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Alarm reduction 101: working with abusers

There can be no discussion of alarm reduction without recognizing that a small percentage of all alarm users create the vast majority of all false alarms and false dispatches. Yes, there is a difference between the two.

December 9, 2014  By Ron Walters

A false alarm is a signal that is resolved in the central station without having to dispatch a third party. A false dispatch is a signal that is not resolved in the central station and requires the dispatch of a third party who, upon response, finds no criminal activity either completed or attempted.

Addressing false dispatches
There is no more effective method to deal with alarms that frequently trip than to work them one at a time. In order to do this you need to monitor your central station activity by requesting a monthly report of all dispatches. This report should have, at a minimum, your worst 12 customers. If customers are reluctant to spend money to repair a system, call or meet with the responsible person and explain the importance of reducing dispatches. Offer to do a free service evaluation. This inspection will more often than not generate service income. Finally, if a customer refuses to repair the system, suggest taking them off of dispatch or arrange for a private response. When addressing these abusers, make certain that anyone who has contact with the customer, including the service technician, has a copy of all alarm activity. This allows them to effectively see where all potential problems are and to address them with the customer.

Addressing false alarms
As with false dispatches addressing false alarms begins with your central station.


This step can be labour intensive for a few weeks but the results are well worth the effort. On a daily basis, call every customer whose alarm has tripped, with or without a dispatch. Explain that you are calling because their system went off and ask if they know why the event occurred. Offer service or training.

You will find that, each week, the number of calls that need to be made are fewer and fewer. When I applied this to my company, we had roughly 7,000 accounts. In the first weeks, we couldn’t get through the entire list. By the end of the third month, we were finished in a few hours every morning. The reason: for the most part, they are the same customers every day and once you have addressed them one at a time, they go away.

Having an effective outreach program improves customer relations. After installation, almost all of our contact with our customers is sending them a monitoring invoice. By calling every time they set their alarm off and asking why the alarm was activated, we are showing that we are there and we care. These calls also provide an opportunity to do a brief customer survey and ask for referrals. Most important, it will lower your attrition rate and build customer loyalty.

Ron Walters is the director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (www.siacinc.org).

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