules of Five Diamond Central Stations and CSAA membership policies. This only applies to the monitoring central station and does not include dealers. CSAA can and does set the standards. However, we stay away from individual company sales practices as this could have legal implications in the area of anti-trust.
Is it wrong for a dealer to use dishonest sales tactics? Absolutely. I don't think anyone denies that. The question is, into whose jurisdiction does policing the actions of dealers fall?

Comments

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I used to run a door knocking alarm company. Anything you tell a door knocker about a "code of ethics" will be forgotten about the moment they leave the room. Don't for one minute think that this sorts out the "whole ethical / non ethincal thing". The code of ethics is simply a delaying tactic to keep the industry off the door knocker's backs for a while.

Did you see those guys from Goldman Sachs on TV this week? One division sells the mortgages, the other bets against them. Setting up a dealer company is Apx Central's attempt at seperation from the bad press brought about by door knocking. Sounds like that's good enough for the CSAA.

As long as it's not our 70 year old parents getting nailed by a pushy sales guy on their doorstep - why should we care ?

Hey Steve,

As always, thanks for reading and for your comments. I like the discussions that go on here.

They say there's no zealot like the converted. Perhaps that's where all this vitriol comes from. I'm not fond of what I've read about the practices of a lot of the door-knocking sales people out there, either. I get it. I understand that APX will probably not get a Christmas card and festive fruitcake from IP Alarms this year. However, why throw down with the CSAA? Regardless of how you feel about APX, the fact remains that it is not within the purview of the CSAA in the Five Diamond Certification process to police, judge, and punish the practices of a company's dealer base or sales force by withholding certification of said company's monitoring center (which has nothing to do with door knocking or buying/acquiring/"stealing" accounts), when that monitoring center meets all the requirements of certification.

To imply that the CSAA is in some way in cahoots with APX on some devious plot to divert public scrutiny away from the APX dealer base by spending a boatload of cash on a monitoring center and going through the process of training and UL vetting to get Five Diamond certified seems a little far fetched to me.

When you say "sounds like that's good enough for the CSAA," I feel it's important to remember the CSAA isn't there in this case to judge whether or not APX truly and with a pure heart <em>wants</em> to be a full service alarm company with its own central station or whether they're just doing it as a red herring: if their operators are trained and the center meets UL standards they get the certification. Their secret motivations are their own. When APX applies for certification for their central, the CSAA's job is to vet operator training in telecommunications technologies and best practices on alarm calls, and confirm the center meets UL standards. Both parties did what they were supposed to do in this instance of certification.

Dan,
You know I can't resist contributing to a controversial blog. You are probably right about the CSAA. It's not really fair of me to dump the door knocking thing on their shoulders, when it's really an industry wide problem.
Let's see how this summers complaint numbers stack up against previous years. That will give us an indication of whether or not the code of ethics had any effect.

Amen to that, Steve. I think it really will be very interesting to see what happens this summer, especially after all the huge anti-door-knocking backlash last summer. I did a pretty <a href="http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/blogsm/?p=2019" rel="nofollow">extensive blog post</a> compiling a ton of voter commentary on our famous door-knockers poll, and linked to Sam and Martha discussing all the door-knocking hubbub on ssnTVnews... If you missed it last year, it might be fun to revisit, now that the summer-model season is again upon us.

As always, thanks so much for reading and contributing a voice. I wish more people would speak up and speak their minds.