Illustration by Nicolas Vicent

The home security market has undergone a considerable evolution in recent years. The emergence of smart home technology has introduced a variety of new players to the field—from consumer electronics manufacturers selling do-it-yourself home security products to cable and telecom providers that have expanded home automation packages to include add-on security services.

In a sea of new high-tech products and offerings, how can long-established alarm monitoring providers differentiate themselves? For MONI Smart Security, a subsidiary of Ascent Capital Group Inc., the emphasis is on the human element. “After all, what makes a house a home are the people living within it,” states President and CEO Jeff Gardner. “Our industry must be more focused on the people we serve.”

Over the past 18 months, the company has done just that by transforming the customer experience and setting a precedent for industrywide change.

Jay Autrey

MONI Smart Security is one of the largest home security alarm monitoring companies in the United States. Its contact center serves more than 1 million residential customers and commercial client accounts. As the principal touchpoint for customers, the center was the key to developing a customer experience strategy for the entire organization, says Jay Autrey, Chief Customer Officer. Autrey joined MONI in June 2015, bringing with him a long history of leading contact center operations in the home security sector, as well as extensive experience in strategy development, customer analytics, change management and service quality.

Autrey’s first step on the customer experience transformation journey was to develop a deeper understanding of MONI’s customers. After analyzing existing data and profiles, he developed an at-risk customer model to identify the attributes that indicate whether a customer is at a higher risk of defecting based on factors and trends behind previous losses, as well as common characteristics in lost-customer profiles.

Customers in the at-risk customer population are those with a high probability of discontinuing their service within 90 days, he says. “It’s important that we identify who those customers are—and why—so that we can course-correct the customer and recover from that risk.”

Autrey then set up a specialized team of frontline security advisors who had proven skills for high-risk recovery. When at-risk customers are identified in the IVR, they are immediately routed to this retention group. These advisors are also responsible for outbound calls to at-risk customers to make proactive offers, such as account adjustments or additional equipment.

The impact has been significant. Contract renewals for high-risk customers doubled. The Net Promoter Scores for this customer segment also skyrocketed. In tests with a control group, Autrey discovered that a 20-point swing in NPS occurred when at-risk customers were routed to a specialized retention advisor.

Focus Frontline Staff on Metrics That Matter

In addition to efforts to retain at-risk customers, Autrey examined overall interactions with an eye toward driving higher customer satisfaction and operational efficiencies in the contact center.

In his initial discussions with frontline staff, Autrey discovered that there was general confusion and disengagement when it came to their key performance metrics. At the time, agents were held accountable for 15 metrics. Supervisor feedback always centered on whichever metric the agent wasn’t hitting. “It didn’t necessarily mean that it was the most important metric, but in their limited interaction and coaching sessions, supervisors focused on the metrics that the agent scored lowest in,” he says.

Autrey is a firm believer that less is more when it comes to the measures that drive frontline performance. “Contact centers have no shortage of metrics or reports,” he says. “You can measure anything behind the scenes, but when it comes to the frontline agent, only manage what is most important.”

He immediately cut agents’ KPIs to just two: first-call resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction.

“First-call resolution is one of the most critical drivers of customer satisfaction,” he explains. “Contact centers typically have struggled with accurately defining and measuring it, but we were able to implement a solution that is analytics-based, which allows us to correlate FCR with our customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores.

Naturally, dramatically streamlining frontline KPIs called for an overhaul of the quality assurance process. Autrey also wanted to transition the center away from relying on traditional QA scores. In many centers, the QA process doesn’t deliver tangible benefits because it is viewed as a necessary evil and is not used to drive specific results, he says, adding that: “A QA score of 94 versus 97 doesn’t really tell us anything. QA should not be considered the end result. It is a means to an end—with customer satisfaction being the end result, not the QA score.”

Autrey profiled the center’s top-performing advisors to identify six key competencies, which he calls success drivers, that drive FCR and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Those are: positive engagement, active listening, asking probing questions, using resources appropriately to research, accuracy of troubleshooting, and offering education. The QA process is now viewed by staff and supervisors as a coaching opportunity to help advisors improve those skills, and not merely as a performance rating system.

Staff Involvement Drives Engagement

A basic tenet of MONI’s contact center culture is that a great customer experience begins with a great employee experience. It’s one that Autrey strongly supports—in fact, getting the staff involved in transforming the customer experience was one of the initial tasks that he set for himself. The first step: Meeting with frontline security advisors to better understand their perceptions of current processes, and to get their feedback about opportunities to improve FCR.

“Instead of the leadership team trying to determine how to improve FCR based on data or observation, we developed a series of employee surveys and focus groups to involve them in designing new processes and tools,” Autrey says. “Getting their input and reporting back to them the progress that was being made helped us to get their buy-in early in the transformation. They understood that they were an important part of the solution.”

Some of the improvements from those early sessions included:

  • De-emphasizing handle time and calls per hour. Agents stressed that they couldn’t focus on FCR if they were feeling pressured to meet conflicting productivity metrics.
  • Revising the center’s recruiting and hiring profile based on the six competencies identified in the center’s top-performing security advisors. “We make sure that we’re targeting, hiring and retaining the right employee, not just any employee,” Autrey says.
  • Launching a leadership development program (LEAP Program) to help employees acquire the leadership skills to progress in their careers.
  • Expanding an onsite technology learning lab to allow the contact center’s non-technical staff access so that they can handle the products to better understand what they do, how they work and how to discuss them with customers.
  • Redesigning the center’s internal knowledge base for agents.

Leading Change in the Industry: Customer Bill of Rights

Transforming the customer experience was not limited to refining processes within the contact center. In January, MONI announced a Customer Bill of Rights to provide transparency into its communications commitment to customers. The move addresses long-time sources of customer complaints within the industry—hidden conditions buried in contracts and unscrupulous sales practices.

“For years, customers service in home security was defined by difficult-to-read contracts and aggressive sales tactics,” states MONI President and CEO Gardner. “We believe that customers deserve greater transparency from the home security industry.”

The MONI Customer Bill of Rights is designed to provide customers with full understanding of what to expect at every point in their relationship with the company, including speed of response times, access to local service and support, transfer of service to a new address, policy and contract details, ease of contract cancellation and customer feedback mechanisms.

“We want to be perfectly transparent to our customers by providing completely open communication,” adds Autrey. “We think that it’s important for customers to understand exactly what to expect from us in every interaction and at every touchpoint in the customer journey—those leading up to the sale as well as after installation. That has not existed in this industry in the past.”

In the contact center, the focus on FCR encourages agents to take the time to fully explain to customers what to expect when they schedule a service job or when discussing contract details. “Our agents see this move as a huge win for the company, and also a win for the industry because they hear from customers firsthand when things weren’t made transparent to them when switching their service from another provider,” he says.

MONI’s focus on customer communication was recently recognized by J.D. Power, which ranked the company “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Security Systems.” Add that to the long list of awards that the company has racked up in recent years, including multiple awards from Consumers’ Choice, Frost & Sullivan, American Business Awards and others.

For Autrey, the company’s customer-centric achievements can be tied to employee engagement. “Our leadership team understands that their first focus is on the employee—making sure that they have the resources they need, and that they feel appreciated, rewarded and recognized,” he says. “A great employee experience is the key to being successful as an organization.”

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