The Value Of Integrations!

Cornerstone added its first integration about 13 years ago—with the US Post Office site. That was a simple integration that confirmed the address for a newly added account, including zip + 4. Since then we’ve added over a dozen integrations, with central stations, collection agencies, and other software providers. Here’s a partial list: https://alarmbills.com/integrations/

Integrations add value in many ways—below are the most common ones.

Good Integrations Mean Data Accuracy!

The USPS integration supported better data accuracy. Rather than risk that an address is invalid or incomplete, the quick “check” with USPS ensures that an address is good and complete. That improves mail delivery rates, which helps with timely payments.

Likewise, central station integrations help bring in key customer data from the central’s database. For most of our integrations, dealers can instantly bring in a) premise information (name, address, phone), b) zone lists, and c) contact lists. By adding this information to a customer record, our dealers have a more complete data set on each customer. If they need to go to the customer’s site on a service call, their work orders can now include key information like zone lists. That saves time, and is very helpful to the technician. The end result is quicker, more efficient service calls due to having more complete information.

Integrations Save Time

The most common benefit of integrations is simply time savings. Downloading zones/contacts from a central station’s database means our dealer doesn’t need to re-enter the information manually. We are integrated with a collection agency, A.R.M. Solutions, to help our dealers push seriously past-due accounts to A.R.M.’s collection system. The integration makes it seamless, so that nobody needs to manually key in past due invoices and payments received. Our system uploads a fresh data set overnight, every night.

Some of our central station integrations include the ability to “update” customer data. For example, if a contact phone number needs to be changed, our dealer can find the customer record, click on contacts, then simply enter the new phone number. That update is instantly pushed to the central station’s monitoring platform. No need to log into the central station’s interface, find the customer, and make the update there. Very handy!

Adding Functionality with the Right Integrations

Cornerstone is integrated with a small-batch printing and mailing company. When we set up this integration, we added our CornerMail service, a new feature of our software. If a dealer is extremely busy, but needs to send out 100 letters to a group of accounts related to 3G upgrades needed, service changes related to Covid, or whatever—CornerMail allows them to click a button, and send that letter batch next day through our integration partner. We understand many customers are short-staffed, so a new feature like this is an affordable way to get a bunch of manual stuff done immediately and affordably!

Our recent integration with Portal.IO is another example of using an integration to add a new, critical functionality to our system. Portal.IO has built its own integrations with a large base of equipment suppliers to our industry. Those integrations allow for instant updating of part prices. With the inflation of the last few years, it’s a big challenge to keep inventory prices up to date so job costs/margins are correct. Portal’s system has automated this, allowing for price updates in real time.

Cornerstone wanted to solve this pain point for our customers, so our integration with Portal leveraged the hard work they did to keep prices up to date easily. For our company, this integration quickly solved the problem. Our customers that use this Portal.IO integration are extremely happy with the new functionality, and the many hours of manual updating it saves them.

Integration Depth: Less is More!

Our philosophy when building a new integration is simple: less is more. We start with solving the main problem our customer faces. For example, with our QuickBooks Online integration, the customer’s goal is to end up with an accurate bank balance and Profit & Loss statement. That integration pushes bank deposits and month-end journal entries that allocated payments received across their revenue “buckets.” So even though we do NOT attempt to sync all invoices and payments with their QuickBooks, they end up achieving the desired goal—their bank balances and profit and loss statements are right.

We have competitors that try to sync everything—invoices and related details, payments, deposits, credits, purchase orders, and so on. We’ve heard first-hand from many dealers that this caused data problems in their QuickBooks, and data corruption in some cases. Cornerstone’s “lean and clean” approach avoids that risk, while still accomplishing the main goal.

Is There a Return on Investment?

If our customers and prospects had their druthers, we’d integrate with everything, everywhere, and all at once. Well, chasing all those integrations would quickly put us out of business, OR require unacceptable price increases. With each integration we consider, we require a pretty clear cost-benefit analysis. How many customers can benefit from it? How many are likely to actually use it? Is there an ROI?

Integrations can be quite expensive to build, and can require significant resources to monitor and maintain. We are very choosy about which ones we even consider. Given the many product features and initiatives on our (busy) product roadmap, saying “Yes” to an integration means that we’re saying “No” to something else on our map.

As always, we try to stick with our core competencies as we evolve our suite of products—desktop software, mobile app, and payment portal. We serve our customers BEST when we stick to our knitting!

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