Every year companies across the country take the time to fill out applications for the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Excellence Awards. Central stations, managers, operators, and support staff all take on the challenge of communicating who they are and what they do so well — in an application.
This year’s winners include several repeat applicants who have evolved into “the best of the best” the awards recognize — experiencing the payoff that comes from continued learning, growth and effort, a common trait among all of this year’s winners. The growth visible in the winners also reflects that escalating growth in technology and services throughout the industry. If the year could be summed up in a catch phrase, it could aptly be “keeps getting better.”
As one of the anonymous judges describes, “Some of this year’s candidates and ultimate winners had submitted previously and had not won, but they continued to apply while demonstrating their continued dedication to their companies and their customers. It was a privilege to recognize their continued efforts this year. It was also a privilege to honor previous runners up who escalated their skills to take top honors.”
An industry that exhibits relentless growth, always striving to get better and reach higher standards, has a bright future.
The CSAA and SDM, the awards sponsor, announced the 2011 CSAA Excellence Award winners on June 8, 2011, during a breakfast held at the Electronic Security Expo in Charlotte, N.C.
The CSAA Excellence awards program was developed to establish and promote the inherent value of central station services, and those who have made significant contributions to the central station monitoring industry.
Central Station of the Year
Once is good. Twice is great. Diebold exemplifies non-stop growth and a proactive approach to the changes sweeping the industry.
In 2007, Diebold Inc. was named the CSSA Central Station of the Year. In 2011, the company is at the top again, becoming the first repeat winner of the award. Over the last five years, Diebold has grown, trained, added services, harnessed new technologies, and transitioned to remain a company on the leading edge of everything the central station industry has to offer customers.
“If I went back and pulled out our application from 2007, I’m sure I’d be surprised by some of what is in there. You forget what you were and what you were doing then, especially if you are always focused on changing and improving,” says Jacqueline Grimm, director of security solutions, and an integral part of the vision for and ongoing management of the Diebold Monitoring Center. “Our company philosophy has always been that people, processes and technology are what really make a difference for our customers. We have an extreme willingness as a company to change and improve as demonstrated by ever-adapting, goal-oriented training for our people and an equal investment in creating and implementing new technologies that meet our customers’ needs — things like becoming more IT centric, ever increasing our customers’ security, becoming a lot more video centric, and embracing new things like energy and interactive services.”
If one thing stands out, it is Diebold’s rate of change and excitement about the services it offers.
“I attribute our willingness to make changes to our initial business outlook as to why we are in this business — our customers. They’ve asked us to change and to continue to add services, and we view ourselves as an extension of our customers’ security practices,” says Grimm.
Diebold considers its monitoring center’s capabilities a very important component of its total integrated security offering. “Our monitoring center goes above and beyond traditional security measures to offer solutions to address our customers’ complete monitoring needs,” says Charles E. Ducey, Jr., executive vice president, North America operations, Diebold. Several new services recently launched include:
• Diebold Advanced Dealer Programs: Diebold launched a dealer program that makes its monitoring solutions available to dealers. Growth of the Diebold monitoring center, as well as the advanced monitoring services the center is equipped to provide, were key drivers in the development of this program. Fire Detection Solutions and Services: Diebold launched a nationwide fire program to help its customers mitigate the risks fire poses to people, facilities and physical assets. The new offering enables integrated fire and burglar protection to end users.
• Site Sentry® Remote Video Storage: Diebold can securely store surveillance video. Customers need only invest in the camera. Diebold’s hardware, software and services do the rest.
• Energy Management Monitoring: Optimizes the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning and electrical systems and tracks facility resources to reveal variances in facility temperature, illumination of lights and other energy-related measurements.
• WeatherAlert Service: Provides severe weather and natural disaster alerts based on specific site locations. The service can deliver weather forecasts three times a day and send alerts to security managers.
New services are only one component, however, Grimm points out.
