Security Sales & Integration: How to Utilize Security Apps to Optimize RMR

From Security Sales & Integration, December 2017, Interview Contributions: Scott Fincher, Senior Product Manager at Inovonics

Discover the latest security app offerings and how to optimize them for end customers and recurring revenue, as well as enhancing operations.

For end users, accessing security and building control systems through smartphones or tablets via apps has moved from wish list to expectation.

Best Security Apps

There are now myriad customized mobile applications (apps) on the market that allow consumers and security professionals to perform a variety of tasks and system interactions.

SSI tapped on the expertise of several leading industry suppliers to get a pulse on the latest in app offerings, what makes them noteworthy, and how dealers/integrators can deploy them for customers, their own recurring revenue interests and improving operational efficiencies.

All agree that as more remote access options have become available for homeowners and commercial end users via smartphones and tablets, the industry has seen a marked increase in demand for them.

“Absolutely, we definitely have. Everybody has,” says Amy Strickland, marketing manager with ELK Products. “Today, everyone’s walking around with this powerful device in their pocket and they want it to do more and more for them.”

Scott Fincher Sr., product manager, Inovonics, adds, “As a provider of hardware to integrators, the demand we’re seeing is from integrators who specify our wireless endpoints as components of larger security solutions. They expect smartphone-based tools to help them more accurately quote a job and make sure their installers have a good blueprint to work from to ensure a seamless installation. Having to requote a job or make on-the-fly adjustments during an installation can cost customers time and money.”

Anu Herranen, director of marketing and branding for Nortek Security & Control, concurs that access via smartphone or tablet apps has become table stakes for success today. These apps make it possible to control systems remotely, see notifications and even live video in many cases.

All of these are vital today for homeowners, she says, and business owners can now look in on their operations with Cloud-based, mobile-friendly apps to remotely monitor or manage multiple activities.

App Necessities

Not surprisingly, remote video viewing and control of light, temps, locks, video doorbells, video cameras and, of course, a security system, are driving the deepest demand right now.

Wes Nicol, chief revenue officer, Deako Smart Lighting, reports a growing demand for lighting control via mobile apps. “We’re seeing an explosion in the demand for smart technology,” he states. “If you look at studies such as the recent one done by Coldwell Banker, 81% of new home buyers said they’d be more likely to buy a home if smart home technology was installed. And if you drill down on that, smart lighting is consistently one of the top three that people are asking for, along with smart door locks and thermostats.”

But not all apps are created equal and one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. As Strickland points out, in terms of capabilities it’s hard for her to choose only a few because what hits the market may be right for one client but not right for another, so it’s important to give them options.

“Residential customers want an integrated custom solution to fit their lifestyle and needs, while commercial is more focused on video and some access,” she notes. Herranen adds, “I really can’t pick a favorite [app] out of our partners, but each offers unique features that are popular with our customers,” she says.

“Alarm.com is very innovative in offering Crash & Smash coverage and geofencing features. SecureNet offers dealers the ability to customize the branding of their solution, as well as superfast response to commands. Both offer installation features that help make installing systems much easier.”

Keeping Security at the Core

Judy Jones-Shand, vice president of marketing, NAPCO Security Technologies, notes that “The app is a core part of any security system today. There’s the connected home and the IoT arena, but even if people just want a security system, they want to have control of it by an app.”

She views it as a good thing, as it’s helped move the security industry in a direction that makes products more routinely interactive and essential, as opposed to something users just engage on a rainy day to prevent a burglary.

She points out that while that presents a tremendous growth potential to increase market penetration of security systems in general, anytime there’s increased consumer demand, there are more competitors coming into the arena as well. In this case, Jones-Shand says, they include cable companies and telcos, which represent some serious competition.

“Fortunately, people like to know who is in charge of their security and are not interested in dealing with huge companies when it comes to their security, so the security dealer is still the preferred choice of provider,” says Jones-Shand. “Our dealers have the inside edge of knowing what it takes to secure a home or business. They’re known in the community, but they have to expand their offerings to a more modern consumer. Change can be tough but the benefit outweighs the potential learning curve for dealers in how they market their products and offerings.”

Herranen concurs that systems that offer both security and home automation versus security only lead to longer relationships and happier customers. It may not be increasing their RMR, as much as it is delaying or eliminating attrition by customers, she believes, because they value the control and the notifications that these apps supply.

“Although many of these dealers do charge incrementally more for control over home automation, it’s the convenience of control that keeps the RMR flowing,” she says. “As apps develop, there are more and more features that dealers can offer and unlock from the standard app and they can charge more RMR for that added value.”

Efficient Apps for an Easier Job

Training is an investment that, if done right, will pay back many times over, Nicol advises. Additionally, efficient app implementation can make dealers’ lives easier (see sidebar and slideshow).

“It will make your jobs quicker, smoother, increase customer satisfaction and reduce your call-backs,” he says. “At Deako, we remove a ton of complexity by preprogramming everything before it ships. If you send us a floorplan, we will map out that system and provision it for you, so you just install our switches like regular light switches and open the app and you’re up and running. It’s hugely valuable, especially with larger homes that have 50+ switches.”

