A Guide For Commercial Property Managers: 5 Characteristics of a Quality Alarm Company

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Commercial property managers have a lot on their plates between managing the expectations of their tenants and overseeing the multitude of building vendors they interact with on a regular basis. Alarm companies provide an essential service for property managers in helping to keep their buildings safe. Security is a top priority across the board for managers, tenants and building owners alike, and it is important for alarm companies to provide peace of mind for property managers and eliminate stress wherever possible

Commercial property managers want reliable security systems that protect tenants from theft and fire, and they also need to be able to manage who has access to their buildings at any given time. A fire alarm or security alert going off is a stressful event for all involved, regardless if it is due to a system test, a false alarm, or a real event. When alarms are triggered or a system is malfunctioning, property managers need to be able to reach their security vendor to obtain the service they need to remedy the issue as well as the information necessary to reassure to their building tenants and investors when alarms are triggered.

Commercial property managers have often encountered frustration around one if not all of the following pain points when working with security system vendors: rigid contracts, inexperienced technicians, obsolete proprietary technology, broken promises, and scheduling delays.

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When evaluating a new alarm company, commercial property managers can use the following 5 criteria and the accompanying questions as the basis of a scorecard when comparing the current security vendor to other security system vendors in the market:

Flexibility – Many alarm companies require their commercial property management clients to lock in to multi-year contracts. Rigid contracts can cause significant headaches in the fast paced commercial real estate arena where multi-use commercial space can turnover quickly and property managers oversee multiple buildings.

  • Does the vendor in question require long term contracts, or are you free to make any changes to your system and your service that you will want or need?
  • Does the vendor use their own proprietary equipment that only they can service, program, and monitor or is the alarm technology open, allowing you the freedom change vendors without the cost of replacing equipment?
  • Is there flexibility in billing options provided? Does the security company give commercial property management clients the option of consolidating statements at the parent company level and to separate invoices out by location?
  • Can a variety of payment schedules and terms be accommodated?

Experience – It is important to evaluate the depth of an alarm company’s tech roster. It is essential that your security system vendor understands the types of issues that will result in urgent calls from your tenants (the phone ringing is rarely a good thing), and that they take proactive steps to avoid these issues whenever possible.

  • Is there one super-star tech that the company relies on heavily or are there multiple techs with several years of experience who have undergone significant training?
  • Are the techs cross-trained on multiple systems and types of installation and service across a variety of equipment brands?
  • Is ongoing training hardcoded into the tech’s monthly schedules?
  • On average how many years have your techs been with the company?

Timely Service – When it comes to life safety systems such as fire alarms and access control, property managers can’t wait several days to address pressing problems and answer tenant questions. Evaluate the alarm company’s service scheduling process by asking the following questions:

  • Does the alarm company make every effort to schedule same day service in the event of urgent fire alarm or access control issues?
  • Is there a mechanism in place for prioritizing emergency system-critical issues that arise over routine maintenance?
  • Does the security system vendor offer after-hours emergency support seven days a week?

Trust—Broken promises, hidden fees, and unpredictable service from security companies cause a lot of headaches for commercial property managers. Look for a company that demonstrates though their language and more importantly their follow through that they will work hard to gain and keep your trust. Delivering on what was promised at the point of sale is essential for building good relationships with clients.

  • Did the alarm company salesman or security consultant respond to your initial inquiry in a timely manner?
  • Was the proposal you received easy to understand, and does it clearly explain the details of the security solutions, list the necessary equipment, and include the pricing for all?
  • Do you reach a real person when you call the alarm company’s main office, or do you regularly get put through to voicemail?
  • Do the security system techs regularly arrive on time for service calls and new installations?

backless panelTechnology – Evaluating the type and variety of equipment offered by an alarm company will tell you a lot about the company. It is important to assess technology options that the company has available and is recommending. Another pain point for busy property managers that are responsible for more than one location is the amount of time that they spend running back and forth between sites. There is technology available that can help minimize onsite time, particularly when it involves providing building access for tenants who have forgotten or lost their access fobs and keys.

  • What equipment brands does the security company offer or is their proprietary technology the only option?
  • Does the alarm company offer managed access control and video surveillance options?
  • Has the company embraced mobile technology? Does their app allow you to remotely provide access to verified tenants and vendors?

The five criteria and supporting questions outlined in this post can be a useful guide for commercial property managers to keep in mind when selecting or changing alarm company vendors.

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