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by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DALLAS—Last September, when Monitronics changed its name to MONI Smart Security, it also said it would be pushing its brand toward consumers more. In line with that, MONI started a new initiative: its Customer Bill of Rights.

“Products and price are relatively similar across companies within the industry. The true differentiator, in this industry, can be customer experience,” Jay Autrey, recently promoted chief customer officer at MONI, told Security Systems News. “We want to be disruptive when it comes to the customer experience in the home security industry.”

According to the company, customers have the right to local service, easily moving their system to a new location, understand their contract, voice their opinions, have all issues addressed in one business day and a simple cancellation process.

The company relied on customer feedback, as well as a collaborative effort from dealer support and customer service organizations within MONI, to identify the most important customer rights.

Moni has in the last nine months been instituting more channels for direct customer feedback, Autrey said, and can use that information to gauge whether or not it is upholding the customer’s rights.

The company wants to “make sure that customers fully understand what they can expect from MONI, up to choosing us but obviously [also] well after choosing us.”

Chief customer officer is a newly created role at MONI, and Autrey said that the role shows a commitment to customer service, both internally and externally.

MONI is also looking to improve relations with customers by more frequently contacting them and giving them information on new products and services, Autrey said, which was a request the company heard from customers.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 8, 2017

EDMONTON, Canada—FillQuick, a CRM company that has worked with MONI, UCC and AvantGuard, will now be integrated with ADT’s API.

FillQuick has “done a fantastic job in developing a customer relationship management tool that will allow our dealers to run their businesses more efficiently and more effectively,” Clay Fearrington, senior director of strategic initiatives, business architecture & dealer development at ADT, told Security Systems News.

“In the past, a dealer would have a CRM, but didn’t have the connection into the ADT systems,” Fearrington continued. “The big benefit here is it’s reducing keystrokes.”

ADT is also working to integrate other CRMs into its API, such as Engarde and SecurityTrax. ADT dealers specifically requested an integration with FillQuick, which led to the companies’ collaboration, Fearrington said.

Since FillQuick’s last wave of announcements in 2016, FillQuick has added several new features to the software, including auto-generating account numbers for installation and connection to central stations, expanded reporting features of its software and uploading features for proposals or images in a range of different formats. “Sales reps, they write proposals and take a picture, and attach it to a lead. So, if they ever come back to that lead, they can take a look at what they offered to that customer,” Paul Shakuri, FillQuick's founder said.

“Another big feature update was notifications for users within the software when statuses change on accounts, such as [when] an account gets installed, an account gets cancelled [or] an account gets paid on,” he said, adding that this now brings this information to salespeople.

Shakuri said that the company has a high rate, close to 95 percent, of converting companies that demo the software into customers. “[A] huge percentage of people who were not joining was because we were not integrated with ADT,” Shakuri said.

The company is currently working on new communication capabilities in the software between a dealer and its sub-dealers. “We’re looking to have it complete within quarter one [2017],” Shakuri said.

What else is on FillQuick’s agenda for 2017? “Our sights are set on integrating with a couple more central stations,” Shakuri said. FillQuick will also focus on data and dealer feedback to further improve the software.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—ManitouNEO, Bold Technology's latest version of its central station automation platform, is commercially available as of today.

Rod Coles, Bold’s CEO, called ManitouNEO “the first major re-architecture of the software. … This is version two.” Bold Technologies released its first version of Manitou in 2003, 14 years ago, and Coles expects this version to hold up just as long. Bold has about 600 customers using Manitou; the upgrade is free for current Manitou customers.

ManitouNEO will be browser-based, and feature a new user interface. “The reason that we’ve chosen a browser-based application means that its portable,” Coles told Security Systems News. The software can now run Windows, Linux, Mac and even on a phone or tablet, he continued. 

“With ManitouNEO, we can use exactly the same application for dealers as well as central station staff. It’s just permissions based,” Coles said. This makes Bold’s maintenance and dealer support easier, according to Coles.

ManitouNEO is starting out with options for both a new user interface and Manitou’s existing interface. This allows companies and their employees to learn the new interface at their own pace, according to Coles. “We’ve done a lot of work to allow them to have both [user interfaces available], and they can gradually move from one to another.”

Many of NEO’s new features are also available in the previous Windows interface. Previously, Bold had offerings in separate interfaces, such as its GPS-focused BoldTrack. “Now we’ve been able to pull that and other things all into one user interface. It just brings a lot of different parts of our products together,” he said.

