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When did the central station become the dumping ground or the step child in the operations pyramid?
June 5, 2023
When did the central station become the dumping ground or the step child in the operations pyramid?
          I would be interested in what your readers think about this topic
          “When did the central station become the dumping ground or the step child in the operations pyramid?”
          All accounts are not equal, just like all installations are not the same. Installations can be complex, expansive or small and simple, but burglary or fire is not the focus here, no the focus is the out of the ordinary account. The typical burg or fire account is not expected to trigger. Studies have shown that the average burglar alarm should send less than 6 activations per year and result in one police dispatch every five years.
          So what happened? Did alarm companies forget what their purpose is or mission statement? I think that many companies started with the same premise, to do the very best installation, provide a service that meets or exceeds the customers’ expectations and grow their account base with many satisfied customers. What I don’t think anyone ever entered this business saying, I am going to do a crappy job just to build my RMR regardless of what it does to my reputation.
          But something went wrong along the way, the focus changed to attrition tables and methods of give it away because all we want is more RMR, while not get trapped in servicing the customer because the sale was done and a five year contract was in place. However at some point the customer wanted anything else than being ignored or inconvenienced by false activations and police fines.
          This is where someone got the bright idea (kind of like Mikey on the Life Cereal commercials) to dump the problem on the central station. Now it didn’t make a difference if it was an internal central station or a contracted outside service, but it created a place to make the operational problems someone else’s nightmare.
          From that point the ideas were limitless to solve the industry’s woes. Basic telephone verification, audio verification, cross zoning verification, two call verification, video verification and now there is a new standard to score each and every signal to tell the police if they need to go right away or later whenever they feel like it because we can’t add any context.
          But it also gets worse, remove the guard from the premises, we can monitor any process “just like a burglar alarm” and charge a fee that is 500% more then what our direct cost is. BRILLIANT.
          However this is where the central station takes the beating. Just as the noxious alarm that has instructions not to call the police but just the call list, who couldn’t care anyway and the problem just continues, the customer finds no value and the central station loses a tremendous amount of money on the labor costs to man the office for events that were not supposed to happen in the first place.
          The central station function is as important, if not more than all the other aspects of the customer experience. If your customer is on a first name basis with your central station operator, there is something wrong. If your customer can tell you what the phone number for the central station is from their memory, there is something wrong. If the customer or alarm company puts a faulty zone on test for longer than the end of the next business day, something is wrong.
          Everything eventually catches up to the point where it breaks or is just so uncomfortable that it can’t continue anymore.
          Enter the “Alarm Factor”. This has been around for some 10 years and is an open transparent data set in the Stages monitoring platform. It gives the central station the ability to identify alarm companies with unusual activity and its abusive customers compared against the total account base. However in the beginning we tried using this to get the attention of company managers to identify problem accounts with little to no success. We thought alarm company managers cared about customer satisfaction which clearly is the essential part of any referral program and what sells more alarms then referrals? Nothing.
          So now, the alarm factor has morphed to something else, now we are using it to judge the costs to provide our services associated with any alarm company that we do work for. Just like labor on an installation or service call, the central station time spent can be measured and accounted for.
          So my question to your readers is simple, does there accounts have endless individual special instructions to cover up design, installation or operational errors by users? Or are they focused on quality and functionally as their mission for being in business? Or is it only RMR and contract enforcement?
          They can email me directly if they want.  Bdidden at
Bart A. Didden, President
U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp.
Port Chester, NY
Milford, CT
St. Paul, MN
          We should file this article under “gripes”.  Maybe well founded.  I discourage alarm dealers from permitting their customers the luxury of demanding that signals be responded to in particular ways that actually depart from how the central station operators are trained to response.  It’s just one more thing that can go wrong.
          Your statistics are sobering.  You say the typical burglar and fire alarm triggers a signal six times a year and that there is one police response.  A company with 1000 accounts can expect 6000 emergency signals and 1000 police dispatches a year.  I’m not sure where to do with that.
          Central stations have for a long time been interested in the signal history of prospective dealers as customers.  A central station doesn’t want to allow a problem dealer to enter its customer base if that dealer is going to cause more than its fair share of responses and work.  Central stations either tell a dealer its not welcome or price the monitoring charges accordingly.  I suppose some dealers have such poor experiences that central stations are reluctant to take them on and the dealer has to be grateful to any central station that will accept the accounts and then live with the well above average activity. 
          Anyway, Bart is asking for dealer and central station reaction and response.  So, who would like to comment?

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301