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The language of security

Several years ago, I was part of an acquisition of 1,400 monitored accounts that included a large number of Chinese-speaking accounts. The buyer knew that the base was heavily Chinese but had difficulties establishing Chinese monitoring or service for the account base. Attrition on that acquisition turned out to be larger than normal, although the buyer took care with the integration process. My guess is that the customers left because they wanted to be serviced by an alarm dealer who could speak their language.


September 21, 2011
By Victor Harding

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More and more, Canada is populated by significant cultural groups whose original language is not English. Some of these groups are large enough that some suppliers are taking steps to provide service in their original language to meet their particular needs and preferences.

Like everybody else, these groups want security for their homes or their businesses. The good news is that, in many cases, there is an alarm dealer who shares their cultural background and who can serve their security needs. It is a testament to Canada and to the alarm dealers themselves how well established some alarm dealers of different cultural backgrounds have become. The result is that some account bases in Canada today have a substantial block of accounts that are all of a single, non-English linguistic group.

The bad news is that, while the owner with a significant cultural block of accounts is still the “go-to guy” on the account base, these customers may balk at any significant changes. For example, if that alarm dealer sells and gets out of the business, and the buyer is not able to provide service in the preferred language, problems could occur. Regardless of how good a job the buyer tries to do to integrate his new accounts, he could experience higher than normal attrition simply because those customers were accustomed to service from someone who spoke their language

So what does this mean for buyers of alarm accounts? Mostly, they just need to realize that some monitored account bases in Canada today, particularly those in big cities, can have a block of accounts who prefer to do business in a language other than English. Buyers should find someone who is fully conversant in the preferred language and who has the appropriate level of diversity training to help them service the accounts.

I think larger alarm players in Canada could go further and develop monitoring and customer service for cultural groups that make up large portions of the Canadian population. The alarm industry has been slow to structure services that cater to these larger cultural groups while other industries, such as the banking, grocery and even cable businesses, have established products or services geared to these groups. Many bank branches, for example, proudly display right on their front door the number of languages in which they are able to provide financial services. To my knowledge, none of the larger players in Canada’s alarm industry have taken any significant steps to provide the same level of service. This is not only a lost opportunity for them to get new business but also an oversight that could make acquisitions much riskier.


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