Selecting a Business Security System or Provider
Businesses lose billions each year to burglary and theft. According to the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), almost one-quarter of all robberies occur inside businesses and as noted by FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data just over 30 percent of all burglaries target commercial properties, accounting for more than 500,000 incidents every year. The result? Companies must invest in a robust business security system capable of protecting people, property and proprietary assets stored on-site. The challenge? Not all providers offer the same level of service, support, and security.
Here are 25 tips, and the questions to ask questions before you sign on the dotted line with a business security provider.
25 Tips and the Questions to Ask When Selecting a Business Security System or Provider
Sure, 25 questions seem like a lot at first glance, but consider what you’re protecting. From physical spaces to cash on hand, stored inventory, reliable staff, intellectual property, and any capital assets, security systems must be complex enough to handle multiple threats, simple enough to easily access and reliable enough they can be used by law enforcement to help identify suspected criminals and reduce the chance of re-occurrence.
Section 1: The Company
1. How much experience do you have in business security?
It seems like a silly question, right? Many companies have slick-looking websites with bold promises about how they can help keep your business safe and reduce the risk of burglaries.
But here’s the thing: Technology advancements like cloud computing and easy-to-use website builder tools make it easy for startups to appear like seasoned pros — even if they’ve never secured a business. Ask your potential provider how long they’ve been in business and then follow-up with some quick Internet searching. If there’s no information to be found (or a sudden uptick of consumer complaints) steer clear. You’ll want to ensure you’re working with a reputable company, in good standing, in your community. If you’re still in doubt, ask for references.
2. What training and certifications do your business security technicians hold?
Great companies can’t wait to tell you about the certifications held by their technicians and the ongoing training they conduct. Why? Because it’s good for businesses — certifications such as ESA and NICET demonstrate that techs not only understand how to install and manage security systems but must undergo regular re-certification to keep their credentials current.
While business security providers don’t require certifications to install and monitor your system, the expertise and experience that comes with professional training is invaluable.
3. Do you have specific industry experience?
While basic business security systems share similar characteristics, specific industries come with unique needs. For example, businesses in the food =service or storage industry are well-served by integrated temperature sensors to protect their products, while tech-focused companies may require a real-time camera and alarm systems to reduce the risk of computer or data theft.
4. Can I speak with one of your current business security system clients?
Always ask for references. While web testimonials are a good start, there’s no guarantee that “John Smith” from ABC Warehousing is a real person writing a legitimate review. Great business security system providers have clients who won’t mind spending five minutes to verify company claims.
5. Are your business security systems customizable?
The era of one-size-fits-all security systems is over. While many companies still offer these basic options, you’ll likely pay too little for not enough coverage or too much for services you don’t need. Instead, look for companies that consult with your business to design systems that satisfy unique business needs.
Section 2: The Technical Specs
6. What brand of cameras/monitors/sensors do you use?
Just as there are many security providers on the market, there are hundreds of security product manufacturers — and not all offer the same level of fidelity and reliability. Ask your potential provider what type of technology they use and then do some research; if you see reports of failed cameras, low-quality pictures or missed security events, look elsewhere for help.
7. How often is technology upgraded?
Security systems change over time. VHS tapes have been replaced by digital data capture, and WiFi cameras are supplanting hardwired solutions. Always ask about upgrading options — how often are new technologies available? What do they cost to install? Are old solutions ever phased out?
8. What happens if something goes wrong?
If security systems stop working, who fixes the problem? Some providers handle maintenance and repair in-house while others outsource the work. Both options are viable so long as you know who’s doing the work, how long it will take them (on average) to address your issue and what happens next if repair efforts aren’t successful.
9. Do you deliver full integration?
Many companies now prefer single-source providers to handle multiple security needs, including consultation, design, implementation, deployment, monitoring, maintenance, and upgrading. While niche providers may offer lower costs on specific products or services, the increased complexity of handling multiple providers and service contracts often outweighs this benefit — full integration ensures single-provider support for all issues.
10. What are your mobile solutions?
Mobile monitoring, system control, and reporting are now expected features for cutting-edge security systems. While physical panels at points-of-entry and web portals are also essential, it’s worth asking if your provider has a mobile application that allows anywhere, anytime access to security controls.
Section 3: Response Times and Monitoring
11. If an incident occurs, how do you respond?
Some security companies call clients to inform them of critical issues. Others provide verbal warnings via audio systems to potential burglars or call the police if they detect a security breach. In some cases, providers dispatch staff to ensure your business is secure. What fits your business best depends on your industry and expectations — but make sure you understand the end-to-end response process before making any security agreements.
12. What’s your typical response time?
Response times matter — whether you’re experiencing a systems failure or a security event, provider response speed can make the difference between significant loss and dependable security. Ask for a baseline response time for both maintenance and emergent security issues and then compare these numbers with other providers in your area.
