A question for our security dealer friends–do you agree with this statement?
“Your security company is just like any other contractor business.”
Nearly all our customers would shout: “NO WAY! Our business is unique!” Cornerstone has served this industry for over 21 years, and we completely agree. In fact, our business probably wouldn’t exist if security companies were just like any contractor business.
Some Similarities—More Differences?
I say that because we build software for alarm companies—and only alarm companies. Security dealers will install quality systems, just as HVAC contractors will install quality heating and air conditioning systems. BUT – security dealers then put the system online with the monitoring center, involving anywhere from a few to hundreds of zones. These days, they likely set the customer up with an app to access cameras, locks, system status & alerts, and other interactive services. They need to set up recurring billing for one or perhaps several ala carte services.
So—software for alarm companies needs to accommodate all this. Security systems are complex, and they are life safety systems—protecting from fire, intrusion, and much more. Protecting from bad guys, and dangers like fire, water, CO, etc. Generic accounting software, or even contractor-focused software, can probably help store data and equipment details. But the ongoing and continuous protection needed in the security services world demands software that can keep pace.
Speaking Your Language
Cornerstone’s software speaks the dealer’s language. We have fields for central station ID numbers—sortable and searchable. Good software for alarm companies should make it easy to keep your list of monitored account in sync with your billed accounts. In fact, our very popular Central Station Audit report, in combination with our integrations with most major central stations, lets our dealers ‘true up’ these two lists very quickly…no spreadsheets needed.
On every customer record screen, there are buttons to view the zone list, and the emergency contact list. These can also be synced using our central station integrations. These are unique elements of a security subscriber account. Without software built to easily manage these elements, staff needs to toggle to other software, paper files, or some other time-consuming option.
Wisdom of the Crowd
Our dealers have found another big benefit working with a specialized software company—call it “the wisdom of the crowd.” No single company has it all, or knows it all. Cornerstone is constantly listening to our customers’ best suggestions, and implementing them. That’s a key to our success. If we ever rest on our laurels, we’re toast. We absolutely must evolve, and add the best ideas to our system. In a sense, our alarm company software becomes alarm industry groupware. It’s an amalgamation of good design, good ideas, good support, and constant improvement.
That said, no software is nirvana. All software involves trade-offs, often needing to balance design simplicity with powerful built-in features a click or two away. As we talk to our users, we hear “I want it to be easy to use and navigate”, and in the same breath “but I need instant access to these 17 features.” So there you are. That’s the challenge of building and supporting software for alarm companies. Keep it simple, but make it powerful.
Different Users, Different Views
Like an HVAC or plumbing company, a security dealer has different user types. There are administrative users in the office, often the quarterbacks supporting the field service team. They need a more comprehensive view of the customers and jobs. They need to see the accounting details. Conversely, the field techs need a simpler view—they need to see their own appointments and work orders, perhaps nothing more. They need to be able to pull parts, add labor hours and trip charge details, then quickly close the ticket when the work is done—and create the invoice. Software built for alarm companies needs to provide more than a single “view.”
Tracking Sales, Pushing to Work Flow
Salespeople need yet a different view. They need to see their leads, the status of their leads, and they need any easy way to generate a quote—or multiple quotes. The quote needs to look good, with part pictures and descriptions, and space to tell the prospect about the company. Once a quote is ready, the salesperson should be able to send the quote quickly and track its status. Cornerstone’s system integrates with Formstack, so the sales reps know when their prospect receives, views, and signs the quote. Then, with one click, the accepted quote can be converted to a work order, and enter the work flow.
Grease In The Wheels
I’ve said it often—good software built for alarm companies is grease in the wheels of your business. On our Alarmbills.com home page we feature an Engine-Start button. We think that’s a good metaphor. When you get to work, and log into specialized, robust software, it’s like starting a finely tuned engine. Driving it should feel like driving a performance vehicle: smooth, powerful, and satisfying. Good software, used correctly, will help you drive your business to greater success. It will make your business simpler and more profitable—period.