Are all alarm monitoring companies basically the same? Why do monitoring prices vary so much? Does it really matter who I choose to monitor my alarm system?
We hear these questions regularly. After nearly 50 years in the alarm business, we have a lot of personal experience and strong opinions about these questions.
First of all, no, not all monitoring companies are the same. There are dramatic differences in the business models and service models of different alarm monitoring providers. Let me explain briefly the three main categories of alarm monitoring companies.
Wholesale/Third-Party Monitoring Companies
It is expensive to operate a 24/7 monitoring center. Therefore, most small alarm sales and installation companies do not operate their own monitoring facility. Even some not-so-small companies like Comcast don’t operate their own central monitoring station. Instead they hire a third-party monitoring center to provide the monitoring services for the alarm seller’s clients.
While this service model is very common, it has major drawbacks. First, the wholesale monitoring companies usually charge a very small fee for a very limited level of service. The monitoring company’s job is only to receive the alarm signals and make the appropriate notification calls, either with live operators or automated robo-calls. They typically do not provide technical support or customer service for customers. Instead, the operators will simply refer the customer and the problem back to the sales/installation company to deal with the next day. Wholesale monitoring companies are usually large, national call centers which operate on extremely high call volumes. Therefore, the end-users often experiences disappointing interactions with automated phone systems and abrupt, robotic responses from low-quality call operators.
Second, having one company that installs and services the customer’s alarm system and another company that monitors the system is less than ideal. If ever there is a problem and/or liability issue, the customer often gets stuck in the middle. The installing company will likely blame the problem on the monitoring company, and vice versa, in an attempt to avoid responsibility. The customer, of course, doesn’t have the technical knowledge or information to know who is really responsible for what and suffers the consequences.
Large, National Retail Alarm Companies
The large, national alarm retailers such as ADT, Tyco Security, Stanley Security, Monitronix (Moni), Vivent, etc. operate their own national monitoring centers. At least their customers aren’t forced into a relationship with a third-party monitoring company. However, the monitoring and support services are provided from huge call centers in far-away states. Calling 1-800 numbers and enduring frustrating voice prompts and on-hold queues has become commonplace in many industries. But when dealing with potential emergency situations at your home or business, you probably don’t want to press “2” for English, enter your account number, and then wait indefinitely for a call-center operator. So dealing with the large, national monitoring companies is usually not the best option for anyone who actually cares about the personal safety and security of their family and/or assets.
Local/Regional Alarm Companies
Most major metropolitan areas also have one or more local/regional alarm company that is a full-service provider. They sell the alarm system, install the system, service the system, and monitor the system themselves. While less common, these local/regional full-service companies are worth seeking out. They typically offer the best of both worlds. They are large enough to provide all of the services themselves, yet small enough to care. The local companies are usually more service oriented, often-being family owned and operated. Being local, they are fully invested in the local community. They are typically more personally-connected to the people whom they serve and the products they provide. They are small enough to know you and your needs, but large enough to serve all of your needs.
Want to see what I am talking about? Check out the online reviews of the big, national alarm companies and then compare them to the local/regional alarm providers in your area. You will probably see a significant positive difference in the ratings and comments of the local provider.
In our experience, local/regional full-service alarm providers are by far your best bet to get the service and value that you are looking for when investing in an alarm system and professional alarm monitoring services.
For more helpful information, check out our website at www.securitycentralinc.com.