The Big Idea with Ron Davis
Which Type of Monitoring Center is for You?
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month's BIG IDEA comes from Tim Sproul, Total Montering Services (TMS)
Sproul says TMS combines old-fashioned, quality service while keeping tabs on
today’s technology advances for customers.
OTAL MONITORING SERVICES (TMS) in Sacramento, Calif., is a wholesale monitoring company that is UL Listed and a TMA Five Diamond Monitoring Center. I’ve known its founder and president, Tim Sproul, for a long time; in fact, more than 20 years ago he worked for the company I founded, Security Associates Int’l (SAI). Sproul represented our
West Coast operations, and was highly regarded by customers,
competitors and fellow workers. When he left SAI, he went on to
start building a new business, TMS, into one of the most highly
regarded operations in the alarm industry.
I asked Sproul about what he sees as the future of the wholesale monitoring business. He started by telling me how TMS provides not just old-fashioned, quality service as more of a “boutique” monitoring facility, but also is on the cutting edge of wholesale monitoring evolution. Since he grew the company from scratch, Sproul knows a thing or two about technological advances in the industry as well as keeping the customers happy.
Sector’s Impending Consolidation Becoming Apparent
He characterized the wholesale monitoring segment as becoming
commoditized and the differentiating factor today being the
quality of service offered to the end user. Looking to the future,
Sproul sees a consolidation of the small and medium-size companies
into an industry composed of a few mega monitoring facilities,
and the smaller but still sizable (boutique) independent and smaller central stations — not unlike what’s happening in the retail sector of the alarm industry.
The basic mission of a wholesale monitoring facility isn’t changing, Sproul said, but rather embracing new technology as well as improving the quality of communications between the central station and its retail customers. When I asked him about the kinds of central station services that would be offered to tomorrow's independent alarm dealer, he hypothesized that there will be two types: dealers seeking out facilities that include specialized and customized services; and those whose needs are met by more mainstream relationships with a mega monitoring center.
Now, what does this mean to today’s independent alarm
dealer? First of all, it should be a wake-up call to the wholesale
alarm monitoring companies. There is still a call for technology-driven service and quality response.
More and more, there is a real partnership between the independent alarm dealer and the independent wholesale monitoring
company. It serves both of their needs to be doing everything it can to satisfy the needs of the customer while still complying with all of the laws and regulations of the community. Thus, the onus of determining the best quality central station that works for a particular dealer is to do the homework during the selection process.
Due Diligence Involves Digging in Deep
Once selected, the two operations will be tied at the hip. Here
are a few ways of making sure you are entering into a relationship that is going to be beneficial to both parties, as well as your customers. The following are some suggestions of things you could look for when entering into a long-term partnership with any central station. First, do your due diligence. Visit the company, talk to its employees, get referrals, check with the Better Business Bureau, and finally, check with law enforcement authorities to find out if there is a history of poor communications between the company and its customers.
Next, read carefully all of the papers that you’re going to be signing in order to become accepted as a customer of central stations:
- Make sure there is no “right of first refusal” in the language of the contract between you (the alarm dealer) and your monitoring company.
- Make sure you have access to your telephone lines.
- Make sure you are not obligated to anything more than a
verbal guarantee to ensure that quality service is going to
- Make sure there is no payment due the monitoring company
if you decide to leave.
- Verify that there is no long-term contract in place.
- Recognize and quantify any monies that will be due and payable.
Finally, ask if the person who is entering into the agreement
representing the central station is in it for the long haul. You
might find that important as you go down the path toward your
success. Of course, keep in mind the underlying maxim of any
businessman — always plan for your exit when you plan for your success! In other words, always know what your exit plan is and be able to implement that in a relatively short timeframe.
Is there a hidden message in all of this? No, but circling back
not everybody who runs a wholesale monitoring station is as
quality driven as Sproul. Not all companies provide the service
that TMS does. However, the good news is that the majority of
them really are solid. Your job has got to be to seek out the qualities you look for in a service support center. Once you can define that, you’re probably halfway there to finding a quality alarm response partner.