Our security dealer customers are in a very competitive market. They compete with large national players like ADT, usually several local independent dealers, “DIY” companies like SimpliSafe, and others.
In order to compete successfully, our dealers need to be clear about their competitive advantages. “We are your best choice because…” The advantages could be unique product lines, service differentiators, or specialization in, say, commercial fire systems.
We Compete Too!
Cornerstone Billing Solutions faces tough competitors as well. We compete with a growing number of “CRM” (customer relationship management) software companies. Some of these CRM providers are also industry-specialized, like us. There are billing services that we compete with. To succeed, we need to be crystal clear about who we are, what we do, and how we’re different from the other guys.
One of our primary competitors is AlarmBiller. Launched about 10 years ago, its platform targets small and mid-sized dealers. We’ve been in contact with former AlarmBiller users to put together a side-by-side comparison. Things change quickly in the software world; at the moment, we think this is an accurate assessment:
What’s Important to You?
Alarmbiller is certainly a worthy competitor. Their business model seems to be geared toward providing their cloud software to a large number of dealers. They offer third-party integrations that enable efficient handling of autopay and paper billing. For dealers that prefer to run recurring billing themselves, Alarmbiller’s setup may be a better fit.
Cornerstone treats recurring billing as a managed service. It has gotten very complex to do in-house, as subscribers want ALL the options – for example, all autopay methods, online payment, and several “payment date” options during the month. We decided 22 years ago that we’d be able to perfect the recurring process, offering several advantages over in-house billing. That belief has been validated, for sure. Dealers that value having a professional billing services firm just “handle it” will gravitate toward Cornerstone.
There are not that many differences between the two offerings in terms of functionality. Both platforms offer full field service, scheduling, and inventory management. Cornerstone chose to integrate with an affordable provider for eSignature services. Rather than develop a proprietary general ledger, Cornerstone opted to offer flexibility for the dealer to choose their G/L, such as QuickBooks.
These are philosophical choices that can impact a dealer’s choice of software. But in the end, customer satisfaction usually boils down to how easy the software is to navigate, and to the quality of support provided.
Great and immediate support is at the heart of Cornerstone’s business model. In dealing with our own vendors, if we have an issue or question, we want to be able to resolve it immediately. We’ve never had our dealers submit “support tickets” and then need to wait a day or a week for a response. It’s more expensive for us to staff for real-time phone and chat support. Yet our dealers constantly tell us that this support is key to their loyalty to us. On average our dealers pay a bit more to use our software and services versus AlarmBiller —but clearly it’s worth it for them!
We tell our prospects and dealers that the buck stops with Cornerstone’s company owners. It’s important in this industry that our dealers know the faces and names of the owners. Like them, Cornerstone is a small business, with owners that are very proud of the company’s services. Our owners expect—and welcome—calls from customers if there’s a significant issue or problem. That’s part of the deal. When choosing our vendors, Cornerstone tends to work with smaller companies where we have an assigned rep that can quickly help resolve any issues. We’ve learned the hard way that when you work with large, faceless vendors, you rarely get the support and accountability you expect and deserve.