8 questions to help you evaluate security guard services

For anyone considering hiring a security firm

If you’re searching for security guard services, you may not know what to look for or can easily be convinced by offerings that sound good, but in practice are no go’s. There are tons of options out there making the selection process even more difficult.

Hiring the wrong service will, not only cause frustration, but also leave your business exposed to vulnerabilities while searching for a replacement. We’ve created this evaluation with 8 questions to help you spot the red flags and know the right questions to ask.

Self-evaluation

First, you should start out with a self-evaluation. Knowing the specific security concerns of your business, location and building site will give you a better picture of what you need to look for in a security service.

Evaluation

Once you’ve completed your self-evaluation and begin searching online for security guard services, use the following questions to thoroughly assess each option:

1. Does the company have experience with businesses similar to yours?

Guards will have different skills and experience that make them suited to different types of offices and environments. The same is true for security guard companies. Although many of them start out in certain industries and then expand out into others, most tend to hire the same type of security guard and work for the same type of client.

A company that has experience protecting bars and nightclubs is typically going to hire a bar bouncer or nightclub type security guard. They will have a very different skill set and training from what’s needed in, say an elementary school environment. Similarly, a hotel lobby will have very different security guard needs from a warehouse distribution center.

When evaluating a security guard service, you want to make sure they have other clients with businesses similar to yours, whether it’s the same size, type or industry.

2. Do they offer services in your city?

Check to see if the company has clients in the same area of the city as your building. This can be a major advantage because the guard(s) will be more familiar with the security issues and risks in that area. If you choose a company that has multiple locations in your city, you’ll know they are also likely to have additional security guards, supervision and built-in reinforcements closeby.

For example, if the company is also protecting the building across the street, you know they’ll be paying more attention to your block and your neighborhood than a company that’s never operated in your neighborhood before.

3. What are other customers saying about them online?

There’s no better way to evaluate a service than seeing what their current clients are saying about them. Don’t just consider how many stars each company has. Take time to go through and read some of the reviews.

Keep in mind that one bad review may not be a bad sign if the company was able to use it to improve their offering. Several bad reviews is a red flag.

4. What’s behind their pricing?

Low prices may seem attractive but if a security guard company offers a much lower rate than others, it’s a red flag. Low rates could be the sign of one of three things:

Extra costs

Always read between the lines. If they offer low rates, you may have to pay a lot of extra money for overtime, supervisors and patrols. If an incident occurs you may also have to pay extra fees on top of that.

Lower paid guards

Big companies often drive down prices because they have so much volume in the market that they can survive on a 1-2% margin. Most often this is made up by paying guards lower rates and providing poor benefits. A guard’s loyalty to that company will be pretty low, leading to high turnover rates. The less you pay guards and the less benefits you provide, the less loyalty they’ll have to the company and client.

Less spent on overhead

If there’s a $10 difference in the hourly rate of a security guard service, you can assume that, not only are you going to get a lower skilled, lower paid security guard, but that company also may not have the infrastructure they need to provide things like 24/7 support, custom incident reports, regular supervisor check-ins or a dedicated account manager.

They may also be a smaller business where the owner-operator is responsible for customer service, supervising and account management. That might be great if you want high touch service but when you’re dealing with a very small operation there is a high likelihood that something could break down. If just one or two guards quit, the business could start to fold on them. Or the owner may need to supervise security guard shifts, meaning you’ll lose customer support during that time.

5. Do they have up to date insurance and licensing?

In the event that a guard will need to detain someone (by force or otherwise), if they incur injuries on the job or damage private property while protecting your building, it’s essential that the security service has the proper insurance to cover the incident. Without up to date insurance, you could be liable.

Unlicensed guards may be cheaper, but they also haven’t been through the training and background checks required to get a license. Also note that depending on which state your business is in, guards may have different licensing requirements. If you’re hiring guards for multiple locations across different states, it’s important to ensure they have the proper license to operate in each state.

6. Do guards have sufficient support/back-up?

One of the best things about having a security guard onsight is having a strong response capability. Cameras and access control provide monitoring and alerts but they don’t actually provide someone in real-time to respond to an incident and make trained decisions. What you want to have in place are good levels of supervision as well as a 24/7 support team, not just for you as the client, but also for the security guard.

Imagine someone tried to break-in through a window at 3 am. The guard will need to go through the next steps of calling law enforcement, checking the building for stolen items, etc. but also protect the broken window which is now a weak point. Having the ability to call for back-up from a supervisor or patrol officer is definitely a value add that security companies can provide.

One way to evaluate this is through the supervisor to guard ratio. A general rule of thumb is having 10-15 guards per supervisor. However, while a lot of companies will tout their supervisor to guard ratio, what they’re not telling you is how large of a distance this covers.

It makes a big difference if a supervisor has to check on security guards at a single event, who are in close proximity to each other, versus 10-15 guards across a city in one night.

Always ask: What's the response time for a supervisor or patrol officer to reach a guard if they need assistance? How much time do they spend at each site?

Again this is where hiring a security guard service which is already operating in your area is an advantage.

7. What are the company’s processes like?

With updates in security technology, companies that still use old school practices will be way behind in the protection they can offer you. When evaluating a company, find out what type of technology they provide to their guards and how well guards are trained in using this technology.

For example, real-time reporting is something that more and more companies are beginning to offer. This type of technology allows you to track where your security guards are at all times and be notified of an incident and the steps being taken instantly.

8. How is their response rate?

At this initial stage in your relationship with the security guard company, response rate and quality of responses can give you insight into difficulties you may face down the road. Ask yourself the following questions when communicating with a potential service:

Has the company responded back to you in a timely manner?  

Has it been easy to correspond with them and move along in the process?

Was the information they provided clear, detailed and complete?

If they’re already demonstrating warning signs at this initial phase in your communication, it’s a clear red flag. Keep in mind: “Difficult to evaluate, difficult to manage.”


This evaluation should help you to narrow down your options making it easier to find the right fit for your business. Once you’ve selected a final option, check-out our guide on how to purchase security guard services which will help you to clearly understand and communicate expectations up front.

Michael Ginty
Vice President of Security at Bannerman
Mike Ginty has  dedicated  his  career  to  safety  and security. He started out as a Special Agent and Officer in the  US  Air  Force,  investigating  felony  level  crimes  and matters  of  national  security,  as  well  as  providing anti-terrorism support to force protection overseas.  After leaving the military, he spent time as a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security before beginning his career in corporate security.

Mike  is  a  veteran  of  both  the  security  and  technology industry. He managed Security Operations at Apple, and was  the  founding  member  of  the  safety  and  security team  at  Uber  and  helped  keep  employees,  riders  and drivers  safe  while  the  company  scaled  from  60  to  280 cities worldwide. Mike then became the Head of Safety, Security, and Facilities at AltSchool, where he rolled out a whole new vision of keeping kids safe in and out of the classroom.

Mike  possesses  a  keen  ability  to  evaluate  risk  and implement  right-sized  security  solutions.  He  prides himself  on  a  technology  forward  approach  to  security and  as  such  has  distinguished  himself  as  a  security industry  leader  in  Silicon  Valley. He  has  advised numerous  properties,  organizations,  and  companies,  as well  as  private  organizations  and  family  offices.  He regularly publishes and speaks on topics regarding safety and security.

Mike  as  has  a  BA  from  Boston  College,  and  MA  in National  Security  from  the  Naval  Postgraduate  School, and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.