As we learned from Richard Sparks of GSMA in our customer spotlight last month, security guard management software can and should transform every aspect of your business. With so many software solutions out there, choosing between them can sometimes be a daunting task. Here are 20 questions you can ask to help sort through all the options and find the best fit for your business.
1. Can you use the software for both standing guard and mobile patrol accounts?
Many solutions work best only for one or the other, so make sure any given tool can work with all your different teams. If you provide both mobile patrol services and standing guard services, make sure you identify the unique needs of your operation and match those with a software that won't require significant change in the way you are currently operating.
2. Is the software customizable for multiple industries?
An HOA has very different needs from an industrial facility. Make sure any software company you talk to can address the specifics of every industry you work in.
3. Is the software easy to use for security officers in the field?
A complicated user interface creates more work, rather than less, for your officers. You should be able to access a trial to really see what it looks like for the officer. A software that is easy to use will help you increase engagement and adoption rates.
4. Can the software be used to reduce training time?
A good field training system can let your supervisor spend a very short amount of time showing a new officer the property without diminishing the quality of service. This reduces the cost of high turnover in the industry. Guard management software shouldn't just alert supervisors when officer performance is dipping, it should proactively engage the officer by reminding them what is expected throughout the shift.
5. Will you have to purchase additional devices or hardware?
Does the solution require that you purchase devices to use the system? Does it have an Android or Apple application? Do you have to purchase NFC tags or RFID chips? Additional hardware can be a cost that adds up over time and should be something you plan for.
6. Can the software be used to manage supervisors?
It's important to manage guards at their post while also having a tool that holds supervisors themselves accountable. As an owner and operations manager, you'll want to have the ability to track what posts your supervisors are visiting, which officers they are training, and their overall productivity throughout the shift.
7. Is there separate access for supervisors?
Having distinct accounts for supervisors lets you customize permissions and make sure everyone sees only the information they need to know. It's also important to report items like employee reviews, post inspections, vehicle inspections, etc. in a system that keeps the supervisors accountable and productive.
8. Does the solution integrate with scheduling?
Some startups and small businesses prefer to roll both scheduling and reporting into the same solution. We tend to advocate having separate solutions for scheduling and guard management because issues with scheduling can then spill over and mess up your reporting and management processes.
Remember to pick a solution that you can grow with. For example, if you decide to use a more robust scheduling system, do you want to have to change your reporting software as well?
9. Can you track time and attendance and integrate with payroll?
An alternative to a full scheduling software is just to track these basics. Most solutions should allow you to track basic clock-in and clock-out times that can be passed over to the payroll department. This can be a great tool in that you end up paying officers based on the time actually worked rather than the time scheduled because there is increased accountability with a guard management solution.
10. How is customer support handled?
What are the hours of support? Do they offer both phone and email support? Are there self-serve options (like a resource center)? Are there training tools available for guards, supervisors, dispatchers, and administrators?
The service associated with the software solution is just as important as the software itself. Especially if it is a multifaceted solution with complicated features, you want to know someone’s around to answer your questions and help you get the most out of your investment.
11. Does the solution provide GPS tracking of an officer’s location?
GPS tracking tends to fall into two categories; breadcrumb tracking and geo-fencing. We actually talk about the difference between the two approaches here.
12. Can the solution prove accountability to your customer?
There are a number of different ways to prove accountability, from GPS to checkpoints to a simple deggy system. Make sure your solution has a reliable method that fits your needs.
Accountability goes farther than just proving where the officer is though, we talk extensively about finally solving the accountability question here.
13. Can you be notified in real-time if an officer is off-site or late?
Ideally, you want to find out about guards not showing up before your customer does, so you can address it before it becomes a problem. These type of alerts shouldn't just be tied to attendance either.. Find a system that allows you to tie these real-time alerts to other time sensitive issues on the property. After all, you can be on the property and still do a poor job of delivering the desired outcome to your client.
The goal here is to find a system that alerts your supervisors and managers of officers that are under performing before your client calls to complain about poor service.
14. Does this solution add real value to your customers?
Most guard management software solutions will make your life easier and improve accountability, but that might not be enough for your company. Do you just want to prove to customers that your guards are at their posts, or do you want a solution that adds real value?
Look for a solution that can take you from being a vendor to a partner, someone that plays an integral role in your customers’ success. A software system that has separate accounts customers can access to receive notifications, review information, and dispatch issues to guards can be tangible proof of how invested you are in their success.
15. Can you create custom permission levels and groups for each officer?
Beyond just having specific accounts for supervisors, custom permission levels for each officer can be a great way to cut back on confusion and make sure everyone is only getting the information most pertinent to them. This is especially useful for patrol drivers who service a specific set of properties.
16. What kind of access do customers have?
You want a system that customers can easily access to pull reports and verify officer activity, but that also doesn’t show them your entire operation. Some systems will even enable customers to communicate with the officers as well.
17. How easy is it to create and manage users?
You want to make sure this system isn’t causing headaches for you if you have to hire a bunch of new guards or add several new customers very quickly. Turnover is a constant battle in our industry so a quick and painless management process is critical.
18. Do you have an assigned account manager?
Having someone assigned specifically to your account makes it much easier to get help with issues than having to call a general support line every time. An account manager will help you utilize the software to reach your goals. You don't want to feel like just another account. Your needs are unique and your software solution should come with an account manager that's available to help you get the most out of your investment.
19. How long does setup take? What does the onboarding process look like?
The time spent onboarding the solution is really an added cost not factored into the price tag. Make sure they show you the actual process for creating a property and integrating the solution into your company. The total time between purchase and deployment is money out of your pocket. A company that's serious about your success should have a detailed implementation plan in place.
20. How is the pricing calculated?
Different solutions price their solution based on different things, be it users, properties, devices, etc. Avoid ones priced on a per user basis, as that can cause difficulties with high turnover.
Also, be careful committing to a contract before you are able to get the system fully operational. Month-to-month pricing is your insurance policy that the software will always work and the service will always be top notch. These are just a few of the questions you’ll want to ask during a demo. For a more detailed list of issues and questions, check out our new eBook, Your Guide To Buying Guard Management Software