Alarm Grid's Strategic Partnerships and Why We Picked Our VendorsPosted By Joshua Unseth
The resources we have available to us are incredible. When I look at how much our website can do, I'm amazed. But underneath the architecture, there are a ton of people we have to thank for making Alarm Grid a great place. So, as a thank you to all those companies that have made us who we are and who have contributed to making Alarm Grid a remarkable place for our customers, here's our salute to you.
While we offer a ton of free content, we do sell both alarm monitoring and security products. What that means is we needed a really really secure solution to make sure that your credit cards are safe form identity theft. While a lot of small businesses do some pretty insecure stuff with your information like put it into excel sheets on their computers, store it in a filing bin in their office, or pay really cheap unproven, unsecure solutions to funnel your most important data, we decided to splurge and make sure that we went with the most secure solution we could find. Stripe is that solution. They are responsible for your ability to pay Alarm Grid, and they are the reason you can be confident that your data isn't going to compromised.
When you call Alarm Grid, our phone system is full-featured. It's one of those things that you probably won't see. But when a phone system doesn't work, you are going to know about it. In some ways, OnSip has done with business VOIP what we are trying to do with alarms. They provide businesses (and individuals if they wanted to use it), a DIY solution to managing and implementing a full-featured, complex phone system with tons of support. They provide FAQs, recommendations, and when we call them, they pick up right away and make sure that we are taken care of. Their technology is affordable, and the quality is excellent. We picked them because as Alarm Grid grows, they can grow with us. We picked all of our partners for that same reason. We want to make sure that the technology that they are offering is the kind of technology that we can use when we're supporting tens of thousands of clients at once and have tens or hundreds of employees.
You see that little chat box at the bottom of the site? Some people get annoyed that it's there. But a majority of you really seem to love the feature. I'm going to be doing a lot of posts about how our Olark's chat has revolutionized the way we are doing business, but that's a different conversation. Just one quick little nugget for you to chew on: our average call volume since implementing Olark has dropped but the number of customer whom we are having conversations has more than doubled. For now, I just want to give Olark a shout-out, and say if you are going to be running an e-commerce store any time soon, we highly recommend implementing some sort of chat solution. We picked Olark and they are awesome. What are you using?
Every company needs a way to make sure that interactions with our customers are tracked. As a pseudo-CRM we picked Highrise. It's not as full featured as a Salesforce, but we didn't need all the functionality of something like that. We needed something simple that would allow us to make sure that our users were served well by any member of our staff.
For those of you who are curious let me give you some fun facts about Alarm Grid's traffic, then I'll get back to lauding the merits of Highrise.
- During the month of November, 2012, 29% of Alarm Grid's traffic came from "Returning Visitors" but accounted for 47% of all of the site's pageviews.
- Returning Visitors looked at 86% more pages during every visit than new visitors.
- Returning visitors spent 160% more time on the site than new visitors.
- Nearly 35% of all our on-site interactions (like those using the chat widget for example) were used by returning visitors.
Ok, so what does that all mean? Well, Alarm Grid is doing something right. Our ratio of new visitors to return visitors increases a little bit more every month. We're proud of that statistic because it means that people who come to our site are finding it to be an useful resource. We don't make any money when you are looking through product manuals. We provide them for you because we believe that their usefulness to you is invaluable and that when you need new products, services, or anything alarm related, you will remember the experience you had with us and come back. Whether that's one year from now or five years from now. To date, we've done our best to support everyone who has asked for help whether they are under contract with one of those other alarm companies ;) or whether they are our client. As we grow, we may have to start changing how we do support, but we promise that we will do our best to make sure anyone and everyone can get the resources they need.
So that brings me back to Highrise. Highrise is a simple, nearly featureless (I mean that, it's really scaled down) CRM. It has integrations with Olark, Onsip, and a bunch of other neat applications that we will probably be using. When you make a call to us, a note is made in Highrise and gets added to you if you are a returning visitor. When you are done chatting with us, that chat gets pulled into Highrise so that when you come back, we can pull it up and continue the conversation where we left off. And like I said, about 1/3 of our conversations are people who have been here before. People making decisions about purchasing an alarm system oftentimes take a few weeks to decide what they want to get out of their system. Whether they are looking for a brand new wireless security system or maybe they just want some new sensors for their Honeywell Vista 20P and are trying to decide how they could make it compatible with wireless sensors since it's a wired system, Highrise allows us to store your conversations with us so that when you return you don't have to re-explain yourself. When you make an order, it gets imported into Highrise, sends it to our shipping department, and they can take it from there to make sure that your orders are going out error-free(ish).
Oh, and again, as we grow, the beauty of a good CRM is that as we bring competent people into the Alarm Grid fold, you can receive tech support from any of our techs and it won't be like starting from scratch. If we can achieve that goal, my guess is that far more than 29% of our sites traffic will be return visitors. I'm hoping that we see a community form around Alarm Grid and that number creeps up to somewhere around 40%! I think we're about a year away from those kind of numbers, but I'll be sure to keep you updated.
A lot of the alarm system documents are a bit hard to find for some reason. We decided to change that. We try to post a complete set of every single products pdfs: their manual, data sheet, install guides, and whatever else might come with the unit. That way, when you are at home getting ready to install your brand spankin' new alarm, when you need help, you can jump right into the manuals. The truth is, we want to make sure to support you in the way that is best for you. If you want to talk to someone, you can call us and ask questions; if you just want a quick answer to a simple question, the chat is very helpful; if you have a question that is pretty popular, we've probably posted a short FAQ about it, and you can either read the FAQs or ask us directly (we're just going to read the FAQ to you); on the other hand if you're the kind of person who starts a road trip in Minnesota to get to Florida, accidentally ends up in Oregon, nearly gets eaten by a bear, and still refuses to ask for directions because your so fiercely independent we have these manuals. For you, you do not need to ask any person any questions. You can maintain your dignity by anonymously perusing the documents of whatever product your having trouble installing. What's more, the manuals are beautifully displayed, functional, and they will work on any device you are using on Alarm Grid. All of that is thanks to Scribd! Now, we're not going to be held liable if Mr. Fiercely Independent accidentally sticks his screwdriver into the wall's electrical socket before setting the breaker to off... but it's good to know that the documents are there if you need, or even just prefer them.
Spree (Now Solidus)
We gotta give a big online high-five to Spree. Our developer is in love with Ruby on Rails, and for good reason. Spree out of the box is like a beautiful factory made corvette. It's got a lot of horsepower, but it's rims aren't really chromed and it doesn't open up quite the way we want to. As we've customized it to our needs, it's becoming an unique, aftermarket, roaring machine that could win in a street race against any of those chintzy Ferraris.
I'll admit, I know nothing about cars. But what has been done with this site is nothing short of remarkable. As our new design is being prepared (we're putting racing stripes on the site), the awesomeness of what we have built will become more and more apparent. While a lot of companies build solutions for their stores from the ground up, we have received the incredible benefit of the internet's open source community. The store you see in front of you is the result of the Alarm Grid development team's hard hard work and many hundreds of hours of development, as well as the thousands and thousands of semi-anonymous developers who have contributed to the Spree project. So while Spree is listed lowest here, it's hard to express how highly we think of the project and its contributors. Of our partners, this is probably the most important reason Alarm Grid can do what it does. it is the backbone of our store, and your experience.