Everything You Need to Know About Security for Your Residential or Commercial Buisness
Episode 4 covers what concierge security is, how we hire the best personnel for that position and what to look for when hiring a company that offers concierge security.
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Ian: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Protecting the Best Podcast. This is episode four, for everyone. As always, I’m Ian, a partner with OPS Security Group. This is-
Bob: Robert McGowan. Operations Manager, you guys can call me Bob.
Ian: You can call him better hair than me. Whatever you want to call him.
Ian: Today we’re actually going to be talking about concierge security. It’s something we have done for several years, we do often. It’s a hospitality based security for higher end residences, office space, things of that nature and really is a hospitality first approach with that, which can seem a little bit counter intuitive when you say hospitality first. Hospitality, security, some people kind of think they don’t go hand in hand. We’re here to tell you how they do.
Ian: I’ll let Bob kind of expand on that in a bit.
A Background in Hospitality Leads to Successful and Trainable Security Officers
Bob: Yeah, I mean concierge security, much like the special event security that we talked about in our first couple episodes, is one of the foundational security services that we offer here at OPS. And what makes our concierge security or hospitality security different from any other industry is we start with the right applicants. Through our research with our recruiting teams, getting out there and meeting with our clients and kind of seeing what makes some of our sites more successful than others when it comes to recruiting the right officers, what we found is those officers that we have recruited from hospitality backgrounds or hospitality academic settings, hospitality organizations, have been the most successful so we’re starting at the ground level with a very fundamentally sound hospitality individual, and then we’re taking through our training academy and teaching them the basics of being a security officer.
Ian: Yeah. Giving them that security mindset. What’s nice about bringing applicants and recruits in who have a hospitality background or are looking at that, is they are, for lack of a better term, people people. They think they want to have interactions with people. They’re friendly. They’re talkative, which is a good thing. I know it seems like it wouldn’t be a good thing in our industry, but having them be able to talk to people makes them more approachable. It allows them to have conversations. And when you have conversations, you gain information.
“Now, if we give them the security mindset on top of that, they’re going to be very selective in their conversations, and the things that they say to people, but they could be vetting anyone who comes in the building in a polite and friendly way.”
Their hospitality background gives them an upper hand when it comes to somebody coming into your office and creating that first impression. We’ve talked about being the first and last impression before. We do believe that our staff are that. If somebody is coming into your office building or coming onto, if you’re a property manager, and you have perspective residents coming into your building, and they see that the first person they really usually see are our staff, so they have to be friendly off the bat. But they also have to have that security mindset.
Ian: Now we understand that the hospitality background, they can’t go too far into that. There has to be a balance there. And we emphasize that with our training that Bob was talking about, having them come in and understand what is there priority list. What is more important than the other? But having that hospitality first mindset initially really helps them greet people as they’re coming in and be the right type of individual who’s going to be working that front desk in your residential building, in your office building.
Ian: Now, we could put somebody who is very security focused there, and you may start getting some complaints. Now we can teach a little bit of the hospitality to some security individuals if you have the right person and person who is maybe is a bit more dynamic than most. But we found that recruiting people who had a good head on their shoulders, but an initial hospitality background has really helped us in training them in security and giving them constant updated trainings and things like that so that they can then apply that security mindset to the hospitality mindset that they already have. It’s very difficult to train people to be friendly. People either are friendly, or they aren’t. They’re extroverts, or they’re introverts. It’s not something, I can’t really train an introvert to be an extrovert. Some may disagree with me, but I think their success rate probably won’t hold up for our clients. But I can definitely train somebody who is friendly to be security minded.
Bob: Yeah. And I think that’s one of the key take-a-ways is that we can teach you the training, what it means to be a security officer through our training academy and through all the training courses that we offer, but at the end of the day, if you’re unable to be nice and cordial and respectful to individuals that you work with on a day to day, or our clients, or the residents that you’re serving, it kind of seems that those types of staff really don’t work out here. So we’re always looking for that baseline of being able to be nice and respectful and then we put them through our training and that’s a little bit too, kind of what our secret recipe is, to be able to deliver a quality concierge officer.
