Vivint, the SDM 2011 Dealer of the Year, has a knack for pushing boundaries and thus redefining the security industry — the hallmark of a true leader.
Vivint Inc., Provo, Utah, is not a security company. Well it is, but it isn’t.
On the one hand, it sells security systems and is the No. 4 security company on the SDM 100, so some people call it a security company. On the other hand, it also offers a full line of home automation services, leading others to call it a home automation company. Confused? Vivint’s not. The company is operating under a clear, all-encompassing vision — to provide affordable services to the home. While this does include security and home automation, it also includes so much more.
“Some people are calling us ‘security’ while some call us a ‘home automation company.’ We aren’t one or the other; we’ve continued to evolve into more of a technology-based home services company,” explains Todd Pedersen, the company’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO). “We are just getting started with what we plan to offer our customers. Since we’ve expanded our service offerings, 55 percent of our customer base added at least one additional service beyond security. The more we go forward, the higher the adoption rate becomes. The expansion of services is adding RMR to our company, increasing the value of the system for customers, and raising their expectations to live smarter.”
That’s the big idea — security is one service on a home network — that Vivint has been pursuing the last five years, transforming its company and services in the process. The panel is no longer a security panel — it’s the platform to do it all. It is safe to say the company has thrown down a gauntlet boldly, saying the future is to do more.
Do more and, more importantly, make it affordable.
“In 2011, we began the process of redefining home security and automation — helping transform the category into a high-tech, broadly accessible and necessary service that was available to a mass audience,” says Megan Herrick, Vivint’s public relations director.
With its vision set to redefine home security and automation, Vivint started 2011 by redefining itself with a total company rebrand. The company, founded in 1999 as APEX Security Solutions Inc., had operated under the name APX Alarm Security Solutions since 2006. By 2011, the company had grown from selling security systems from 1999 to 2006 for industry-leading companies such as ADT, Monitronics, and Protection 1, into its own home security company. After expanding its offerings to include much more than security (energy management, home automation, solar, etc.), the word “alarm” in its name had become too restrictive.
“We’d been working on adding services and really changing the outlook of our customers as a company for the last four or five years. It had become painfully myopic to call ourselves APX Alarm,” Pedersen describees. “Yes, we’re the fourth-largest alarm company. But we’ve also sold 80,000 energy management solutions in the first year we’ve offered the service, while also serving as one of the largest home automation providers.
“To explain that we are an alarm company also offering energy management didn’t sound right. In short, Vivint is a result of our company’s evolution. We have a corporate culture of continual innovation and our new name and identity are a reflection of that.”
The name Vivint is derived from the word “vive” meaning “to live,” and the word “intelligent.” In using this combination, Vivint’s mission is to help families “live intelligently” by creating simple, affordable, home systems where all devices work together to enhance safety and convenience and improve energy efficiency.
Rebranding is a time-consuming process and has to be handled strategically, making the successful rebrand one of Vivint’s most notable accomplishments in 2011.
“From designing new websites and logos to creating new messaging and expanding our product line, we had our work cut out for us. Although it took a lot of work, the drive and dedication of our entire team lead us through an extremely successful rebrand,” Herrick says.
The rebrand was coupled with the launch of a new product line including automatic door locks, video surveillance, and lighting and small appliance control via Z-Wave.
The Panel Behind It All
At the center of it all is the Go!Control panel from 2GIG, a central touch screen panel that communicates between each home automation product, giving customers access to their entire system via the touch of a button or remote control access via their smartphone or Internet browser.
“The GO!Control panel is proving to be the platform the security industry needed to be able to introduce additional enhanced security services and home management services that are affordable for the masses. The panel is our secret weapon,” Pedersen says.
As of August 2011, Vivint has sold 169,000 GO! Control panels.
The panel and additional services are helping make security a “Best Buy.” In July of this year, Consumers Digest gave “Best Buy” ratings to Vivint’s Home Automation Package and Advanced Security Package in the category of Midrange Monitored Home Security Systems. According to the magazine: “No other system that uses a wireless (cellular) transmission system that’s in this price range packs as many security and home automation components in one package as this package does.”
