By Tom T. Parrish, President, Parrish Security Group
In a recent report from Experience Inc, a research firm specializing in consulting to the uniformed security officer industry, it was stated that 54% of security users (buyers) are not satisfied with their current provider of security services. 36% of clients surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the service being provided, with an additional 18% saying they were “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied”. 44% of the respondents say that they are likely to recommend a change. These numbers were presented at the National Association of Security Company Owners. While these numbers may surprise some, I am surprised that the numbers are not higher.
After serving in the industry for almost 30 years, I have seen first-hand the mediocrity of most security service providers, both large and small. Most of the companies that were strong local and regional providers have been acquired by the largest players and service has suffered as demonstrated by these survey results. At some point, we must ask why poor service is so pervasive in our industry.
From my experience, the root cause are two main issues with multiple ancillary negative symptoms caused by these core issues.
1. First is Support Structure. Every uniformed security officer company of any size is largely set up in the same manner as all others. They use a branch model with the local branch being the main provider of service receiving oversight from regional and corporate managers.
While this model sounds like a logical solution to local service provision, the reality is that most security firms are staffing these branch offices with low wage, poorly trained personnel and expecting superior results. No gearing ratios are considered in any structured manner to adapt to more customers and greater workflow volume, so infrastructure becomes overwhelmed in a short time.
The typical branch will service clients in a geographic area and will be responsible for all aspects of service delivery from hiring, screening, training, scheduling and supervising each officer at the client sites. If done properly, this can be an effective model, but most security firms staff this model with Supervisors earning paltry wages and a Human Resources Manager with no real experience earning similarly low wages.
These employees are then expected to manage the portfolios of business in the branch with little guidance, training and increasing workloads. This results in the numbers mentioned above and creates a cycle of mediocrity that simply can’t be fixed without radical changes. Officer touch and leadership influence are also absent in an industry whose product is people. This is a recipe for disaster and drives attrition, low morale and ultimately, an inferior service. The saying, “A house build on a shaky foundation can’t be saved,” is more than applicable in this scenario.