Identifiers of Quality Residential Security Service
Ian: So what should somebody who’s looking for a concierge security be looking for? What are the expectations? Is it somebody who just sits behind the desk? No. They’re not somebody who just sits behind the desk. Their first job is to greet every person who walks through the door. Now that might seem like again, we’re going back to they’re the greeter. They’re not the greeter. When they greet every person who walks through the door, they’re able to vet every person who walks through the door. They’re able to make sure that individual is supposed to be there.
Ian: In the case of an office building or a residence, they can make sure that whoever they’re there to meet, whoever that individual is there to meet, is in the building and is expecting that individual. It avoids pop up sales people showing up at your office. It avoids unwanted visitors in your residence by having that person there to vet that. But they go beyond that.
Ian: If you’re living in a high rise building, a lot of times you might be working long hours, and your residents might be working long hours, and they need somebody to walk their dog. Well, who’s going to let the dog walker in? Who’s going to verify that that’s who that’s supposed to be? Who’s going to accept packages? How are they going to accept packages? What does that chain of custody look like? All of that is more security focused than your greeting, or your hospitality focus. So that needs to come into play. Is the person who’s trying to enter the building attempting to get information about somebody who works in that office, or somebody who lives in that building? And how do we circumvent that? That all has to do with training. And that all has to do with giving the right security mindset. So I don’t want, we call it concierge security because it is concierge security.
“It’s not just concierge with a little bit of security. It’s not just all security with a little bit of concierge. There is a really good balance there. And there has to be for it to be successful.”
Develop Expectations for Your Concierge Security Officer Around Your Businesses’ Needs
Bob: Yeah, and I think it all starts with when we first make it to the site. Whether it’s in those initial stages meeting with a client for the first time or maybe it’s a long standing client we’ve been working with, is identifying what are some of the things that you would like your [crosstalk]
Bob: … concierge security officer to be doing while they’re there? Is it some of the things like Ian listed? Are they there as a greeter? Are they there handling packages? Are they maybe upholding some assistant property manager duties? It’s all really going to be contingent upon what you, the property manager, or the community manager, is going to be looking for. And that’s kind of one of the first things we do when we work with new clients, is we sit down and we try to get an understanding of what they’re expectation is of a concierge security officer. And it always varies with every client that we met with. I’ve worked with several dozen clients in the area, both in North New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, South New Jersey, Baltimore, and all the way down to Washington DC and I can tell you the needs change all the time.
Bob: So we like to sit down first and understand what exactly you’re looking for. And then once we kind of have a good idea of what you’re expectations are, we’re able to take that back, and kind of let our recruiting team run with that. So they’re able to kind of plug in what some of the attributes and key talents that they’re looking for and what the overall job role is going to be. And they can kind of put that into their little people finder and are able to recruit the right person that’s going to be able to fit for that community.
Ian: And what’s the day to day like for our clients? We have in depth conversations. Every building’s going to be different. Every day is going to be different. And certain hours are different than others during the day. Do we need a different type of individual who works the overnight shift for some problems that may be arising on the overnight shift that aren’t arising on the day shift? And what does that look like?
Ian: I think finding expectations and for those of you who are out there looking for a concierge security company or just looking for concierge security, I think taking the time to reflect about what your realistic expectations are now, and then interviewing a few companies and figuring out what they’re all about and how they would handle it, because they may be thinking, often times, I know in our case, we’re thinking a lot of different things than the client are. We’re able to bring to light some issues or challenges before they become real problems. And that could be from the building layout to their entry system and how that is handled. So their guest logging, how that is handled.
Ian: And often times, we’re able to assist them in streamlining some processes they had that might be taking up their own time that is valuable as well. Obviously time has a dollar amount tied to it and we can save some of our clients some money that way too.
Bob: Yeah. I mean value, obviously saving money is certainly very important. But I think the biggest take-a-way for current property managers, community managers, or perspective property managers and community managers is what is that value going to be, by either transitioning to a new security company? Or bringing in residential security services for the first time in the form of a concierge security officer?
Tenant Relationship With Concierge Security Can Impact Lease Renewal
Bob: And one of the things when we speak with clients, whether it’s they already have a concierge security officer, or they’re looking for a concierge security officer, is take a minute and kind of rate your onsite security. And fortunately we’ve kind of created a survey, it’s a very brief survey, that we like to send out to our clients and we basically, it’s just a self-assessment. They get to assess what their current state of their onsite security is. And from the results that we’ve gotten and some of the feedback that we’ve gotten from speaking to our property managers is the big factor in renewals for their residence is tied directly to the front desk in the concierge security.
