Small digital-recording company provides services to public safety organizations, Fortune 500 companies, utilities and hospitals
Sound Communications has experienced double-digit annual growth for nearly nine years running. President Darin Cooper attributes that success to the reliable way in which the company provides what is, today, a necessity for public safety agencies and consumer-facing businesses: digital audio and video recording, analysis and maintenance.
"Years ago, call recording was as basic as he said/she said," says Cooper. "We've expanded on that so that companies can use it for company evaluation."
Cooper joined the growing company in 1998 as a solutions engineer. In that role, he provided technological support and customer service to clients that relied on Sound Communications' recording software and hardware. Cooper says it was a compelling time to join the Grove City firm.
"It was a growing company in a pretty interesting field," he says. "Everything was moving from analog to a digital landscape."
The company was founded by Garry Stephenson, a former Navy flight engineer in 1983. Stephenson, Cooper and a handful of employees ran a lean operation for many years. "When I got here there were three or four of us, and we did it all. Garry and I would go out and sell, support and install. It gave me an insight to every aspect of the company," says Cooper.
Cooper became Sound Communications' chief technical officer, a position he held for five years before being named president in 2014. Under his guidance, the company has diversified its software and hardware vendor options and technical applications through partners including Verint and Uptivity.
The company has roughly 600 active clients, nearly half of which are public safety organizations. Cooper says his undergraduate education in sociology and criminology gives him insight into the needs and evidentiary requirements of police and fire divisions, 9-1-1 call centers and court systems.
"We consider it mission-critical recording, 24/7/365. Our staff is equipped to handle any emergency, 24 hours a day" guaranteeing clients "100-percent up-time," says Cooper. Sound Communications employees are put through a "strenuous training program" for six months to a year upon hire. "It's essential we make sure (our staff) understands the critical nature of the recording. They understand all the pieces and parts, and understand how the software works. They don't take any chances with the customers' data."
Public agencies are increasingly moving towards digital recordings rather than the written word to document matters for the public record. "The actual spoken word in the court is more and more frequently becoming the record," says Cooper.
The company will soon be providing wearable video technology for police officers. "We do in-car video now. More and more, there's additional cameras that may be associated or attached directly to the officer. That really protects the public as well as the officers."
Sound Communications keeps an active supply of hardware and software ready in order to build a client's recording system from the ground up at a moment's notice.
The company's security division was a natural extension of its recording services. The division, which provides surveillance and monitoring, was founded 10 years ago following repeated requests from clients, says Cooper. "In the security-video side we've seen a large increase in everything from car dealerships to scrap-metal places because they're high security concerns for theft."
Sound Communications has also found a niche in providing digital recording and support services to utilities and hospitals. Those clients rely on Sound to provide dispatch capabilities, call analysis for improved customer service, appointment setting and medical-flight recordings.
American Electric Power has contracted with Sound Communications for call-center support for more than 12 years. AEP relies on Sound and its vendors to manage the PC and telephone software and hardware used by some 230 representatives in the electric company's call centers in Groveport, Ohio; Shreveport, La.; Tulsa, Okla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Hurricane, W. Va., and Fort Wayne, Ind.
"They're really knowledgeable about their equipment and their software," says Ronnie Dawson, assistant administrator for AEP. Sound Communications recording software (provided by vendor-partners) allows AEP to record and improve customer relations and response time through call screening and voice analysis.
Workforce management software suites provided by Sound's primary vendors Verint and Uptivity "allow these companies to improve employee performance and employee loyalty," says Cooper.
"We're taking technology that's available to us and integrating it into solutions, providing service and support," he says. Cooper credits Sound's employees for being the foundation of the company's long-term business-to-business relationships. "We've always built our company on service and support. It's served us well. A lot of our business comes from word of mouth."
The majority of the Sound Communications staff is based in Ohio and serves the firm's core market in Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The company's reach is global; Sound services companies in Bermuda, Alaska, Hawaii and the UK.
Sound Communications works with a range of businesses, says Cooper, from "small ambulance companies in the middle of nowhere" to Fortune 500 financial companies. Clients on Sound's roster include the Chicago Board of Trade (which uses Sound to record broker transactions), the City of Columbus Police, Fire and 9-1-1 Call Center, OhioHealth, Mount Carmel and the Cleveland Clinic.
"(Our) short-term goal is to continue the success that we're already experiencing as a company," says Cooper. "Our long-term goal is to diversify some of our products and remain relevant to our customers."
Kitty McConnell is the assistant editor.