13. Where is your monitoring center located?
Effective business security depends on reliable monitoring solutions staffed 24/7 by experienced technicians. If something happens in the middle of the night to trigger an alarm, you need security professionals standing by to send alerts and minimize overall risk.
The result? It’s worth asking where provider monitoring centers are located. Closer to home means quicker response times and lower network latency; while centers across the city or in the neighboring country shouldn’t pose any problems, be wary of monitoring centers located outside your local geographic area.
14. Is monitoring handled in-house or outsourced?
Who handles your business security monitoring? Some providers choose to build and staff their own monitoring centers, while others rely on outsourced companies with experience in contact and call center management. If your provider does use third-party services, ensure you get all the relevant details: How long have they been operating? What are their response times? How long have they been working with the security provider? How do you contact them directly?
15. How can law enforcement contact you?
If security incidents occur that require a police response, law enforcement officers must be able to quickly contact your provider to obtain reliable security such as photos, video, and audio. This is especially critical if criminals are caught and court cases are underway — police must demonstrate a chain of custody to ensure security footage has not been altered. So it’s worth asking your provider about the easiest way for police to get in touch — if security companies don’t have a clear and streamlined process for this outcome, consider another option.
Section 4: Overall Cost
16. Do you offer no-obligation quotes?
Choosing a business security partner is a complex and often expensive process. Always look for providers who offer free, no-obligation quotes for security services. It should be easy to get in touch with prospective providers who are willing to see your site in person, make informed security suggestions, and provide a straightforward quote for service. If providers want to charge you money for basic quotes, look elsewhere.
17. What does a basic business security system package look like?
While every deployment will be different, providers should have basic packages that meet most security needs — and be willing to share their specifics, including cost. Be wary of packages that seem extremely cheap; if you get a quote that sounds too good to be true, ask exactly what’s provided — watch out for hidden costs related to monitoring services or surveillance solutions.
18. What type of add-on services do you offer?
From advanced detection and surveillance services to activity analysis to help reduce potential risks, every business security provider has its own set of add-on services that can help improve protection. Best bet? Ask about these upfront. Ask how much they cost, how they’re implemented, and what specific benefits they bring to your business.
19. What are your contract terms? Are there lock-in risks?
Security contracts often cover year-long services with the option for multi-year extensions. Even if everything else about the provider seems ideal, ask to see any contracts and have them examined by a lawyer.
Look out for penalties incurred if contracts are broken early or if you choose to bring in extra security services. In addition, examine any service guarantees — what are providers promising, and what happens if those promises are met? Are there monetary refunds? Prorated costs? Know before you sign.
20. What’s the overall cost?
Once a consultation is complete and you have a security plan drafted, ask the company to provide a detailed monthly cost that includes everything you’ve discussed. This should include any one-time activation fees, administrative costs, equipment rentals or leasing costs, taxes and any other “hidden” fees that aren’t mentioned in marketing materials. If companies can’t provide you with detailed cost breakdowns, don’t bother.
Section 5: Customer Service
21. Are your technicians pre-screened? How are they identified?
Reliable providers use pre-screened and certified technicians who provide ID upon arrival at your business. You should be able to search for employee details on company websites to ensure in-person techs match online descriptions. Technicians have critical access to your business, ask how they’re vetted, screened, certified, and identified.
22. What options are available to contact support personnel?
How do you get in touch with support? Most companies offer 1-800 numbers, but you may not have time to wait on the phone if you’re experiencing a system failure or security incident. Look for providers who have offered local support and have multiple access channels including email, text, live chat, and self-service support to help quickly remediate any issues.
23. Who handles ongoing support?
Systems periodically fail or encounter critical errors — what’s the support process in these cases? Is there a dedicated number for support, and who fixes the problem? What type of wait times are expected for in-house repairs, and are these repair techs in-house certified pros or outsourced experts?
24. Are there referral or loyalty programs?
Ask if long-term customers enjoy loyalty discounts or if any referral programs exist to help reduce overall costs. Most security contracts will see slow but steady increases to monthly expenses, over time as new technologies become available costs increase. Find a provider that values your business over the long term by recognizing your loyalty with service discounts or special offers.
25. Do you offer written guarantees?
Always look for providers who guarantee service and support in writing. While verbal agreements and over-the-phone assurances may seem sufficient, they don’t carry weight if something goes wrong and critical support is required. Before committing to any security contract, ensure you have a written guarantee. The agreement should include service times, support expectations, and any warranty work necessary after security devices are installed.
Your business needs a reliable business security system, and business security provider, but not all business security providers are created equal. Find the best-fit partner for your business by asking these 25 questions first.
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