Bob: So, you’re taking all the factors that come in to when a resident decides whether they’re not going to, or they’re going to renew their lease at your community, one of the top line items was the front desk. The front desk security officers.
Ian: I think that number is something like 87% of the residents that were polled on a survey that we did, said that security affects their decision to renew their lease. A lot of times this can be a line item, but really it can be a value. If you’re having people who are making decisions based upon that staffing that you have at the front desk, that’s key. For a property manager or if you’re doing commercial leasing of office space, that’s very important.
Large Population Buildings are Targets that Need Concierge Security to Help Prevent Criminal Activity
Ian: We’ve talked a lot about the hospitality end of it. We really have. But I think we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the actual security end of this because that’s a big part. Especially in the climate that we have today. From a commercial leasing standpoint, obviously if they’re leasing to commercial tenants there’s businesses and things like that, workplace violence is a big issue. Is that front desk person and staff, are they trained? Are they trained on how to respond to such incidents? What their priority levels are. Are they trained to render first aid? Those things are big.
Ian: We talk to and we teach a lot because in the residential world and the commercial world, the high rise buildings, those are targets.So getting a security staff that is trained to look at pre-incident indicators, the little things, again this isn’t meant to scare anybody, this isn’t meant to be us going to one extreme end, but this is a reality of the world that we live in. It’s unfortunate, I don’t even like to talk about it. It’s unfortunate and that’s why I kind of put that little disclaimer there, like, hey I’m not trying to scare you. But a lot of times, if you have a place where a lot of people are, it has become a target.
Ian: And before people do things to that, they often times will conduct what we would call hostile surveillance. They’ll look at their potential targets. Now it doesn’t have to be for a terrorist attack. It could be for a robbery or it could be for a workplace violence incident. It could be for any of those things, but if you have a security staff that is well trained, that is looking for pre-incident indicators, and they’re being vigilant, they’re looking on those screens, at the cameras, and recognizing that they’ve seen that same person, the last three days in a row taking pictures of the building and questioning whether or not that’s a contractor coming to do some work, if they’re planning on redoing the facade of the building, or what sort of, maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s another issue and they’re going up the chain of command with that, we can make that assessment.
Ian: And again, not to get super extreme with it, but they could save lives. That could prevent workplace violence. That could prevent sexual assaults. That can prevent a myriad of criminal activities all the way up to terrorism and then down to even simple assault, or just simple robbery.
So that’s really important to us as well. I don’t want this to be a talk solely on hospitality, but that’s important too because a lot of times it’s difficult for people to understand how they exist synergistically or how they exist symbiotically.
Bob: Yeah. I would consider it a small level of target hardening for your property. It’s not the wrought iron gates being pulled down in front of the front door. You’re not digging the mote around the property, but statistics support that if you have some level of security at the front of your commercial building or your residential building, you’re very less likely to be involved in any sort of criminal activity.
Choose Residential Security Vendors that Fit and Show Active Engagement Towards Your Security Needs
Ian: Yeah. And target hardening is a good way to put it, is a small level of target hardening. And we talk about our, rate your own onsite security. If you’re shopping a vendor, are they talking to you about just putting somebody at the front desk, or are they actually coming out to your site, doing a walk through and saying, hey I noticed that you have gated access for your garage, it’s a rolling gate or it’s an opening gate, what’s the time frame it takes to open and close that gate?
“Are they asking real security related questions, or do they just care about throwing a warm body with a pulse behind a desk for you, and calling it a day? Because if they’re not asking ancillary questions that are security focused and security based, they’re probably not the security vendor for you.”
Ian: I understand price a lot of times drives what people do, but you do get what you pay for. And with security it’s not really something where you want to cut corners. Now you want to get a value for your money for sure, but you don’t want to cut corners when you’re handling that. So look for that vendor that’s asking the right questions. Look at the vendor’s training program. Ask about it. Ask them to see what that looks like. If they don’t really have that answer off the bat, they’re going to make something up that sounds great and send it to you later on, or they have a program that they don’t want you to see at all, and that’s not going to be good either.