“In this age, all the fast-changing technology and the opportunity to add new services is really, really exciting stuff, but that is only one piece. Technology by itself doesn’t actually get our customers what they really want. You still need to have things like great management, excellent dispatchers, and first-class training. People, process, and technology ensure customer service and satisfaction,” Grimm says.
Diebold carefully hires its employees, holding them to the highest standards in terms of ethics, employee development and safety. The company achieves this in many ways, including a Leader to Leader Program, a Continuous Learning program, and a tuition reimbursement program.
Diebold believes strongly in training. During the 90-day onboarding trial, associates also take the CSAA Level 1 Operator course and must pass the test before the trial period ends. CSAA Level 2 Operator training typically occurs after one year of service. Beyond traditional onboarding education, Diebold also offers access to Diebold University. This free, online learning resource is available to all Diebold associates. They choose from thousands of application courses, can prepare for professional licenses and tests and more. Cross-training and job shadowing is also available. Diebold has also created an online resource known as Compass to enable associates to manage their professional and career development through educational opportunities, employee referral programs, e-orientation classes, manager tool kits, supporting documentation, business tools, performance review forms and more.
Diebold has been recognized for its training, winning the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) Champions of Learning Award for the third year in a row in 2010.
That’s not the only award the central station has picked up. It received a 2010 Call Center Excellence Award from the International Quality & Productivity Center (IQPC). In addition, Frost & Sullivan named Diebold the North American Commercial Monitoring Company of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
Diebold is CSAA Five Diamond Certified and holds multiple UL certifications: UUFX, CVSG, CVSU. The central station holds CRZM listings that certify the center to deliver alarm monitoring services for the U.S. government, as well as CRZM and CRZH listings that enable the central station to provide, install, maintain and monitor alarm systems at U.S. government UL 2050 certificated sites.
In addition to its Ohio location, Diebold operates monitoring centers in Hawaii and Mexico. Collectively, the centers provide service to sites located in the continental United States, Latin America, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Islands.
Diebold has developed an aggressive disaster recovery plan, including the notable addition of a pandemic plan to ensure the continuity of business operations. It involved retraining employees who previously had worked in the central station but had gone on to other departments. In addition, a fully redundant backup site is located within 20 miles of the main central station and can be transitioned to easily.
One of the notable projects the central station accomplished in 2010 was the conversion of one of Diebold’s largest retail customers from dial-up alarm panel connections to IP-based technology. The project involved installing new alarm panels at more than 7,000 locations within a seven-month time period. The central station tested and verified installations at more than 1000 locations per month. The project deadline was successfully met for this major undertaking. During this same time period, the central station even brought on a new retail account with more than 600 locations.
From disaster recovery to training, from new services to technology conversions, Diebold is a company meticulous about training and best practices, focused on growth and excited about all the possibilities of this new era of the industry. For information, visit www.diebold.com.
Central Station of the Year Honoree
ACADIAN MONITORING SERVICES, Lafayette, La.
When discussing the CSAA Central Station of the Year Honoree award, Kenny Savoie, director of monitoring services at Acadian Monitoring Services, immediately credited the company’s staff.
“Our success is based on employees’ effort. They are invested in what they are doing every day. With this award, the employees are the real winners,” Savoie says.
As an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) corporation, Acadian employees are additionally dedicated to the company’s success, a fact that positively affects both performance and employee tenure.
Savoie also attributes success to the collaboration of the four central stations working as one. “Our success definitely is attributed to the fact that all of our central stations work together and collectively pursue the same goals and high level of excellence.”
In 2010, that collaboration became a lot easier, as four-way redundancy was created between the company’s four central stations in Lafayette, Chicago, Austin, and Baton Rouge. All signal traffic is constantly shared live between the different centers and data is shared between all four stations for all accounts, signals and history. With all four stations being on the same automation platform, the dealers have access to more services, a unified platform with four-way redundancies to ensure the integrity of the national account base from ISP and telecom outages, and weather-related events such as hurricanes and winter storms. Acadian is able to offload or allocate peak call volume to different centers in emergency situations or as needed.
