How Interface Security Systems maximizes return on investment for customers

Leadership for controlled and managed business services provider Interface talks about using AI to deliver smarter security, network and operational solutions.

Interface monitors approximately 65,000 customer sites from its two UL, TMA Five-Diamond monitoring centers located in Dallas and Earth City, Mo.

What people have missed most during the pandemic is being able to freely interface with other human beings as they used to, without the interference of masking and/or distancing. The availability and rapid ubiquity of interfaces facilitating video communications and meetings helped immensely, but were only a palliative rather than a substitute.

Now, as life and work begin to return to “normal”, thousands of security and technology business customers from coast to coast are grateful to have another interface to help them through historically difficult times – Interface Security Systems.

Founded more than a quarter century ago and headquartered in the St. Louis metro area, Interface is a leading, comprehensive national provider of recurring revenue-based managed security solutions, network connectivity, unified communications as as a service (UCaaS) and business intelligence solutions for distributed enterprises.

Best known for the strong interactive video surveillance capabilities it gained through the Westec acquisition in 2012, the company saw 37% growth in 2021 and landed $60 million in equity investments. Interface serves approximately 65,000 customer locations, with a strong presence in the retail market that includes Michaels, Swatch, Kay Jewelers, Applebee’s and Panda Express.

“It has always been important for Interface customers to have a personalized experience,” said Sunita Mani, Senior Vice President of Marketing. “We want to keep the same experience as we grow and grow our business. That’s why our motto is centered on providing seamless customer support, which we extend to every department that touches the customer with specific metrics to track performance. If you create an internal environment where people feel valued and part of something, that translates into that kind of special customer experience.

ISS spoke with Mani, COO Brent Duncan and Senior Vice President of Corporate Security Sean Foley to find out how the company is improving security, streamlining connectivity and optimizing operations to maximize the return on investment of the biggest brands in the country. Also covered are the impacts and results of the pandemic, technologies and services in demand, and opportunities in emerging markets.

How has the pandemic impacted and affected your customer relationships?

Brent Duncan: We have seen a disproportionate impact on our customer base, given that we deal a lot with consumer-facing organizations. We have a large retail customer base that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. A good part of this clientele is based in shopping centres, which is even more impacted.

At the start of 2020 there was a lot of uncertainty and so we quickly dug in with our clients to understand how we could support them, how we could support their sites, really understand what their strategy was, their game plan, so that we could line up and be a good partner while this all unfolded.

On the other hand, we have also seen some of our customer base gain ground due to the pandemic situation, such as quick service restaurants. They really saw an increase in business because people were doing a lot of takeout, not eating in. This has led to significant adoption of the technology.

Select services in our portfolio enable organizations to leverage technology for the sidewalk. You can also think about using technology and voices for pandemic protocol enforcement, social distancing, mask-wearing, things like that.

Today we are witnessing a significant emergence of the use of business intelligence to optimize the customer experience of people in stores, whereas before the pandemic it was rather in the discussion stage. People had been scratching their heads about the actual implementation.

The pandemic, ultimately, has dramatically increased technology adoption. The focus has shifted to leveraging new technologies, video, anything in-store to create awareness of customer experience or to create convenience due to some of the issues of the pandemic. We were excited to partner with our customers to help them navigate and understand. We have a number of services that have emerged directly from the COVID situation.

Sean Foley: Coming out of COVID, now more than ever, the days of a company ticking the box when it comes to CCTV and an intruder alarm and being done with it are long gone. Our customers – who are typically large-scale retailers, QSR organizations, relatively sophisticated asset protection services, loss prevention services – want a lot more from their solutions.

From making sure they don’t receive false alarms and integrating the video solution with alarms, to dealing more directly with the increase in ORC and organized crime in retail , shoplifting, they demand it. They want to get the most out of their security investment, and that’s what we deliver.

Sunita Mani: Yes, we are seeing increased demand for security services, video analytics and focusing on the underlying network that needs to support these applications. This is also where we come in.

“Our motto is centered on providing relentless customer support, which we extend to every department that touches the customer with specific metrics to track performance,” says Sunita Mani, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Interface.

How much internal IT and network expertise do you have to serve customers?

duncan: We have a complete network engineering organization here. From a surveillance perspective, we divide security operations, surveillance, physical security operations surveillance as well as our video surveillance, and then our network operations center. Our NOC and network engineering group manages anything security based or manages the underlying network, WAPs, routers, switches, all that equipment, supports the network, monitors everything, broadband , voice, everything that fits into this network component.

Then we have a separate organization from a surveillance standpoint associated with physical security, video, alarms, etc. We have an extensive in-house team on staff. Managing 65,000 to 70,000 sites in North America requires great depth and expertise in each of these product disciplines.

What lessons have been learned operationally from the pandemic you are pursuing?

duncan: One of the biggest impacts has focused on the supply chain, a significant and ongoing challenge. The days of just-in-time inventory are a thing of the past. This required us to have a much higher level of coordination and planning internally within our operations and sales teams, and with customers and suppliers around execution. We’ve done a lot of pre-orders, advance orders based on customer business and the feedback we’re getting on their growth.

Internally, the pandemic ended up being a cultural opportunity for the organization to step up and understand the challenges of our employees and customers. We think of the disruption in terms of activity, but it was a massive disruption to people’s lives. It was important to respond thoughtfully to our employees, reimagining working conditions, remote work, flexibility, sharing of responsibilities between teams.

The hardest things in life are the ones you look back on and see how they have improved your outlook and approach. It’s definitely true for us as an organization culturally and it’s allowed us to build stronger bonds with our customers because we stood arm in arm in the face of these challenges.

Foley: Excluding COVID, we have noticed with great emotion how the retail market has changed. Storefronts look the same, but retail is a much more vulnerable place for employee and consumer than before COVID. There is more risk of violence. We see it every day on TV and on social media, more risk to assets with respect to shoplifting and organized crime in retail, and more risk due to the difficulty retailers to fully staff themselves.

You get more exposure because you don’t have as much body, and they’re trying to do more with less. This creates opportunities for an organization like Interface to protect and also offset some of these P&L changes with security solutions.

Mani: There was a large company-wide transformation initiative around our own technology platform, where we adopted Oracle. We assess how each set of departments affects the customer and how we can transform it so that the customer experience is seamless. One of the big differentiators as a service provider is the personalization and empathy you can have towards the customer and what they are going through. This was a key learning process where we assessed the technology stack in our organization.

interface installer

With technicians strategically located in each US market, Interface’s comprehensive security offerings include site surveys, system design, installation, monitoring and service.

What specific technologies or services are being implemented as a result of the pandemic?

Foley: One of our solutions is virtual custody where we use live two-way audio and video monitoring. This operation has been around for a long time, but for the first time, clients have asked us things like, “Can you make an announcement, say hourly, about social distancing? Can you take care of it for us? Can you make an announcement on an automated mode every 15 minutes for wearing the mask? If you tune in to our video and someone violates one of these mandates, can you make a general announcement? »

We have done a lot in direct response to the pandemic, especially with our virtual guard monitoring solution, where we can interact directly with our customers’ store environments. We then had an increase in demand for business analytics solutions.

It’s been anything from, “Hey, I need to know how many people are in my store at any given time.” Of the number of people in my store, how many of them convert into an actual sale? How long do people wait in line? If they’re waiting in line, aren’t people queuing because they’re frustrated? What screens do they spend the most time on? ” etc.

Keep reading to learn how Interface’s business model has kept the company afloat during the pandemic, how it implements AI, and much more…