Bob: No. I think, to kind of piggy back a little bit off of what Ian said, if you do have vendors that come out and even take a look at the property, obviously you want to make sure that they’re assessing the right things and the things that are valuable to you, but to take that one step back, if you’re putting out a proposal, or bids, and you’re looking for those bids and you’re just getting proposals sent to you from companies that haven’t even looked at your property, and they just found, maybe they found that you had something posted and they just wanted to send something out, I would highly suggest that maybe you avoid working with that specific vendor. Because clearly they don’t really, I wouldn’t say care to take a look at what your needs are, they’re just looking at it as an opportunity and they’re just going to throw you historically maybe a low bid, with the hopes that you’ll just look at it as a bottom dollar amount, and then you’re kind of stuck with what you’re stuck with. So definitely kind of take a couple steps to kind of assess what exactly that vendor is doing when they come out.
Bob: We have kind of a multi-problem approach when we come out. We kind of have the saying here that we’ll never throw a proposal at anything we don’t actually put eyes on, from the sales and the operations team. That’s just-
Ian: Not one size fits all. That’s for sure.
Bob: No. And I think that’s a good thing too, for property managers and community managers to assess when they are working with perspective security vendors. Kind of the same way we talked about with the special event side. What is their experience? What’s their history? Same rules kind of apply for the residential and the concierge security side.
Bob: Like I said, if they’re just showing up and they just kind of walk around for 15 minutes and then you get a bid, not really something you really want to be looking for, but if they take the time to actually sit down with you, tour the building with you, maybe tour the building with one of your maintenance officers, or somebody who is very familiar with the building and really kind of take the time to understand what the needs of that building are and what the expectations are going to be of the building are, you know you kind of have a company that is, I guess you would say they kind of know what they’re doing in that respect, that still doesn’t mean they might necessarily be the best fit for you, and that’s why you always want to kind of take a look at the types of buildings that they currently service. Is it similar to your building’s [crosstalk] specs and size.
Ian: Yeah, what’s their portfolio like?
Bob: Yeah portfolios. Portfolios are big. Unit size is big, and just general community demographics, you’d kind of hate to partner with a security vendor that maybe has a lot of experience working with, say, 55 plus communities, and your community doesn’t really fit that demographic. So you always want to kind of make sure you ask those questions and definitely, obviously, get references of similar communities. And I say similar communities because in times past, sometimes security vendors might want to propose references that are really great, but not necessarily applicable to their community. So when they give you their references, try to get out to those communities and in most cases they’ll actually recommend that you go out and visit them if you can. Get out there and visit those communities and kind of see, does it align with what your community is, not only just from a physical standpoint, but also from the residential standpoint and the services that are offered and the types of [inaudible 00:19:23]security that’s being provided.
Ian: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that past performance is important. Getting references are always important when you’re about to make a big change or a big commitment at your property, whether it be a residential property or commercial property, or there’s plenty that are mixed use, on the, especially in major metropolitan areas now, where a lot of your residential buildings, on the ground floors will have grocery stores, smaller department stores, places like your Targets of the world. Your Walmarts of the world. Your convenience stores, 7-11s, things like that. They’re all housed in those buildings that bring people who maybe necessarily don’t live there, so there’s going to be a larger amount of foot traffic. Does your vendor have past performance in dealing with the challenges that can come up from that?
Ian: And I’m not saying that just because somebody doesn’t have an extensive past performance, they can’t do it, but it is something to take in to count when you’re looking at your bids. And hearing how they would overcome those challenges. If they maybe don’t as a company have past performance, I’m sure they have people, or I would hope they would have people, if they’re going to be bidding on this work, who have experience in that area and they can articulate how they would overcome challenges by using the talent pool they would have.
Bob: Yeah, and I think kind of with everything that Ian said, I think you really need to take a very high level look at your current security vendor, if you have one, and if you’re looking to maybe move in a different direction, and also if you’re looking for security for your building.
Bob: In times past, unfortunately everybody kind of gets stuck, like I’ve said before, at that bottom line, but you really have to understand the value with a lot of the things that we kind of mentioned, from that first impression that your residents and perspective residents are going to meet, to the slight target hardening that we talked about with having some level of security at your building and how that is, I would say, a priceless option to have.
