U.S.-based Viewpoint CRM Inc. opens office in Canada
By Peter Caulfield
Viewpoint CRM Inc. of Lowell, Mass., recently established a presence in Canada by opening an office in Delta, B.C., appointing Mark Anthony Richards as vice-president of business development for Canada, The new operation, located in a suburb of Vancouver, is the company's first branch office.
By Peter Caulfield
Viewpoint CRM says it is the only security provider to successfully replace live guards in the U.S. The company uses a customer relationship management (CRM) software platform that combines Internet-based two-way audio and remote video monitoring technologies with customer-specific protocols to prevent and respond to undesired or criminal activity. The CRM platform can be customized for virtually any location and is compatible with most existing camera systems.
Viewpoint CEO Brad Gordon says Canada is a natural fit for his company’s high-tech approach to security.
“Canadian companies are very progressive in the use of technology in security,” Gordon says. “They are open to change and are willing to look at high-tech solutions.”
Richards says his sales and marketing efforts will focus on potential customers in the Lower Mainland of B.C. as well as the rest of Canada.
Founded in 2005, Viewpoint has 500 customers in 15 states across the U.S. Customers include housing developments, college campuses, retailers, hospitals, office buildings and other organizations that have traditionally hired guard companies to manage the security of their property.
Viewpoint says its high-tech alternative to guards enables its customers to reduce or replace their guard force while improving the performance and effectiveness of security on their property.
“Essentially, guard companies assign random guards to jobs that are completely unsupervised, with no checks or certifications,” Gordon said.
Many customers complain about live guards for a variety of reasons, including sleeping on the job, rudeness, failure to comply with its protocol and lack of responsiveness.
“All in all, security guards are a weak solution,” Gordon said.
Viewpoint replaces live guards with remote video cameras and two-way speakers that enable its monitoring agents to patrol a property from its command centre in Lowell.
“We’re like live guards, except we’re not on the premises,” Gordon said.
Private security guards are a big industry in the U.S. — $60 billion per year — but guards can be in only one place at a time. Stephen McParland, president of Berenson Associates, a Boston-based commercial property development company, says Viewpoint has found “the perfect balance of personnel and technology.”
“The most significant costs associated with the management of retail shopping facilities, especially in urban areas, are insurance and security,” McParland says.
“Security needs to be at the optimum level in order to even qualify for insurance. With labour costs, salaries and benefits continuing to soar, Viewpoint has keyed into a state of the art solution… The result is a cost-benefit dynamic that makes personnel-only security a concept of the past.”
Gordon says the cost of maintaining around-the-clock life guards can run to at least $200,000 per year in the U.S. and to almost $250,000 in Canada.
“We can reduce the cost of live-guard surveillance by 50 to 70 percent per year,” Gordon says. “And that usually includes the cost of installing a sophisticated, high-end camera system. Pay-back for one of our surveillance systems is in the order of two to three years.”
The “secret sauce” of Viewpoint’s remote surveillance service is CRM software, which is made up of multiple interactive data bases that together contain a wealth of detailed information on each of its client, enabling the company to offer them customized service.
Gordon says that, until he started Viewpoint, he knew little about CRM software.
“I started learning about it as I researched ways to ensure that our monitoring agents would follow our clients’ protocols exactly, every time, without having to memorize things,” Gordon said. “I have always run businesses by putting customer service ahead of all else. It simply made sense to me to use a customer service platform as the cornerstone of my company. CRM software allows us to highly customize what we do and to remove uncertainty ”
The CRM backbone and the Internet also enable Viewpoint to perform many operations remotely, such as opening and closing gates and doors, checking drivers licenses and escorting people to and from the parking lot.
Viewpoint has used the same technology to create stand-alone shopping mall kiosks that can replace a help desk or concierge with an interactive touch screen.
“You touch the screen and one of our agents appears on-screen,” Gordon said. “The CRM software and two-way voice and video technology enables us to give a visitor detailed information on the mall. It can also sell gift cards and print badges. All our customer pays for is our time.”
Viewpoint has 60 seats at its Lowell command centre where its agents maintain around-the-clock remote surveillance of customers’ properties. The monitoring terminals are equipped with video analytics systems and 360-degree video for detailed property surveillance. The terminals also have two-way multi-channel audio software allows agents to speak from any camera position on the property and make live announcements. These “voice-downs,” which can be everything from a cheery “good afternoon” in a busy residential courtyard to an emergency intervention during a retail break-in, establish an immediate presence, reminding everyone on the property that a real person is watching and evaluating human activity in the area.