In addition to standard security, fire and medical alert monitoring, Acadian offers, under its America On Watch brand, a UL-rated platform for remote video and access control monitoring. Acadian provides a non-proprietary, real-time proactive and interactive monitoring solution with an open architecture for seamless integration with almost any video surveillance system on the market.
“Video and access control in central station environments are steadily on the rise. We’ve been an early adopter of the technology and we see huge potential in that sector now and in the future,” Savoie says.
Acadian Monitoring Services holds a UL 2050 certification at its Lafayette center, which allows Acadian to monitor facilities operated by government contractors and integrators. Acadian’s Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Chicago centers are also CSAA Five Diamond Certified.
Equally impressive is the fact that all of Acadian’s Lafayette operators are emergency medical dispatch (EMD) certified, enabling them to provide on-scene medical assistance to subscribers, as well as pre-arrival instructions to EMS personnel for medical alarms.
“Because we are a division of one of the largest, privately owned ambulance companies in the nation, we truly understand life safety and urgency in response; we’ve been doing EMS for more than 40 years now, in addition to having a reliable redundancy and resiliency infrastructure built in our communications, and operations,” Savoie noted.
The overall operator training program is very comprehensive, which includes both CSAA level 1 and 2 certificate training, as well as a 6-8 week in-house central station training program, EMD and CPR training and certification for its Lafayette operators, along with career-building training courses in leadership, discipline, conflict resolution and more, through the company’s own continuing education series “ACES” ( Acadian Comprehensive Education for Success) programs designed for supervisors and management.
As a central station that serves dealers’ accounts, Acadian believes its success lies with its dealer success, and continually invests in advance technology offerings, dealer marketing programs, educational and training programs, dealer billing services and customer support.
“Our team spends an exorbitant amount of R&D time with various industry vendors learning about emerging products and services so we can continue to offer services we feel best suit our dealer and integrator partners needs. We believe we are simply chipping away at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can offer as a third-party central station,” Savoie says.
Central Station Manager of the Year
Amy Jo Feliciano oversees the central station at EPS — a central station she helped overhaul from top to bottom.
Want an example of relentless growth? In 2010, Amy Jo Feliciano was named the CSAA Central Station Manager of the Year Honoree and one year later she developed into the CSAA Central Station Manager of Year.
Feliciano’s entire 17-year career at EPS has been one of persistent professional development. She was first hired as a third-shift operator, quickly promoted to second-shift supervisor, and then later to service dispatcher. By 1999 she was promoted to her current role as central station operations manager.
Feliciano is managing a central station she knows inside and out, having helped with the project design, the hardware and technology specs and team management throughout a multi-million dollar overhaul and redesign of EPS’ central station facility a few years ago.
“Amy Jo took the lead role in helping us make the decisions about what technology we should invest in and what the station should look like. As an example of her proactive nature, she visited software companies and even doctor’s offices to see the equipment we were considering. It was based on her recommendations that we were able to put together a plan for making a smooth transition to our new all-digital technology. In addition, Amy helps DICE™ (EPS’ software provider) with product development initiatives,” EPS describes.
Throughout the redesign, she was on-call 24 hours a day for the better part of a year.
“It felt good that the company trusted me to help make the decisions surrounding the new central station. I’m very proud of our central station and one day I think it will be recognized in its own right. When you are involved in the whole process and see the transformation, it is incredible. It was a great-looking central station before, but seeing what it is today is really fantastic.”
Feliciano has been involved in changes and improvements throughout her career. In 2009, Feliciano helped EPS successfully change its telephone system software. Feliciano also designed and implemented all new training modules for the company’s new central station facility. She also works with EPS’ assistant central station manager to set the training curriculum for EPS operators, and Feliciano maintains and updates the Central Station Operations Procedure Manual. All employees are tested monthly.
Feliciano carefully develops training to encompass all learning styles and generational differences.