It has been a journey from Vivint’s first sale in 1999 to offering a “Best Buy” package of services. For the first 10 years, Vivint did not do its own monitoring. Vivint began monitoring its accounts in 2009 when the company acquired a monitoring station in St. Paul, Minn. Today, following the opening of its new headquarters in Utah, it also operates a station there, which was built in 2009 and opened in 2010. The two central stations create a redundant network for monitoring, ensuring availability and service for its 570,000-plus customers every day. Vivint reports its average time to first action is 10 seconds.
”Seconds make all the difference and we are committed to responding quickly to every emergency,” says Herrick.
In April 2011, Vivint successfully made the switch from the MAS alarm processing software to the Web-based Stages software. Vivint describes Stages as “an intuitive program that allows it to build very specific action plans for any given signal type. The system guides the monitoring professional step-by-step through the required actions specific to the alarm being worked.”
Because the GO!Control platform utilized by Vivint utilizes two-way cellular technology, operators can verify burglar alarms with customers prior to dispatching by talking to them over the two-way system. More than 89 percent of Vivint’s customers have this two-way communication capability with its monitoring stations.
Monitoring the Customer Experience
To provide great customer service, Vivint uses some very specific techniques, starting immediately after a sale. Vivint records both pre-install and post-install phone surveys ensuring that its customers understand the terms of their purchase, contract agreement and the company’s cancellation policy as presented to them by the salesperson. Customers are also asked a series of questions about their satisfaction to make sure they are pleased with the entire sales and installation process.
After a customer has a system installed, Vivint maintains a list of customers who have not armed or disarmed their system in the last seven days.
“We want to make sure our customers understand and feel comfortable operating their new system. We have a technical support team that is ready to help answer questions whenever needed and our video team has also created several online tutorials for the most commonly asked questions. Our customer’s appreciate knowing we care about their entire experience,” Herrick relates. Pedersen adds, “We’re calling our customers, we’re surveying our customers, we’re emailing our customers, we’re giving them discounts on things they can purchase, restaurants, etc. We are always actively looking for a reason to interact with our customers.
“At the end of the day, our customer base says it all through our attrition rate. We have extremely low attrition and it keeps getting lower,” he says.
While attrition was 9.3 percent in 2009, it is now at 7.4 percent as of July 2011.
Vivint uses a proprietary customer management system (CMS) to provide employees with tools to quickly resolve any concern. All of the company’s customers’ information is centrally located within one software application so that every document, contract, check, SOP , and call recording is available instantaneously to call center representatives.
“We continually refine our proprietary application so it meets our changing needs,” Herrick says.
Vivint’s call center was recognized as one of the best in any industry by J.D. Power and Associates in both 2009 and 2010.
Vivint believes in using local service technicians to speed customer service, employing more than 715 full-time, locally based service technicians across North America. When a service call is required, the first open service appointment is, on average, within 11 hours of the service request.
“When a service call is required our technicians live where our customers reside, so they are able to address the customer’s needs quickly,” Herrick explains.
Good customer service starts with happy employees, according to Vivint.
“We try to do our best to treat our employees like gold. We feel that treating the employees like they deserve, in turn allows them to treat the customers the way they deserve. You can’t have one without the other.”
The company’s efforts are being recognized. Vivint was honored with the 2011 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility for its use of flexible workplace strategies to increase business and employee success.
The Sloan Awards involve an evaluation of employers’ flexibility programs and practices, and a confidential employee survey. All applicants are measured against national standards from Families and Work Institute National Study of Employers.
At Vivint, employees can telecommute when coming into work presents a particular burden for them or their families. Employees can set up a flexible work schedule to better fit their lifestyles including compressed work schedules for those who would prefer to work longer days and shorter weeks, and job sharing that allows two employees to share the duties of a single position. This option is great for professionals that look for part-time work but have skills that tend to lend themselves to full-time positions.
In addition to offering flexible work schedules, Vivint also offers a range of other benefits designed to create a productive and positive workplace. These include: a free on-site health clinic with full family services for all employees; basic on-site auto services; a café where employees and their families can enjoy a healthy, free lunch; a free, 24-hour workout facility, and volleyball and basketball courts.