Bold, in addition to the new interface, has enhanced its action patterns, which give users specific instructions and information on alarm handling. These action patterns now include more conditional items, Coles noted.

Bold’s cloud-based automation platform, Manitou Cloud Services, will be upgraded to ManitouNEO as well. “This application will work within a central station, just like our existing platform does. But, of course, it’s a natural fit for the cloud,” Coles said. This upgrade should take place in the next few months, he said.

“NEO itself will improve the upgrade process,” according to Coles. “Because it is web-based application, then all we have to do is literally update the server and then all of the work stations are effectively upgraded.”

A new feature coming soon to NEO is a communications center that will allow operators multiple avenues to connect with alarm users at the same time, such as text messaging capabilities while also being on the phone.

Training new employees could become easier, as people are generally familiar with browser-based applications, according to Coles.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MONI Smart Security, formerly Monitronics, recently promoted its SVP of operations, Bruce Mungiguerra, to the role of COO.

In this new role, Mungiguerra will be “Shifting some focus off of customer care leadership and increasing focus on dealer operations, innovating our dealer channel through dealer enablement, sales training and building a stronger more efficient field operations group within in MONI,” he told Security Systems News in an email interview.

Since joining the company in 2006, Mungiguerra has served in several roles in the organization, including as director of consumer sales, VP field operations, VP Sales and dealer development, and most recently SVP operations.

“In the 10 plus years I have been with the organization, we have seen a tremendous amount of change,” Mungiguerra said. When Mungiguerra started, the company “Had just over 300,000 customers, with 100% of our business coming from dealer generated sales with a heavy concentration in summer sales activity, no internal field service technicians and a brand that was unknown to most consumers.”

He continued, “Today, we sit with over 1 million customers, a new brand in MONI Smart Security, national advertising in print, radio and T.V., close to 100 field technicians across the country in MONI wrapped vans servicing our customers and several national lead partnerships driving sales and leads both internally and for our dealer channel.”

by: Spencer Ives - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HAGERSTOWN, Md.—Throughout the past year, Dynamark entered some new areas: it moved into a new 24,000 square-foot facility, launched a funding program for its dealers, and entered the mPERS space through working with Numera’s Libris device. Company CEO Trey Alter looks ahead at 2017 as the “year of improvement.”

“This year our theme is it’s all about service, both for Dynamark customers and helping our dealers provide better service to their customers. It’s easy to create accounts in this industry, but it’s hard to fulfill the expectations of the customer,” Alter told Security Systems News.

“It’s a more competitive marketplace than it’s ever been,” Alter said, pointing to the cablecos and DIY offerings. “[We’re] trying to help our dealers understand that it’s going to take more each and every year to both get new customers and keep the customers you have.”

The company grew by 36 percent in 2016, which is somewhat consistent with Dynamark’s previous growth according to Alter. He also said that dealers have been showing interest in the new funding programs since its release.

The company previously said that it is looking to acquire another central station, and Alter said it’s a “must do” for 2017. “We’re very focused on finding a second central station this year—whether it means opening a new location or purchasing an existing location—and adding it to Dynamark,” he said.

“I think, ideally, we’d like to see something more in the Western market; but, we would never overlook a quality central station,” Alter said. Purchasing an existing central, instead of building one, “gives us the chance to meet a bunch of new dealers, to roll out some new technology to them, and to just make more relationships.”

What is the company looking to improve on? “Helping dealers understand early warning signs of bad customer behavior.” Alter gave a couple of examples, “If your customer’s not arming their system, and has not done so in a month, they will cancel on you—earlier than you’d like them to—because it means they have not found value in the system.”

Alter continued, “If you are not talking to your customers about the new offerings, about the camera systems that are available today, about the ability to integrate home automation devices, someone else is going to take your customers.”

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ESX just recently opened early registration for the 2017 show, to be held June 13-16 at the Music City Center, in Nashville, Tenn., as well as nominations for ESX 2017 Innovation Awards.

Yesterday, ESX announced a heavily discounted rate for early registration as celebration for the show's 10th year; early registrants will only pay $199 for ESX's Premium Pass. Last year, the Premium Pass early rate was $700. 

