As the 2012 winner of the CSAA’s Central Station Manager of the Year Excellence Award, Amy Becht knows a thing or two about how to manage a central station. Becht, a native of St. Paul, Minn., is the senior central station manager at Vivint Inc., with responsibility for the company’s central station located South St. Paul, Minn. Becht has been employed at Vivint for approximately five years and has worked in her current position for just over two years. She started as a monitoring representative, but her background is in operations management. Vivint employs approximately 150 people in its central stations, but during the summer, that number inflates to about 200 people as more systems are sold and put online. Becht serves on the Central Station Alarm Association’s Education and Licensing Committees, and is a member of ESA’s Young Security Professionals. SDM spoke with Becht recently about some of her managerial practices and philosophies.
SDM: When you manage central station operations as large as Vivint’s, accurate communication is extremely important. What are some of the most important methods you use to achieve a superior level of communication?
Becht: One of the things between the two centers that we found to be effective — and that both the representative [operator] and the management level really enjoy — is a communication board. Representatives can post ideas or conversation pieces and people from both centers get a chance to chat about it. We’ve had a lot of great improvements that have come through that.
It’s a great central location to keep important communication pieces, SOP documents, things of that nature that are easily accessible. It’s something that has continued to grow and we’ve worked to develop different facets of it.
SDM: What are some of the most effective programs and practices you use to develop strong leadership skills among Vivint’s central station supervisors?
Becht: First, there is mentoring that comes from myself. But we also do a lot of peer mentoring and it helps the more experienced supervisors to build those relationships with the newer supervisors. Peer-to-peer training and peer-to-peer mentoring is really a key part of how we onboard new supervisors.
We do a lot of book club type readings and meetings to expand on skills and talk about ways that that can relate to what we do. Someone will choose a book that we want to read on a leadership topic, and we’ll cover it chapter by chapter in each of our weekly leadership meetings.
Our most current book is 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell. I really like it a lot, especially for that type of a forum discussion — it’s fantastic.
Another thing we currently have in the works is holding leadership summits twice a year where we’ll get the entire leadership group from both locations together. We will hold leadership development seminars, have opportunities for open forum topics, and I think also we will use this as an opportunity to create more unity between the leadership at both centers.
SDM: Two of the attributes you look for when hiring new central station operators are their creativity and problem-solving skills. How do you ascertain that a job-seeker has these skills?
Becht: We look for somebody that can give us examples of how they have gone above and beyond or creatively solved a workplace problem in the past to better the experience of a customer. We directly ask them to give an example.
One of the big pieces that we look for [in new hires] is dependability and having a track record of that. In the central station environment, you certainly can’t serve your customers well if you don’t have a reliable workforce. We have a fairly structured attendance requirement program and so if it’s someone we’re considering hiring, we actually thoroughly go through some of our attendance policies and programs to make sure they’re on board with that before we make the job offer.
Even if somebody hasn’t been in the alarm industry, we really look for superior customer service skills.
SDM: What advice would you offer to someone new to the central station management role?
Becht: One of my highest values as a leader is putting people first. In this industry particularly, the metrics and the measurements are very important, but I always stress to people, if you take care of your representatives first, those other things will follow.