Social Media Warriors
Social media continues to pick up momentum, but it does remain in the early adopter stages, which would explain why it is another area where Vivint is way out in front of the pack. While many companies in the industry have followers in the hundreds or thousands on Facebook, Vivint combines those two and has hundreds of thousands, commanding a following of 319,000 plus. The impressive part? It is a number Vivint has achieved twice. After reaching 290,000 plus followers as APX Alarm, Vivint, managed to re-grow its numbers starting from scratch following the rebrand.
Twitter also is a strong tool wielded by Vivint. Customers can follow the company, learn from other posted questions, ask their own questions, and get answers just by using the social media site. In fact, Vivint recently announced that its support departments are now on Twitter. In addition to its toll-free number and online support, customers can use Twitter to reach customer support (@VivintCS) and technical support (@VivintTech).
Vivint staff continuously interacts with Facebook followers and Twitter followers.
“We love the immediacy and organic feedback from our company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. We get to know our customers through the use of these social media tools. We see both positive and negative comments from our customers and fans, and we have Vivint employees dedicated to responding immediately to any concerns that arise. This is a powerful avenue for customer interactions and opinion gathering,” Herrick reports. (See “Enhancing the Customer Experience Via Twitter” on page 50 for examples of the interaction Vivint has with customers.)
The social media team (part of its marketing team), along with key representatives from customer support and tech support are dedicated to nearly 24/7 social media support (minus a few hours in the middle of the night). They welcome all forms of feedback (both negative and positive). The team is committed to responding to customers via Facebook and Twitter and helping however they can. If any questions pertain to private account information regarding billing, etc., the team will guide the customer to a phone number or email for a more detailed one-on-one conversation so they don’t jeopardize any customer privacy.
In addition to communicating with customers, social media has also become a powerful driver for Vivint’s charity work. This past year, the company hosted the second annual Vivint Gives Back Project and leveraged social media to create a way for anyone in North America to help decide how to award $1.25 million (the first annual contest distributed $250,000) to charities. The top charities in each of five regions across the United States and Canada were awarded $100,000. The top overall winner received $250,000. Vivint also gave away two additional $25,000 wildcard prizes. The winners are identified at www.vivint.com/givesbackproject. In addition to the cash awards, the contest generated recognition and helped build social media networks for the participating charities.
“We certainly understand the importance of making a living, but we also realize the personal satisfaction and value of giving back through service,” Herrick describes.
Each summer, Vivint dedicates two days during which many employees donate their commissions or wages to the Vivint Family Foundation. Every single penny in the foundation goes directly to charitable causes. This year, the foundation contributed more than $700,000 in cash, equipment, and professional services to worthy causes.
Vivint employees don’t just give dollars; they also give time — lots of time. During the summer of 2011, Vivint employees dedicated 6,500 hours of service to charities throughout North America. Details of these service projects are available on http://blog.vivint.com/givesback.
It addition to its commitment to community service, Vivint also participates in and contributes to multiple industry organizations such as the Electronic Security Association (ESA), ESA’s Young Security Professionals, the Security Industry Association, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Alarm Association of America, the False Alarm Reduction Association and multiple state security associations, according to the company.
Vivint’s Nathan Wilcox serves as the president of the Utah Alarm Association. Tom Few is an active contributing member of AICC, while Dave Simon has assisted Security Industry Alarm Coalition through financial support from Vivint. In 2012, Tom Few will assist SIAC. Nathan Wilcox and Tom Few serve as committee members of ESA, while Steve Dixon is a committee member of the Central Station Alarm Association.
Vivint’s ultimate vision is to offer customers a suite of integrated home technology services that include home automation, energy management and analytics, affordable energy resources, and other potential services — all at an affordable price.
“With that in mind, this is only the beginning,” Pedersen predicts. “We intend to go head-to-head with a lot of industries out there that are providing services into the home and put those services on our platform.
“If we still look the same way we do in five years that we do today, we failed,” Pedersen bluntly says. “We are always pushing forward to find the boundaries and expand them. The big ideas that push against boundaries tend to open up numerous possibilities. Look at the success of Apple and smartphones and tablets. Companies need to continue to push to bring new services and technologies to customers. People are craving new things and better and easier services to use that simplify their lives.” Vivint is up for the challenge.
Todd Pedersen saw an opportunity in the security solutions market to sell a high-quality product using a personal approach and founded APEX Security Solutions Inc. to market third-party (Protection 1) home security systems.