“Today there are different learning styles and generational differences. The younger generation coming in has all the technology behind them and often learns differently than the older generation. You have to account for those differences and provide the hands-on training, support, and flexibility that helps people succeed.”
In addition to outstanding training, her management skills are directed to providing outstanding customer care and a rewarding workplace for employees. The result? Significantly less turnover, including zero turnover in 2010 that the company attributes to Feliciano’s management skills. Feliciano sets the operator schedule every month, and tries to capitalize on her operator experience to create a schedule that keeps her staff’s best interests in mind.
“I really understand what it is like to work weekends and holidays and come in during storms. When I became the manager I knew I was going to be respectful of the schedule and the reality that people have lives. I try to design the schedule to keep moral up and keep turnover down.”
EPS calls Feliciano “the lifeblood of our company,” saying, “We place nearly 50 years of corporate reputation directly on her shoulders and ask her and her team to perform at incredibly high levels. EPS begins and ends with our central station services, and Amy Jo’s leadership plays a huge role in our continued success.”
Central Station Support Person of the Year
Every company wants to employ a “go-to guy.” For State Farm Central Monitoring Service, that person is Bryan Nussbaum.
In 1998, Bryan Nussbaum was a student participating in the Area Vocational Center program, through which State Farm regularly employs a dozen or so high school students every year to work part time while they attend school. Following his high school graduation, State Farm happily offered Nussbaum full-time employment. Today, after four promotions, he is the company’s “go-to guy,” or more formally, the Central Monitoring Technician III, the lead technician responsible for the support of the central station software, hardware, business recovery, redundant site and training of the other technicians on staff.
Immediately after he was hired, State Farm recognized Nussbaum’s natural abilities and curiosity about technical issues and sent him to classes at Sur-Gard (the company’s receiver manufacturer), Dice (the company’s software provider) and General Electric (the company’s panel manufacturer).
He also completed the CSSA Level I and Level II Operator training, and is a licensed trainer for Oregon, which allows him to administer licensing exams to new central station operators.
“I started as an operator, learning that side of things, and that involvement with dispatching is beneficial when I’m working on procedures we want to follow at the central station and changing those procedures as technologies change,” Nussbaum says. “My goal is to make it as easy as I wanted it to be when I was an operator, keeping the base of every procedure simple — especially while moving into IP world or cellular.”
Nussbaum was recently assigned to a six-month developmental assignment that allowed him to research new technologies for the central station.
One technology shift on Nussbaum’s radar is the shift from POTS.
“With the transition of VoIP and POTS, people have been talking about it for a long time but now there is a new sense of urgency. There is a heavy transition coming. I am lucky that I work in a proprietary central station. All the accounts in the field I have a good amount of control over so if I can make a recommendation or make a decision that is best for all the sites we have, and it is not out of our scope to touch each one of those sites.”
Seeing the transition on the horizon, one of Nussbaum’s major projects in the last year was proactively introducing a cellular solution to State Farm’s customers. The project was long, and made even longer as the company’s corporate legal department had very demanding specifications that had to be satisfied prior to implementation, but Nussbaum made it happen.
Nussbaum is driven by understanding technology.
“My primary thing that got me interested in the industry is that I always want to find out how something works. I want to understand how the signal gets to the station. I have always embraced technology and never pushed it away. The market is driving what it is we are going to be providing, and I embrace those changes and enjoy them. New technologies are making it easier to find more things people can grasp on to about your service that will keep them your customers.”
Nussbaum also tackled a redundant site project with Dice Corporation. He worked to bring all the parties together and created a business plan that satisfied everyone.
Not only is Nussbaum considered a team player, he is known to his co-workers as the team captain. He is consistently searched out by his peers on all types of technical questions. Better yet, looking long term, whenever he is presented with an unusual problem, he not only solves it, but he writes out the solution and shares it with the rest of the staff so that if the problem presents itself again, anyone can take care of it. Of course, Nussbaum is still the “go-to guy.”