"We are thrilled to extend the special pricing for ESX 2017! To celebrate our 10th year, we really wanted to expand the opportunity of experiencing ESX to even more integrators, dealers and monitoring professionals," George De Marco, ESX chairman, told Security Systems News in an email exchange.

"We plan to highlight all the best of what the industry has to offer – technology, education and networking – and to take a trip down memory lane, showing off the best of ESX over the years," De Marco said.

ESX has a strong focus on providing useful education each year; this year the program expands with new “CounterPoint Forums,” De Marco said. “The interactive format will encourage security professionals to explore and discuss opposing views freely and passionately. We’ll be discussing topics, such as: Should you sell your security company? Cable service companies are here to stay - what impact are they having on the industry? DIY Security: Passing fad of real opportunity?”

“We believe the Counterpoint Forum will become a strong anchor in our program for 2017 and beyond,” De Marco continued.

Vendors and service providers can submit their nominations for Innovation Awards up to March 17. 

Alongside these announcements, ESX posted its educational session this year. Glancing at some of the session, I see some key trends for the industry. 

“Video Verification - Can You See Me Now?” one of the sessions in the Grow Your Business track, will look at video verification, why it’s important and how to upsell customers to gain more RMR.

In the Monitoring Center track, “Critical Steps to Understand and Combat the Growing Cyber Threats to your Monitoring Center Data,” plans to address the now ubiquitous concern of cybersecurity and tell attendees how they can educate their staff and identify proper resources to support their IT organization.

“Must Know Future Trends of the Industry,” a session in the Rethink the Future track, looks at a variety of industry topics, including cloud-based services, new players in the market, and the “pros and cons” of forming third-party partnerships.

In the Run Your Company track, “Five Tips for Managing Millennials” session seeks help attendees tap into potential talent in younger generations, through understanding common millennial career views and motivations.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Parks Associates recently released a whitepaper that discusses key trends in the IoT space for 2017.

“The Internet of Things is driving the reinvention of consumer technology and entertainment markets,” Brett Sappington, senior research director, Parks Associates, said in the announcement.

“New players and product categories are emerging that challenge traditional players with established business models and distribution channels. Online giants have the scale and technology to take risks in new areas of innovation. In some cases, these innovations are transforming whole sectors of the connected home,” Sappington continued.

According to Parks’ research, the average U.S. broadband household has “more than eight connected computing, entertainment, or mobile devices, plus another two connected home devices such as networked cameras, smart thermostats, or smart lighting.”

That strikes me as very interesting, as my household contains only about five—and, as a millennial, I feel more is expected of me there.

“Consumer interaction with the devices and services in their lives – at home, in the car, on the go – will continue to evolve in 2017 to be more personal and targeted,”  Jennifer Kent, director, research quality and product development for Parks Associates, said in a prepared statement. “Approximately 50% of U.S. broadband households plan to buy a smart home device in the next 12 months, and they will tie these devices to their mobile platforms, broadband connections, and other devices to create a singular but ever-expanding user experience.”

Below are the 10 trends Parks Associates noted on in their announcement:

1.         Voice control is vying to become the primary user interface for the smart home and connected lifestyle.

2.         The smartphone market plateaus, and mobile carriers experiment to retain subscribers, which will threaten fixed broadband services.

3.         CE manufacturers focus on new product categories and ecosystem strategies to compensate for stagnation in a mature market.

4.         Virtual and augmented reality gain a foothold in niche operations and greater awareness among early adopters, creating opportunities for social VR experiences.

5.         The differences between on-demand and live viewing continue to blur as consumers embrace a variety of OTT video services.

6.         Consumers increasingly expect connectivity in their cars, but pricing, safety, and data privacy concerns inhibit market growth.

7.         To cross the chasm, the smart home industry will continue to develop new use cases for security, peace of mind, and energy management.

8.         Insurers are exploring new business opportunities in smart home products and services and will continue to launch trials and new partnerships.

9.         Wearables and smart watches are expanding as healthcare tools and will be integrated with other IoT applications.

10.       Consumerization of healthcare services and devices drives integration with smart home ecosystems and new business models.

The whitepaper also includes a list of “Players to watch in 2017” for a variety of categories, including voice control, security and the smart home, connected health devices, and insurance and the smart home.

 

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.—Wearable Health Solutions, formerly Medical Alarm Concepts, is moving from its original direct-to-consumer model to a dealer-only model with its new mPERS offering, the iHelp + 3G.