APEX partnered with ADT to sell its home security services. In 2003, APEX sells 12,000 ADT contracts in four months, obliterating sales goals.
APEX ended relationship with ADT, and signs on with Monitronics. In 2006, the APEX team sells 20,000 Monitronics systems in just 108 days.
Private equity partners Jupiter Capital and Goldman Sachs invested $50 million of growth capital, allowing APEX to evolve into a full-service home security company with its own technicians and customer service teams.
Company name changed to APX Alarm Security Solutions
APX expanded to Canada by sending its traditional base of geographically focused teams of sales representatives and installers to residents of Toronto, Ontario.
APX signed a $75 million dollar credit facility agreement lead by Goldman Sachs.
APX increased crecit facility agreement lead by Goldman Sachs to $440 million.
APX named SDM Dealer of the Year Honoree.
APX acquired monitoring station in St. Paul, Minn., completing APX’s transformation to a nationwide, full-service residential security company, with sales, installation, service and monitoring managed within one organization.
APX released the Go!Control panel, the first self-contained, all-in-one security and home management system complete with color LCD touch screen.
APX opened its new corporate headquarters in Provo, Utah. A 125,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility.
APX introduced the Energy Management package to help customers control energy usage remotely.
APX received several customer service awards, including: J.D. Power and Associates Call Center Operation Customer Satisfaction Excellence award; recognition as a Top 50 Call Center by the International Customer Management Institute, and the 2010 Mobilizer Award for Best in Field Service.
The company launched a company-wide rebranding effort.
The company acquired Meter Solutions, a smart meter installation company, and began installing AMR and AMI systems.
February 1, 2011
APX Alarm changed its name to Vivint.
Vivint launced severe weather alerts to provide early warnings for customers in areas affected by tormatoes.
Vivint announced partnerships with Tendril and Constellation Energy to broaden its energy management offerings.
A 10,000 sq. ft. smart grid training facility is opened in Austin, Texas.
Vivint received a Consumer’s Digest “Best Buy” rating for its Home Automation package and Advanced Security package.
Vivint Solar launched to provide customers with simple affordable solar solutions.
|In Defense of Door-to-Door Sales|
Vivint’s use of door-to-door sales may be one of its more controversial elements — but it is a calculated choice by the company.
“Why do we use door-to-door sales? It is very effective for one,” Pedersen explains. “Secondly, looking towards the future, we feel like the additional services that we are selling are going to require a very consultant-type sale.
“I don’t know that a lot of people would even contemplate that they could afford home automation. And a lot of people don’t understand how they can use energy management in their own home. They are not looking it up in the phone book, so to bring the services to light to the general population by going door-to-door has been super effective.”
Pedersen also points out that “we’ve attempted over the years to become cooperative and display understanding in the industry of other players and their perspectives. People may have an old perception; there isn’t a single company that has attempted to work out an issue with us that hasn’t had a good result from that.
“I do feel like the industry felt like once they signed a customer on, that they owned them for life. That is anti-competitive and not fair to the consumer. They need the chance to have access to systems that best suit their needs. That said, we never target a company’s customers or condone it. We are simply here to be industrious and bring new technologies and new services to people and be a good industry player.”
Vivint is committed to a strict screening process and a rigorous and ongoing training program for its sales team. All of Vivint’s sales force undergoes a background check, finger printing, and are licensed through either the state and/or city (depending on locational requirements). They are also required to go through an extensive training process at one of its training headquarters before ever beginning any door-to-door sales. Each sales person is responsible for carrying a company ID badge with their name and ID number for identification purposes. This is an additional assurance to customers for verification purposes and to help the company respond if there are ever any concerns. Vivint welcomes customer feedback and encourages anyone with questions or concerns to call or reach out via email to the following link: http://www.vivint.com/tools/verify.
Pedersen does acknowledge that with a few thousand sales reps out there at all times, not all of them are perfect at all times. He emphasized that there is zero tolerance when it is brought to the company’s attention. “If you bring a real issue to us about an employee, then that employee is not going to last long inside our company. We have no room for them; we don’t need employees that misrepresent our products, our company or our services,” Pedersen says.
On August 16, Vivint reached an important milestone as a company when its one millionth system was installed for James Owen of Decatur, Ala.