Central Station Operator of the Year
Melanie Warych was hired after responding to a “Help Wanted” ad, but Vector Security had no idea just how much additional help she would provide, always going above and beyond the call of duty.
When Melanie Warych applied at Vector Security, the company stated that “she gave a wonderful personal interview, during which her exceptional work-ethic shined.”
Her work ethic is still shining — in many ways.
First, Warych logs the most overtime (OT) in the company, often working every day of the week. In 2008, she worked 602.5 hours of OT; in 2009, she worked 460 hours of OT; and in 2010, she clocked in with 946 hours of OT. How committed is she to making sure her co-workers don’t have to work unexpected extra hours? In January, Warych reported to work after leaving the hospital emergency room where she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. Management had to insist she go home and rest.
Secondly, Warych makes the most of every minute she works. Vector Security measures employee productivity levels with the following formula: the total number of alarm events + the total number of incoming calls + the total number of outgoing calls, divided by the total hours worked. Warych’s productivity numbers are outstanding. In 2009, the entire department averaged 40.10 while Warych averaged 53.51. In 2010, the entire department averaged 88.37 while Warych averaged 110.26. Even more impressive is that fact that although she is always above average in speed, she rarely, if ever, makes an error.
Third, Warych has show continuous growth in her responsibilities during her time at Vector. After being hired as a dispatch operator in 2006, Warych was mentoring new hires in less than six months. In 2008, she was promoted to assistant supervisor, and in the spring of 2009, when the supervisor quit without notice, Warych stepped up without being asked and took on the supervisor duties. Not only did she complete all the supervisor duties, but she helped stabilize the team. In August of 2009, Warych was promoted to supervisor.
Fourth, Warych has the instincts necessary to help save lives. Recently, she received a call from a female customer who set her home alarm off purposely because she was being physically assaulted by her husband. When Warych placed a call to the home, the husband answered, gave the passcode, and insisted the alarm had been set off accidentally. There was no reason to go further, but Warych thought she heard muffled screaming in the background and, after reviewing the audio recorder to listen to the call again, she make the decision to dispatch the police. The police later called and said there was an assault in the home and an arrest had been made. The female customer was extremely grateful that Warych provided her with the potentially lifesaving dispatch.
Warych’s commitment to her job and the members of her team is clear. In just under five years Warych has been promoted several times and is now considered a valued member of the supervisory staff and technical team. She used her own personal vehicle to help co-workers travel to and from work during winter blizzards. This help was offered both personally, and also to ensure that the central station was fully staffed during adverse weather conditions. Warych furthered her education by completing the CSAA Level 1 Operator and the CSAA Level 2 Operator courses. She always raises the bar and positively challenges others. She treats every customer with empathy and is committed to providing positive customer experiences. That’s not the complete list; day in and day out, no matter the situation, Warych is always ready with a positive attitude and a desire to do her best that is contagious. That’s the level of “help” every central station wishes it could find in every applicant to a “Help Wanted” ad!
2011 Central Station Manager of the Year Honoree
Take the first recipient of the CSAA Central Station Operator of the Year award in 2006, and then fast forward six years. Christine Mudrak is now ADS’ central station manager and the 2011 Central Station Manager of the Year Honoree.
Mudrak started at ADS 18 years ago. She also held a position at a monitoring station prior to joining ADS. In addition to her years of experience, Mudrak has completed SIA operator and trainer certification as well as CSAA Level I and Level II training. Mudrak spends time working with new sales hires on their training. She is a good example. ADS describes her as “the epitome of excellence in customer service. Her high standard for her own work resonates throughout the team and her enthusiasm is contagious.”
Mudrak stays focused on new technology, working closely with the information technology (IT) department at ADS in developing and providing input on the adoption of new technologies. “The big change in the industry is technology,” Mudrak says. “I love learning new technology and I love teaching new technology. I think at ADS we’ve always had an eye for new technologies and new services to roll out to our customers.” She also works closely with the branch administration in the implementation and rollout of new technologies throughout the company.