“The goal of this product and our company is to sell to dealers and to give them everything that they would need to help them to sell this product, and that includes the dealer portal,” Jennifer Loria, Wearable Health Solutions COO told Security Systems News.

The company is looking to roll-out its new mPERS in the end of January 2017. The company is currently sending out demos—“We’re ready and we’re excited about it,” Ronnie Adams, company president and CEO, told SSN.

Adams said that the company’s new name, unveiled in June, aligns it with the wearable field, a key aspect of medical alert devices.

The iHelp + 3G mPERS stands out through its new dealer portal, according to Adams, which will give dealers the ability to upsell and turn on certain features. “It gives them the ability to offer features and functionality where they couldn’t do it before,” Adams said. He also lauded the product’s light weight—1.5 ounces—and its small size.

The new device works on a 3g network and includes fall detection, geo-fencing and tracking capabilities in addition to its main help button. It device can also emit sound to help locate it if it is lost. The unit can notify specifically identified contacts if the user leaves the geo-fenced area; it will also notify these contacts when the user reenters the zone, Adams said.

“If somebody pushes the SOS [button], that’s the only time that it goes to a monitoring center—or if somebody falls,” Adams said.

“If the dealer wants us to brand it, we will brand it for the dealer,” Adams said. In certain events, key contacts will be sent a map, showing the user’s location and even this map can be white-labeled for the dealer, Adams said.

The company’s first solution, a PERS device called the MediPendant, was sold direct to consumer through big box stores and is being phased out over the next six months. While Wearable Health Solutions will services MediPendant, “The business going forward is going to be strictly with dealers, and with a dealer program, for the iHelp + 3G,” Adams said.

The company had a middle step between selling the MediPendant direct to consumer, and it’s 3G device to dealers. “In the interim, while we were developing this [3G] product, we came out with a 2G product, which got us into the field and enabled us to understand … the cellular space a little bit better and the dealer space a little bit better,” Adams said.

The company had a dealer portal for its 2G offering, originally called the iHelp, to learn more about the needs of the company’s dealers, Loria said. The original iHelp is no longer being sold.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BALA CYNWYD, Pa.—Connect America, a large provider of PERS products, recently announced two acquisitions through its Healthcare Division; Racine’s Medical Alert, based in La Junta, Co., and Spirit Homecare’s Medical Alert Division, located near Des Moines, Iowa.

“We acquire…  local providers that really have a regional reach and the opportunity to grow those businesses by cultivating referral sources in the geography where they operate,” Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s Healthcare Division, told Security Systems News.

By acquiring Racine’s Medical Alert, Connect America’s Healthcare Division expands into Colorado. The company will continue to use it’s Racine’s brand.

Brooks said that the purchase of Spirit Homecare’s Medical Alert Division opens the company’s opportunities in the Des Moines. This division will fold into Connect America’s network in the Des Moines area.

These acquisitions complement the company’s July acquisition of Home Buddy, based in Kansas, Brooks said.

Brooks described the company’s approach to incorporating acquired businesses, “We enhance the sales and marketing operation, we take some of the back office functions and move them to our headquarters, and emphasize a sales effort on a local basis.”

Connect America’s Healthcare Division has finalized four acquisitions in the past 12 months and expects a similar rate for the next year, according to Brooks.

The Healthcare Division grows both organically and through acquisition; 70 percent of the division’s growth comes organically and 30 percent is through acquisitions. The company did not announce the number of subscribers included in the deal.

by: Spencer Ives - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—Throughout the year one topic has been cropping up: the benefits of switching to a wholesale central station.

Several companies this year have opted to pick a third party monitoring center over continuing to operate their own central; RFI Communications switched to Rapid Response in March, Red Hawk Fire & Security partnered with Affiliated in October and recently, Comtronics switched its monitored accounts to NMC.

Some of these companies said that the move allowed them to refocus on the core of their business.

One thing that each of these companies highlighted is new-found flexibility and the ability to focus more heavily on offering new services and technologies to their customers. Specifically, these companies highlighted offerings such as mobile services and video verification with I-View Now.

This has been a pretty hot topic in the industry, it seems. I know if came up at CSAA’s annual meeting in the panel entitled “Owning vs. Contracting – Future Trends for Monitoring Centers.” I’d like to hear your opinions; Is this trend going to continue? Feel free to check out our most recent News Poll to share your views on the business benefits of either third party monitoring centers or operating your own central station. 

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