Value Added Services or Just Another Commodity?
September 30, 2016 – By Bill Peeler
As I discuss this subject, I will bring focus to the services I may best relate to; protection and investigation services. Although this is one area that I feel comfortable in, you may well find that my thoughts are interchangeable with other services and products as well.
Providing Expert Advice – High Level Professionalism
When you review the services or products you receive, what is your perception of the end results? Are you receiving run-of-the-mill results that can be delivered by any other provider of the same services or is your nominated provider bringing something “special” to the table?
Firstly, we must understand what service providers are doing within the industry. What do they provide and how are they providing it? You then need to know if the services you receive are adding any value above and beyond what is common to other service providers in the industry.
Placing the Customer at further risk
In the protection industry, you as the customer must understand the difference between a vendor who is reducing your risk and one who may place you at further risk. This is often observed in situations wherein the experience or operational setup of the vendor does not meet the required standards.
Does the vendor have professional licensing as a company and are licensing laws followed as an individual? Do they provide acceptable levels of liability insurance? Does the vendor provide protection for its employees; such as workers’ compensation, disability, and health insurance?
You need to further understand what the term “value added” means in contrast to what is expected. Are your expectations being met? This may be tricky because often we are more concerned with the unknown and thus restrain the potential of our vendors. We may also restrain the ability of a vendor performing services similar to those performed internally. Will this be an issue within our own organization? If the vendor rises to a standard that exceeds your own, how will that make you look to the boss? Will you then be expected to perform to this standard that may prove to be an uncomfortable situation for you?
When negotiating services, it is important that you strongly communicate what is expected, what the budget requirements are, and understand what you will receive for your investment. Variable costs must be well understood before commencement of provision of the services – this move is imperative to further identify the vendor who brings value added services to your organization.
Smoke and Mirrors
Unfortunately, we often must blow the smoke away from the mirror to truly realize the abilities of a service provider. The protection services industry is not immune to this. Overstated abilities and resources often bring protection service providers into situations above their capabilities. Please be reminded that these abilities may not always be directly related to the actual performance of the services, but may also include regulatory requirements such as licensing, financial stability, and other regulatory requirements.
As a customer to these service providers, you need to discover this beforehand and must employ strict, due diligence protocols, and have a full understanding of the provider and their capabilities before engaging their services.
Value added services normally will not come with additional cost, but it depends on the situation. I say this because the value added to the services may be within the resources a particular vendor has available to them. This may also be considered as having a higher or sophisticated level of services.
Example: Recently when completing a very large protective detail, we were brought in as an outside “one time only” vendor. Some of the required resources such as direct access to traffic and security cameras within a large city were not available through the client’s regular vendor. This valuable tool was brought to the attention of the client, along with the benefits of having it. The client elected to include the service for a nominal added cost. The value of being able to observe locations we would be running security operations in spoke for itself. The added value we brought was our ability to source this when the competition could not.
Stop Selling and Buying Services and Start Helping – Commodity vs. Service
In the protection industry, there seems to be misnomers regarding what is provided. We are not a commodity, but what we are is a quantifiable service industry.
Often witnessed is the attempt of providing value added services through the offering of such things as satisfaction warranties by the seller. It is my opinion that the seller is merely trying to make something not as attractive, look more appealing to the buyer. On the other side of this is the buyer who does not have confidence in the services proposed or simply does not find the services necessary; hence they look for additional value in a lower level provider.
It is at this point that we need to start helping, and stop selling our services; but this too is a two-way street. The buyer has to be forthcoming and trusting of their provider so that the provider would be able to discover what needs have to be met, and employ appropriate solutions; or in other words, the buyer needs to be accepting of the help the vendor may offer with the right information.
Benefits of Adding Value for Both the Customer and Provider
- Value of Services
As science tells us, with every action comes an equal and opposite reaction. This simple principle also applies to demand and supply. This is basically a two-way street. If you bring value with the services you provide, be it as a professional or a business, so also will your customers put value on your services. This is arguably the most important aspect of operating a service providing line in any industry. Your service is to your customers only what you make it to be.
A fancy degree in business is not required for anyone to know that providing your services to customers, with good value, will unquestionably result in more leads coming the way of your setup. Everybody prefers the “good stuff”. If you as a professional entity can provide your services with ample value, you will find that as a consequence of this, convincing new prospects to engage you will be almost unnecessary on your part as your service will evidently speak for itself.
The backbone of the protection service provider’s workbook; unassailably, is trust. To say that you trust someone is one thing, trusting them with your life is a whole different story. In the protection detail industry, you would be surprised to learn how much people, or as we prefer to call them, clients, would be willing to pay if a certain service provider can guarantee their protection from harm and ultimately their safety. Although a 100% guarantee for a person’s safety is not completely realistic, adding value to your solution can make your service of 92% guarantee look like the perfect 100 to the customer.
- Superior Services
In the protection industry, the concept of standards is taken with much seriousness. Operating as a protection detail for a client involves a vast array of workable solutions. While some service providers would prefer to cut costs and utilize the more conventional methods of providing protection services for clients, another group would just rather not take any chances and therefore employ the more sophisticated methods in performing their protection detail operations. Despite the fact that the ability of a service provider to offer superior services is highly dependent on the client’s budget, adding just a little more value to the more conventional methods could make your service stand out; and if done right, can consequently open up more channels for the customer to become more receptive of your high quality potentials with respect to their protection, which then makes them willing to pay more for the best.
- Long Term Relationships
Being highly dependent on developed trust between the provider and the customer, long term relationships encompass the benefits of adding value to service in its entirety. Good value in a service attracts customers. The customer establishes palpable trust with the provider and hence prefers to keep employing the services of the said provider and then a relationship is created. This continues for a lingering amount of time until customer simply cannot see themselves engaging the services of another provider. This is only brought about by adding value to services provided.
The importance of value in the service providing industry, in a more general sense, cannot be undermined. Customers are more willing to pay for services that they consider worthy and these services are only recognizable when they come with added value. However, it is imperative that a provider understands the customer’s budget, available resources and more occasionally, the customer’s level of understanding regarding protection services prior to initiating the engagement process.
Bill Peeler is the President and Founder of Peeler Group International, a risk consultancy with offices in New York and Florida. www.peelergroup.com