Provident Security’s Unique Marketing Tactics Win Thousands of Customers

L_SS7installer1_ProvidentOpenAt a point in young people’s lives when many run up credit card bills on keggers or concert tickets, 20-year-old college student Mike Jagger used his $500 limit card to launch a security empire in 1996. He has since built British Columbia-based Provident Security into one of Vancouver’s largest privately held, full service security firms with more than 200 employees and in excess of 6,000 clients.

How did Jagger do it? By applying a unique approach to security and marketing, and establishing a working environment that has been lauded as one of the region’s finest. Central to the company’s innovative go-to-market strategy is guaranteed 24/7 alarm response in five minutes or less.

“Providing a guaranteed five-minute response service is a big commitment that requires complete focus on what fits and what doesn’t,” says Jagger. “The result is that Provident is able to provide a service unmatched in the industry.”

A runner-up in past years, Jagger and Provident’s enterprise and ingenuity lifted the firm to top honors in SSI’s 2011 Installer of the Year competition in the large company category (150 or more employees). Following is a closer look at the business practices and philosophical principles behind this extraordinary security provider.

Delivering on 5-Minute Promise

Jagger’s first customer was York House School, a private girls’ institution that hired him to provide security at a high school dance. Fifteen years later the school is still a client, with Provident providing event security as well as traffic control, guard service, and alarm and access control monitoring.

Today, Provident offers a wide range of services for residential, commercial and industrial clients, including uniformed security guards, and alarm and electronic security system design, installation and monitoring. The company’s clients include some of British Columbia’s largest and highest risk buildings, important public figures, prestigious hotels, and hundreds of vacation homeowners.

In 2005, Provident designed and built its own central monitoring station, dubbed the Operations Centre. MAS monitoring software is used to interpret and manage incoming alarm signals, but custom software was developed that has completely automated the dispatch process. Alarm signals are automatically routed to the closest available responder using GPS and Blackberry devices. This enables the five-minute response for which Provident has become famous.

“Our Operations Centre team does not waste any time manually dispatching intrusion alarms,” says Jagger. “Every signal is automatically routed to the appropriate responder within four seconds. This frees our team up to spend more time on the phone with clients and only get involved in ‘exceptions.'”

To uphold that lightning-fast response, on the monitoring side of the business Provident limits its geographical reach. Rather than provide response throughout Vancouver, service is restricted residentially to west of Oak Street and commercially west of Cambie Street as well as the city’s core downtown area.

Another way Provident shatters the traditional alarm company service model is by offering concierge service to all clients. Billed on an a la carte basis, the Homewatch service allows clients to have Provident pick up their newspapers, water plants, feed cats, check the water heater, shovel snow, drive the family to the airport or perform virtually any other errand.

“We are committed to providing a remarkable experience for our customers,” says Jagger. “We know most people don’t think about their security company in the same way they don’t think about their furnace company. We work hard to change that. Our goal is to inspire clients to say, ‘You won’t believe what Provident did for me today.'”

Provident, which remains 100-percent owned by Jagger, has been recognized three times as one of the 25 Best Places to Work in B.C. by BC Business Magazine. The firm has been featured in more than 700 media pieces, and Jagger has become an in-demand speaker for business audiences throughout North America. In 2010, he spoke at two Fortune Sales & Marketing Summits and addressed entrepreneur groups in New York, Ottawa, Victoria and Vancouver.

Working Social Media, Seminars

Getting Provident started on a shoestring budget required Jagger to not only work hard and smartly, but also to become a very creative marketer. This grassroots, guerilla-like mentality carries over to his methods today, which while frequently unorthodox are usually very effective. In fact, the company does almost nothing associated with traditional marketing tactics.

Provident’s overriding marketing theme is about promoting customer education and training as it relates to security and alarm systems. Messaging techniques include social media, monthly home security seminars, proactive client communication, referrals and community involvement.

The company was one of the first security contractors to actively use social media, with Jagger producing an outspoken blog since 2005 and Twitter feed since 2008. Provident also makes great use of video and has more than 50 clips posted on its YouTube channel.

One of these devices’ primary goals is driving attendance for Provident’s monthly security seminars held in its showroom. The hour-long sessions explain how most burglaries occur and how an alarm can be an effective part of a home/business owner’s overall security plan. Designed to be a fun experience, attendees also tour the monitoring center. The audience is expanded offsite by streaming the presentations live on the company’s Web site.

Regarding referrals, Jagger says, “People are not going to believe what a company brochure says, but they’ll believe what their friends tell them. Everything we do is focused on giving clients as many reasons as possible to refer us – without asking directly for a referral or rewarding clients. We believe it’s important if someone refers us that it’s because they honestly feel they are doing their friend a favor.”

Additionally stoking the embers of goodwill, Provident is very active in the community. The company sponsors several local Little League, soccer and hockey teams. A board member of the Kerrisdale Business Association since 1998, in 2002 Jagger was named the organization’s Citizen of the Year. He has also participated in the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Vancouver Chapter, serving as its president in 2009-10.

On a wider scale, Provident has twice received a Gold Award for employee efforts in annual United Way campaigns; supported BC’s Children’s Hospital through participation in the annual Miracle Maker’s Network Telethon; and long-time involvement with Kids Help Phone, a national toll-free support line for children. The company also donates its giant inflatable slide to help nonprofit groups raise money.

Happy Workers, Happy Clients

The high level of personalized and specialized services Provident delivers to its clientele necessitates employees be well skilled both technically and interpersonally, as well as trustworthy and reliable. Furthermore, they must be empowered to carry out high precision tasks like five-minute alarm response and concierge services.

Thus hiring the right people, and optimizing their performance via thorough training and a stimulating work environment.

“We have learned that the most important issue is alignment with our core values. It’s not something that can be faked or learned,” says Jagger. “We use group interviews to see how people interact with others. We are able to weed out those who roll their eyes when we talk core values or are rude to others. Typically, we are not looking for security experience; it’s more about coming from companies with a great customer service culture.”

Every employee undergoes a 64-hour Basic Security Training program before moving on to more specific training geared toward that person’s intended role. For example, monitoring personnel undergo Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) courses. To ensure associates understand how they fit into ‘the big picture,’ ride-a-longs take place where monitoring staffers work with technicians, installers go on patrols, accounting personnel spend time in the central station, etc.

One of the most effective learning tools Provident has developed is a set of extensive wikis providing step-by-step details for all facets of the business. This includes responding to client requests, replacing ink in a printer, refueling the generator, how to program a wireless glassbreak detector and more. Text, photos and videos make it easy for employees to get fast answers on how to do something.

“I used to work for one of the biggest alarm companies in North America where everything was about cost and speed,” says Installation Team Leader Matt Marrello. “We were pushed to get in and out for the lowest possible cost, and do as many in a day as possible. Provident’s approach is completely opposite. We are empowered to spend as much time as it takes to take proper care of a client.”

It’s these types of priorities and considerations that make Provident employees look forward to coming into work each day and experience a sense of fulfillment being part of the organization.

“I have been with Provident for 12 years and feel really proud to know I have been a part of the company’s success and growth,” says Sales Team Leader Rebecca Bligh. “The company has supported my personal growth within its core values. This is available to all employees at Provident so they too can build a bright future.”

Published July 4, 2011 · Security Sales & Integration · Written by Scott Goldfine

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