Why do property managers have problems with their security guards? Well the answer to that question can be either complicated or simple. There are many factors that can contribute to the problems that a property manager can have with his security guards including whom the security guard company is, laws and regulations security guard best service regarding security guards, budgetary constraints, the security requirements at the property in question, the property manager’s clients, and the processes and procedures for security guard vendors to name just a few. As a property manager you can control some of these factors, while the others you can only accept. Of these factors, the easiest to control are the processes and procedures you establish for your security guard company. These processes and procedures can alleviate 80 to 90% of the challenges that you encounter.
Many property managers believe that it is the responsibility of the security guard company to make sure that the level of service that they provide remains at a high level. In truth, many of the problems with security guards begin with this erroneous belief. Although no one would dispute the fact that a vendor should supply the best service that they are capable of providing, one must realize that security guard companies are an especially unique type of vendor. Most vendors provide you with a service that is usually pretty easy to verify when the job is being well done. For example, if you hire a landscaper and you see that the grass is unevenly cut, then the landscaper is not doing the job well. But with most guard companies, the level of service that they provide is often not easily discernible. Are they hiring qualified employees? Do they train their guards adequately? What type of supervision do they provide? Fortunately, most security guard companies do a good job at providing adequate service to most of their clients. In fact, with most security guard contracts, the level of service initially meets and sometimes exceeds the property manager’s expectations. Unfortunately, in many of these cases a gradual decline in the quality of services seems to occur over time. Some property managers believe that this decline in quality is to be anticipated with all guard companies, when the truth is that it should not be expected.
There are four (4) main reasons that the quality of service provided by security guard companies tends to decline. Typically those reasons are:
1. Lack of feedback;
2. Guard and company are not truly held accountable for poor performance;
3. Guards are poorly trained;
4. Inadequate supervision of the guards.
The easiest to correct of the four (4) is the feedback that is given to the security guard company. Irregular feedback for your guard company often means missed opportunities for incremental increases in efficiency. If you are a property manager who is on-property daily, the depth of feedback that you can provide to your security guard company is probably fairly substantial when assessing the security guards that you see while you are there. You can see whether or not the guard is in uniform, if the guard knows how to do the job, and the guard’s customer service skills. The question then becomes, how are the guards performing after 5pm and on the weekends, during the hours that you are not there? Are you still getting the same level of service? For property managers who are not on property daily, this question is even more significant.
Usually, property managers rely heavily on the input from their clients about the performance of security during these off hours. The feedback that is given by a property manager’s clients is probably some of the most significant feedback that can be given, at times even more important or revealing than the property manager’s. Often times, this feedback is only captured periodically and is usually part of a larger client survey. But because this feedback is so important, both the guard company and the property manager should establish a formal process to regularly solicit this type of client feedback.
Like off-site property managers, guard company supervisory personnel are not always on-property with the guard, so seeking regular client feedback should always be an ongoing part of the service that any security guard company provides. Typically, with most guard companies there is a field supervisor or other management level employee that randomly checks on the guards during the guard’s shift. While the field supervisor is on-property they should be talking with your clients to ascertain if there are any comments or suggestions for improving the service that they are providing. Each guard company should also establish a process to receive comments or suggestions from you and or your clients, when something is going well or, more importantly, when something is going poorly. Additionally, those comments and suggestions and any ensuing corrections or changes in service should be compiled into a report and tracked. This report should then be provided to the property manager on a monthly basis as part of the overall security service.
Based on this report of client feedback, property managers will have an actionable report that they and the security guard company can use to make adjustments to personnel or procedures to maintain a high level of service. Property managers should also contemplate providing an abbreviated version of this report to their clients to let them know that their concerns are being heard and addressed. If these processes do not exist, then the security guard company is missing opportunities to improve the service that they are providing.
In most cases when service quality begins to decline, your clients notice the change and will definitely offer insight into the situation. It occurs far too often that a security guard begins to show poor performance traits that if corrected in a timely manner could eliminate future problems. Your clients can, and should be, your eyes and ears when it comes to monitoring your security guard agency, because the more feedback that is given, the more that you will be able to judge the strengths and weaknesses of the services that you are receiving. So engage your clients and keep them engaged in defining your level of security service.
Mr. Courtney Sparkman is General Manager of Asymmetric Strategies, LLC a Chicago, IL based security consultancy serving a broad range of clients that include both property managers and security guard companies. He served as the Vice President of Operations at one of the premier security agencies in Chicago for 7 years and has nearly 20 years of experience in client relationship management. Mr. Sparkman has always strived to make a difference for the clients that he works with.