Jones-Shand points out that any time you use a particular manufacturer’s equipment, you eliminate a learning curve and can easily standardize across your whole fleet of installers or team of techs. Training is important when you’re installing any technology, she emphasizes, but adds that the app should be intuitive to the consumer.

“For some apps, you need to read a book to use it. An intuitive app is key to a successful offering and consumer experience. An app should be of value to a consumer and foster a positive relationship between the security dealer and the consumer, and obviously not one that’s frustrating,” she says. Herranen echoes the importance of intuitively designed apps.

“In the same way that users benefit from the intuitive design of these apps, dealers also benefit from the intuitive design for the installation tools created by the backend app providers that we work with.”

Alarm.com is one of them and its software platform, which is tightly integrated with top hardware providers, connects a broad array of smart devices, making them easily controlled through an intuitive mobile app.

Matthew Zartman, director of communications, Alarm.com, adds that security dealers should be able to look to their interactive services provider to offer robust training options so they can quickly get up to speed and continually keep up with the latest offerings.

“Dealers should expect a broad range of backend services to help them install and support their customers more efficiently,” says Zartman. “The latest capabilities include business intelligence insights that allow security dealers to easily monitor customer engagement, trouble conditions and other drivers of attrition across their account base.”

Strickland echoes that “Training is very important, and as manufacturers we need to be sure we’re offering the right kind.” Installers who have migrated from security to home automation are more integrated, she believes, and some in security who aren’t as comfortable need that gap filled to understand remote access and the basic setup.

Strickland strongly encourages dealers and integrators to work with manufacturers that have an open architecture and are willing to have other apps work with their systems. “That way, they’ll be able to tailor solutions to the customer and their system, and assure them that they’re listening to their needs, rather than installing out of the box with a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Leverage Demand to Boost RMR

Strickland adds that dealers/integrators can leverage market demand by bundling remote services with monitoring services. She points out that they’re already doing that with customers anyway, and can now also offer those Cloud-based solutions.

“A one-time fee app allows them to get more tailored to the custom-er and leverage the Cloud and bundling,” she says. “ Beyond RMR, they should leverage the business opportunities and educate themselves on what’s out there, the app options and their strong points. By making sure they’re offering customized service and the best solution for an individual customer, they’ll stand out from their competition.”

Although they lack the advertising budgets that Verizon and some of the large cable companies have, Jones-Shand encourages the traditional, regional dealers to reach out in their own areas, more economically, to educate users on the capabilities available. They should emphasize that this is what they do and leverage the advantage that, as their local dealers, they already know them.

Nicol notes that smart home technology used to be relegated to the ultra- wealthy, the multimillion-dollar residences of the 1%. With hardware costs coming down and install time dropping dramatically due to the solutions now available, dealers and integrators can serve a much broader market.

“We hear lots of stories about them getting in and out of jobs a lot quicker, having less call-backs, doing way more jobs in total and still making solid margins.”

Keeping Security Apps Secure

As everything becomes more connected, there’s more risk, Strickland says. “It’s important that companies develop technologies that aren’t going to compromise security, and come with a high level of encryption. You can’t compromise if you’re a security company and if you’re not thinking about that, you’re missing a very big picture.”

The nature of technology is that it’s always evolving, Jones-Shand adds. “Things surround apps in the ecosystem; you borrow different technologies and sometimes those new technologies can have some problems in maintaining security. But we still are, in essence, selling security. Applied technologies have to be secure and done in a cautious manner by security professionals, because that’s what we’re all about.”

We’re living in a new age where technology and convenience are converging and everyone seems to be romancing the opportunities. With remote app technologies equipped with a high level of security, it’s likely we will all one day be living app-ilyever after.

How 4 Suppliers Are Feeding App-etites

Alarm.com: “An important element of remote access is the ability to improve a dealer’s customer support operations. This includes mobile apps for technicians that streamline and improve the reliability of installations, as well as customer support tools that enable a dealer to remotely troubleshoot systems. This technology drives efficiency for dealers. And, by delivering the rapid customer support experience that consumers increasingly expect, remote support tools are also helping to maintain longer-term customers.” — Matt Zartman

Inovonics: “The demand we are seeing is from integrators who specify our wireless endpoints as components of larger security solutions. They expect smartphone-based tools to help them more accurately quote a job and make sure their installers have a good blueprint to work from to ensure a seamless installation. Having to requote a job or make on-the-fly adjustments during an installation costs our customers time and money. Our Survey Kit and App helps resolve these issues.” — Scott Fincher Sr. Product Manager. 

NAPCO: “With a connected home, you add devices to a security system such as lighting control, locking, temperature control, etc. The app is a tool that’s new to an alarm dealer to help them set up a connected home system. We enable our dealers to add new devices remotely and they have an ease of use even at the premises setting up the systems. They can use their tablet onsite to help set up the system and add on Z-Wave devices.” — Judy Jones-Shand

Nortek Security & Control:“One of the biggest pain points for dealers and integrators is the time they need to spend installing and programming system, so the faster and easier the better. Remote access helps to solve this and also drives our product development. NSC acknowledges that apps as well as mobile-optimized web user interfaces reduce the need to send technicians onsite to perform routine system maintenance and troubleshooting, allow programming and management of systems anywhere, and increase customer support speed and satisfaction.” — Anu Herranen

Erin Harrington has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. Contact her at erinharrington1115@gmail.com.