Thanks to technology advances and a changing senior demographic, the Personal Emergency Response Systems industry is undergoing a transformation. The change is affecting users, who have more technology options than ever before. The transition also has implications for the call centers that respond to PERS calls and the emergency care specialists who directly interact with customers.
The traditional PERS system relies on 1970s-era technology. The systems typically consist of a base unit with speakers and a microphone connected to a landline, often set up in the kitchen or living room, and a pendant the user wears to summon emergency help. The downsides are obvious: Users are restricted to a limited service range, and it can be difficult to communicate with the call center unless the user happens to be in the room where the base unit is located when help is needed.
The next generation of PERS is based on mobile technology. The trend to mobile started with seniors moving away from landline phones to less expensive alternatives. However, seniors are now seeing the benefits of mobile PERS over the traditional systems. Mobile PERS are miniature, wearable cell phones with two-way communication capabilities and a button that users can press to call for help. Lightweight and waterproof, mobile PERS offer many advantages over traditional PERS, including location technology, and mobile PERS can be used anywhere with cell phone coverage.
According to a recent IHS report, the PERS market will double over the next several years as device options expand and younger seniors start taking advantage of new mobile PERS features. Currently, the average age of a PERS user is 78, but that number is expected to drop to 74 over the next five years, meaning call centers can expect a larger pool of customers and a lengthier duration of the customer relationship.
Call centers will need to adapt to handle the rising demand for mobile PERS services and the changing needs of next-generation PERS customers. With traditional PERS, emergency care specialists typically send assistance to the address associated with the PERS user via the pre-determined public safety answering point in the account, and their contact with the customer is usually brief. Once the public safety official is contacted, the emergency care specialist’s job is done.
Mobile PERS devices have more capabilities, and that adds a layer of complexity for monitoring centers. Customers are able to summon assistance at home, in the yard, away from home – virtually anywhere with cell phone service. To serve mobile PERS customers, call centers will need to acquire database software that quickly provides the correct PSAP to emergency care specialists when users either provide their locations verbally or when the specialists locate the users via location tools. Call center managers will need to ensure their facilities have the appropriate technical assets and IT expertise to integrate with mobile PERS device services via API or hyperlink.
The projected growth of the PERS marketplace offers call centers many new opportunities. The pool of available customers will be larger, and new device capabilities will attract younger seniors who will maintain their PERS service longer.
To capitalize on these new opportunities, call centers will have to adapt their software and add the ability to integrate with mobile PERS devices. Customer care specialists will be required to take on new responsibilities as they serve a more mobile community. By making these adjustments, call centers can significantly expand their customer base and revenue as the next generation of PERS devices takes center stage.
Edited by Maurice Nagle