“Our millionth install is a testament to the leadership and talent in our company and the good decisions we’ve made over the years,” says Shawn Brenchley, senior vice president and chief recruiting officer. “It take a lot of commitment to reach one million systems.”
Owen was presented with an official millionth install plaque and upgraded to the full-automation package with three pan/tilt cameras, three automatic door locks and three small appliance modules. Owen also received an iPhone and iPad to help him take full advantage of his system, as well as a lifetime of free service and monitoring for his system.
“I have a boat about 40 miles away from my house and I like to spend a lot of time on it. I’m especially pleased to be able to control and manage my house while I’m out on the boat. I also really like having two panels in my home to ensure I can always get to one if I need help. It gives me great peace of mind,” Owen says.
|The GO!Control Panel|
Vivint is quick to credit the Go!Control panel from 2GIG, Carlsbad, Calif., as a key to its transformation into a home services company, but even Vivint is a little surprised at just how influential the panel has been.
“Our success this year with the GO!Control has exceeded our expectations. We have sold more than 169,000 in 2011 alone,” the company states.
With its eye always on the future and new techological developments, Vivint says a key feature of the GO!Control panel is its ability to allow updates, reprograming, and the transmission of remote fixes to customers through interactive data signals. That gives the company the flexibility to offer new services at any time without going back to all its previously installed panels.
“The perfect example of the power of the Go!Control panel’s remote upgradable software platform is our Weather Alert we launched ealier this year,” Pedersen describes. “We decided it was a valuable service and were able to push it out to 80,000 customers right away for free. Almost immediately, it started saving lives. I don’t know if that would have been possible with many of the panels out there. We have services in our game plan that are a perfect add to our current platform and with the Go!Control panel, we have the freedom to add them.”
• User-friendly LCD color touch screen
• Multiple arming options
• Z-Wave home automation function that supports most Z-Wave devices. Customers can now control lighting, HVAC, and other Z-Wave appliances in the home right from the panel, their Web-enabled phone or the Internet
• Weather alerts
• Two-way voice over GSM (cellular) radio — allows the central station to listen in and talk to the homeowner when a signal is received
• One touch access for the quickest help possible
• Over-the air-updates for the latest software upgrades
• Remote control options using iPhone®, iPad®, BlackBerry® and Android™
• Supports a full line of wireless security peripherals (smoke and CO detectors, panic buttons, glass breaks, PIR motion detectors, and door/window contacts)
• The Go!Control also features two hardwire zones, 48 wireless zones, eight user codes, and a 24-hour backup battery
|Vivint’s Energy-Focused Services|
In October 2011, Vivint Solar was launched to help customers reduce energy consumption and save money right away. Solar is a natural extension for Vivint, which operates an energy division dedicated to providing energy management, analytics and renewable energy solutions for consumers, and smart meter installations for utilities. Setting the stage, last year, Vivint announced an energy management package. More recently, it announced partnerships with Tendril to bring customers information about their home energy use and a partnership with Constellation to help customers save money on their energy bills. Vivint Smart Grid Solutions provides smart meter installation services for electric, gas and water automated meter reading (AMR) and advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) projects, and also includes a smart grid training center helping prepare technicians for full-scale AMI deployment, including the installation of home area network (HAN) and load control devices, EV chargers and much more. The 10,000 square-foot facility, located in Austin, Texas, also houses two fully equipped model smart homes outfitted with Vivint’s home automation, energy and security solutions.
Through Vivint Solar, customers will be able to integrate solar with energy management and analytics to increase their energy and monetary savings even more. Unlike traditional solar energy systems that require a substantial initial investment, Vivint Solar offers consumers a power purchase agreement (PPA) that enables them to enjoy the benefits of solar with little to no up-front cost. Homeowners agree to purchase the power generated by the solar panels for a lower rate than they typically pay their utility. The agreement also enables customers to lock in lower monthly rates for 20 years. In return, once a customer enters a PPA with Vivint Solar, the company takes care of everything, including permits, installation, maintenance, performance monitoring, metering, warranties and insurance. Vivint Solar received a commitment of tax equity from U.S. Bancorp to support the purchase of $75 million in residential solar energy systems. The fund will finance a projected pipeline of 2,400 residential solar installations in New Jersey, Utah, Hawaii and New York.