From Getting Organized to More Accurate Quoting,

Washington Alarm Reaps the Benefits of WeSuite Software

Stephanie Olson

Washington Alarm, Inc., of Seattle, is a busy company in a thriving market. Founded in the mid-20th Century, this family owned business has served the public for generations. However, for companies like Washington Alarm, a venerable history still requires keeping an eye on the future. We spoke to Stephanie Olson, Special Projects Administrator, to discuss the impact that WeSuite is having on Washington Alarm’s ability to stay competitive well into the 21st century.

Q: Thank you for talking to us today about how Washington Alarm is using WeSuite. Before we begin, would you please tell us a bit about your company, its services and solutions?

SO: Washington Alarm has been offering personalized systems, expert advice, professional service, and a fair pricing structure to clients in Washington State for more than 70 years—since 1943. We provide commercial monitoring, installation, and managed access, as well as commercial and residential security, fire, surveillance, automation, access control and environmental monitoring systems. We’re one of the largest providers in the state of Washington, with about 75 employees. In addition to our headquarters in Seattle, we also have a branch office in Bellingham, near the Canadian border.

Q: When you joined the company as the Special Projects Administrator three years ago, was Washington Alarm using WeSuite?

SO: Yes. The company had started using an integration of WeSuite and the financial platform Sedona before I joined the company — about five years ago. Fortunately, my previous company had been using both of these, so I was familiar with them.

Q: From an administrator’s perspective, what are the most significant ways that WeSuite now helps the company run more smoothly?

SO: There’s really three major areas. First of all, we’re a lot more organized because WeSuite encourages us to follow a systematic approach to our entire sales process. This makes us more organized, which helps us instill in our customers a sense of confidence in the services we’re offering. Secondly, there’s improved accuracy in our quoting, thanks to the WeSuite approval system. And third, the fact that it integrates cleanly with our financial platform Sedona, which handles all of our accounting and inventory, just makes everything run much more efficiently. All of these factors combine to help us with our overall sales process, and they’ve been particularly helpful with how we generate quotes and proposals.

Q: How were the company’s proposals handled before this?

SO: Salespeople would write the Schedule of Protection in a Word document and use a spreadsheet to calculate the parts and labor. An admin would have to put this information into our Terms and Conditions, which were then mailed or emailed to our customer. It was difficult for Operations to review the job prior to the sales team bidding it. There was really no consistency; the proposals were just all over the place. The difference between then and how they look with WeSuite is night and day.

Q: Given the nature of your business, what does a typical quote look like – in terms of all the different pieces that need to come together?

SO: For most of our projects, we select from generic packages we have designed to meet the needs of small businesses and homeowners. Then we add a few things onto these packages to customize them, based on what we are trying to accomplish for the specific customer or their business.

To generate the customized quotes in WeEstimate, in addition to selecting the right parts and packages, we use the labor tab and we use the chargeable items tab for things such as permits and wire. We also include the freight and warranty calculations. We have our terms and conditions in there too. Additionally, our projects include recurring monthly revenue (RMR). RMR is very big for us. WeEstimate makes it very easy to quote.

Q: How has WeSuite helped with the accuracy of Washington Alarms’ quoting?

SO: It has helped in a number of ways. To start with, we recently finished working with WeSuite to build a new proposal document within WeEstimate which specifies everything that needs to be included in each quote. Before that, it was easy to miss something such as miscellaneous item, which could include a part needed to complete the job.

Next, there is the accuracy of pricing, which is completely automated thanks to the Sedona integration. Before we had these two systems in place, talking to each other, if pricing was adjusted, the new amounts did not always make their way to WeEstimate right away. Now, however, if prices are changed in Sedona, WeEstimate pulls the pricing straight from Sedona, so we have the current pricing.

And then there’s the approval system, which is really important. Before WeSuite, our salespeople would type up their quotes and send them off. Nothing was really approved beforehand. We did not have a consistent approval process in place.

Today, we have dedicated people who make sure a proposal does not go out unless until it is checked and approved by our Operations Department. The WeEstimate software automates the process, making sure that anything that requires approvals is shared with the right person or people who are authorized to review and approve it. The documents literally cannot be sent until they are approved. As would be expected, the approvals might take a little longer, but for the sake of accuracy and Operations receiving a job that is ready to install, the automated approvals through WeSuite have been amazing.

What is really great is that, through the software, we have been able to customize the conditions for the approvals process, defining when approvals are necessary and when they are not. We have established that on certain types of proposals which fit pre-established criteria, the salesperson can just run with it. For example, in our Bellingham office, both salespeople are very senior. They have been doing this a long time and rarely make mistakes. For them, as long as the sale is within their threshold, they can send out a quote on their own. If it goes over the threshold, one other person needs to sign off on it. But at our Seattle office, by comparison, there are newer people. For them, we have three different approval systems, and they have a much lower threshold.

Q: How else have you taken advantage of the ability to customize WeSuite software to support the specific nature of Washington Alarm’s business?

SO: We have been able to customize what our proposal package looks like. I mentioned earlier about how we have set up WeEstimate to require that certain things be quoted. But there is more than just pricing in a proposal.

When our salespeople go into WeEstimate to put together a proposal, we have already prechecked everything which should be included: a stylized cover page, a cover letter with a “Hey, thanks for choosing us. This is what we offer” message, terms and conditions, chargeable items, an emergency contact list and company contact list by department. For our scope-of-work document, WeEstimate now pushes our scope of work onto the investment summary page.

We also use DocuSign as part of our process. Formerly, our contracts were signed as print versions. Most of our documents were hand signed. Customers would print out the PDF, sign it, scan it, then email it back to us. This takes time. The integration between DocuSign and WeEstimate has definitely made things a lot easier and speeded up how quickly we can close a deal.

Q: We’ve talked about what you like about WeSuite as an administrator. What does your sales team think are the most important benefits of WeSuite?

SO: They really like the way WeSuite keeps them organized and how well everything is laid out within the software. For example, they can create customized project folders which show the types of systems and all the devices underneath. If they want a fire system, they go to the fire system folder and see what kinds of smoke detectors are available. They can drill down and see all the parts. It just makes it really easy for them. Even people who are not naturally very organized are forced to be organized with WeSuite!

Q: So how else is the company putting WeSuite to use?

SO: I have to say that WeSuite has a lot of potential that we are still in the process of tapping. It allows you to do so much. We are using WeOpportunity and WeEstimate components, but we are not using WeOpp to its full capability yet. Right now we just use it to put our leads in and assign them. Ultimately, we need to take better advantage of its integration with WeEstimate.

Another WeSuite feature we will soon be taking advantage of is automatic commission calculation. Once that happens, our process will be much less convoluted and much more efficient.

Q: Have you worked with WeSuite’s tech support team?

SO: We have and it has been great. Most recently, during the process of revising our proposal documents, we had some hiccups, but everyone at WeSuite has been great to work with in getting problems resolved. 

When I go to speak with their team about an idea—something I’d like the software to be able to do, for instance—they truly understand our questions better. And, for support calls and technical assistance, it makes a big difference. There’s definitely an advantage to working with a company who comes from the security industry, speaks our language and really understands our business.

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