Last Monday we talked about the importance of understanding equipment pricing for your alarm system. Today we’ll tackle an equally complex issue: figuring out just what you are getting for your monthly alarm monitoring charge. And while it should be a pretty simple and straightforward process to get your arms around what you’re paying for, some alarm companies make it anything but transparent.
Equipment Pricing vs. Monitoring Pricing
As we’ve mentioned before, what you pay for your alarm equipment is entirely separate from what you pay per month for the various services provided. Equipment pricing and monitoring costs may be related, but it’s logical (and important) to separate these issues. Some alarm companies offer what seems to be an attractive rate for the monthly charge, but you may pay through the nose for equipment; other companies offer “free” or deeply discounted alarm equipment, but just wait until you see the monthly bill! What you want is the best value you can get for both elements of your protection.
Monthly Service Charge is Highly Variable
There was a time when alarm monitoring pricing was fairly standard across the industry, since there was not a lot of variety in the services provided: pretty much every company offered basic monitoring over a vulnerable hard-copper phone line. With roughly 13,000 alarm companies in the U.S., many of them competing for your business, this “vanilla” monitoring service was hard to differentiate. But with the advent of different monitoring technologies (such as safer cellular monitoring) and the advent of interactive monitoring services, that has changed. As with alarm equipment, you really need to ask tough questions when shopping, and make sure the alarm company gives you straight answers, to avoid unpleasant pricing surprises.
It Started with Cellular
The first basic distinction in monitoring arrived with the advent of reliable and affordable cellular monitoring. Most alarm companies charged extra for the added of security of the cellular connection – and also charged extra for the cellular communicator. But this really did represent an upgrade, since now you don’t have to worry about a burglar taking out your alarm system with a $3 pair of wire cutters, which happens all the time. Just read this account from Sausalito, California.
Then Came Interactive Services & In-Home Video
Monitoring services have continued to evolve, starting with the interactive services developed by Alarm.com (the recognized leader in this technology). That’s also the company that FrontPoint has partnered with for seven years. We’ve described these features in detail in previous posts: remote arm/disarm, event notification by text or email, and even free mobile apps.And the video features are really cool: live video stream into your home from any smart device, and even motion-activated clips that are stored remotely where you can retrieve them – or that can even be sent directly to you.
Home Automation – the Icing on the Cake
Finally, home automation was added to the mix, allowing the remote control of lights, locks, and thermostats using a free mobile app from any smart device. People really like these features, since now they can feel not only protected, but also connected.
The best way to protect yourself from monitoring sticker shock is to be prepared when you are talking pricing for services. Here are a few tips, gleaned from twenty-five years in the alarm industry:
- Read as much as you can about the different services you can get, including, why cellular is safer. Blogs – such as this one – are great for getting informed about home alarm technology.
- Once you know what the various service levels are, consider the elements that are important to you. Then call a company like FrontPoint, who will happily explain how everything works – and what it all cost. Good alarm companies will take all the time you need to get you comfortable with the facts, without buying pressure.
- Once you have an idea (even a rough place to start) on the services you want, you can start contacting companies for pricing. Give them your list requirements, and ask for a written quotation, with prices for each aspect of the service. Now you’re in control of the process.
Shun Aggressive Sales Tactics
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s best to avoid the alarm companies who push the sale too hard. What you want is a completely consultative process. Sadly, there are alarm companies who, once they have you on the phone, won’t let you go until you buy – or until you don’t ever want to speak to them again! You’ll know pretty quickly what kind of company you are dealing with, when you call. And believe me, there are enough good companies out there that you should never feel pressured to deal with the pushy ones. If a company relies on pressure instead of their reputation and consultative selling to make the sale, that often tells you a lot about their service level, and their customer satisfaction.
With the help of a good alarm company, you too can figure out the monitoring pricing puzzle. But as I’ve said before, you really do need to be careful when choosing which alarm company to work with. The best companies will take time to win your trust, and answer all your questions. And it’s no surprise that those are the companies you want to work with when making the important decision about protecting your home and family. The more you know, the better and the more prepared you will feel when it’s time to shop for peace of mind. See you next Monday!