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.

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1. 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.

2. Compensation

By compensation, I mean much more than just pay. That is certainly critical, but the conversation must include medical benefits, vacation, and retirement. The normal security company gives little thought or attention to the starting pay rate and even less to benefits. Most security firms offer high priced medical plans knowing that they have met the requirements of the ACA, knowing that their hourly wage employees can’t afford to enroll. Problem solved. One major company in the industry actually does not provide vacation benefits, but an annual bonus. This bonus is far less than what one week of vacation would be for their average officer. What client would allow this?

Once again, the end result of these subpar wages is significant security officer turnover. The largest security service provider in the World listed its employee turnover as 75% in its annual report. Many security firms have similar or even higher turnover metrics. How can they provide great (or even adequate) service when the local team’s primary focus is managing the compounding effect of replacing officers, and their heads are down and not up. In other words, the cost and repetitive activities of the team are focused on recruiting, hiring, screening, uniforming and training replacement officers…. Not the client. Customer service, operational performance, culture, and employee recognition and retention, get superficial treatment, if any attention at all.

The only real solution to the issue is to start with compensation and be serious about wages. More thought must be given to what the officers are earning. Sadly, users of security will have to take the lead on this front as the leadership of most security companies have simply ignored this issue. They have been content to sell business at low wages and low margins, telling their clients that that they can provide great service at fast food wages (and less). They are content to chase revenue rather than elevate the industry, and then come back to the buying customer asking for relief and help. This is neither professional nor a smart way to run a business.

In closing, I want to note that the security industry is largely unchanged in the last 20 years and is ripe for disruption. The key to disruption is in the truth about officer compensation and the support structure required to serve an account so it can thrive.  The large players will not address these two core areas, which will ensure they continue to be mediocre at best. Clients must get more involved in discussions about compensation and benefits as most security firms simply don’t care about the officer’s wage as long as they can continue to grow the top line. The client must know how every key support workflow is designed to support your service and officers.

– Tom Parrish, CEO

It’s time to think differently and realize that clients deserve a higher level of service which considers officers as core to their value and realizes the impact they can have on your business.