Reports are one of Mudrak’s secret weapons, as she’s used them to increase efficiency without having to hire more operators. A few include further development of branch monthly activity reports, false alarm reports and more.
As part of her management philosophy, Mudrak focuses on being available 24/7 to support her staff.
“Mary Jo Vance, the CSAA Central Station Manger of the Year in 2007, has always told me that people usually quit their boss and not their job. This philosophy inspires so many qualities in a leader, such as: people being able to count on you, a positive attitude, being fair and clear communication.”
Central Station Support Person of the Year Honoree
Angie Montgomery, Ads Security, Nashville
Working as the data entry supervisor for ADS, Angie Montgomery ensures the data provided to the central station dispatchers is consistent and correct. Montgomery enters data, reviews incoming data and manages two data entry operators. She works closely with everyone on duty in the central station to test new procedures and review data. She is also instrumental in working with software vendors on data conversions for account/company acquisitions. In addition to supporting ADS’ 15 branch locations, third party monitoring accounts and 70,000 customers, Montgomery and her team are responsible for new job setup in ADS’ accounting software, RemoteView® managed access video accounts and support of all data conversions for new acquisitions. Montgomery has set up email broadcasts to all branches with reports as well.
Montgomery has worked at ADS 19 years and held her current position for 15 years. She began in the central station as an operator and is a SIA-certified operator and trainer and has completed CSAA Level I and Level II training.
Montgomery works tirelessly adjusting schedules, action patterns, notes and reviewing information provided from the installers and branches. The central station dispatchers are constantly seeing improvements in the data and this helps response times, increases customer satisfaction, and makes for happier dispatchers. Montgomery has proven many times to the dispatchers how dedicated she is to their successful and timely response to signals. She is responsible for reviewing any unknown transmissions from customer panels on a daily basis. Montgomery works closely with branch operators to define unknown signals. This process helps both central station operators and branch operators to take the necessary steps to correct technical issues to avoid recurrences.
“My job as data entry supervisor warrants that I ensure that our database is a clean and useful as possible. I want our operators to be able to succeed in their daily tasks. My job directly impacts their daily progress and I want the operator’s day to go smoothly,” says Montgomery.
Central Station Operator of the Year Honoree
Rodney Freeman, Monitronics International Inc.
Rodney Freeman’s boss, Mary Jensby, describes him as an “exemplary employee.” It is fair to also call his attendance record exemplary. For the past nine years, Freeman has had perfect attendance. Not only is he on time to work, but he is always on time taking breaks/lunch, returning from breaks/lunch, and punching out.
“I always try to be on time and ready to go when my shift starts because I take a lot of pride in showing up to work. Those that don’t plan, plan to fail, so if we have a snow day or whatever, I always have a plan of action. My work here is always important, and that’s worth being on time,” Freeman explains.
Jensby emphasizes the impact an employee with the attitude and work ethic of Freeman can have.
“As the director of central station and data entry, I have two departments so I average 154 employees. Of them all, Rodney is an exemplary employee that stands above everyone else. He has a goal when he comes into work and is dedicated. Rodney had a car accident and had to go through a month and a half of physical therapy and did not miss a single day of work. He is just that kind of employee. If all 154 of my employees had that work ethic, I would have the No. One central station in the whole world. He is the perfect example of everything a central station operator should be.”
Freeman is CSAA Level 1 Operator and CSAA Level 2 Operator certified, and he holds CSAA False Alarm Certification as well. As a senior operator, he mentors new hires and manages the floor during management staff meetings. Freeman works with high profile, national and VIP accounts, and he also has experience working with privileged and secure information on federal government accounts.
He is never distracted and is even-keeled and positive with customers. He focuses on each alarm as if it was the most important signal anywhere, and is always focused on doing the “right thing.” That starts with the simple act of showing up to work every day on time ready to go.