Involved Security Vendor Management Teams Can Streamline Any Problems that Might Arise
Bob: And also too, finding the right vendor, and finding the right vendor that’s going to fit your needs. So one of the big things, obviously is the management team that you’re going to be working with, I think is a big thing that not only clients that have security but also prospective clients, that’s going to be a big thing.
“If you have challenges with the concierge officers working at the front desk, how is that being handled? Is it being handled in a timely manner? Or when you’re reaching out to them, are they being responsive? All these types of things that come with management is big.”
Because if you’re having challenges with your first impression that your residents and perspective residents are seeing, that needs to be obviously addressed if there are challenges, as soon as possible. What you don’t want is to have a problem, front desk staff member, concierge staff member, there for months on end, and you’re not getting any sort of the solutions that you need brought to the table.
Bob: And that’s kind of one of the things that makes OPS different is we have a very proactive management team. Our managers are always out in the field checking on our clients, checking on the staff, scheduled and unscheduled-
Ian: Updated trainings. Your building’s going to change. Things are going to be different, whether it’s a different of a resident moving in, the building has new policies. You’re opening up a new wing. You’re installing your roof deck. You have a pool. There’s seasonal changes. Our training staff thing too, that’s a big one, I think we make a big difference, we actually follow through on that stuff.
Bob: Yeah. Especially if you’re a brand new community. You have a lot of amenities to offer. Maybe you have multi-shared spaces, and you know, making sure that your staff, not only from the security side, but also from your community side are trained enough to handle whatever is coming down the line, whether it’s a seasonal grand opening, you have a new amenity that just became available, making sure you have the appropriate trainings and the staff that fit that community, I think is important.
Bob: So we talked about a lot today. And I think for a lot of people, they’re probably sitting there wondering, it’s like, maybe you’re thinking about what your current security is. Maybe you’re a property manager and you’re in that transitional phase, and you’re wondering, do I stay with my current vendor? Do I explore other options? Maybe I’m a community that doesn’t have any security, and you’re trying to understand if it is the right fit for you. And I think, at least one of my things that I would say, is a little bit of a homework, is take a look at our rate-your-own security, and fill out that survey. Fill it out, take a look at it, see if these are the types of questions that are being asked and be honest about yourself. Honest assessments are always important and I think by assessing that you’ll kind of see where there are some deficiencies and where there can be some improvement areas for your community, and where you can kind of bring more value to your community members and your residents.
Ian: It doesn’t take long either.
Bob: No not at all.
Ian: It doesn’t take long at all. And I think as a property manager, a lot of times you’re stretched for time. You have to ask yourself, in the few minutes it’s going to take to honestly answer this assessment so you can see where you’re really at, you know if you’re being truly honest with your assessment, how much time is that actually going to save you in the long run with problem that you’re having. You’re looking at that assessment if you’re seeing stuff that just isn’t up to grade with the type of property that you have and you make that change, long term how much time is that change going to save you?
Bob: Yeah. And especially with leasing seasons always kind of changing over. If you have a group of tenants that are getting ready to be up for yearly leases and you’re trying to lock them in for next year, 87% of the tenants are looking at their front desk security, and their concierge security as a kind of a, I’d say, a tip point.
Ian: It’s kind of a big number.
Ian: It’s B plus in a lot of schools out there. So that can have a big impact on your rent roles. That can have a big impact on your vacancy numbers. And whenever you’re in those industries you want to be operating at your peak capacity. Unused space is unused dollars, or unmade dollars. So, you need to make sure that you’re taking in all accounts that are going to help grow your building’s rent role, grow that profitability in a safe way, in a customer service friendly way, and I think the concierge security is one of the great ways to do that.
Bob: Yep. So, take a minute, fill out that survey. Take a look at it and assess your security currently and as-
Bob: Check out our other podcasts if you kind of only jumped into-
Ian: This is number four.
Bob: Episode four, jump back and watch one, two and three. And as always, make sure you guys follow us on social media, and for Robert McGowan-
Ian: Ian Pouch-
Bob: This is Protecting the Best Podcast. Have a great day.
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About OPS Security Group
OPS Security Group has over 80 years of combined experience in security, safety and investigations throughout the region of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Maryland. We offer a wide range of flexible security and safety services designed to keep you, your loved ones, your employees, property, and community safe.
All of our security guard services are tailored to fit your needs from front desk concierge to fire watch, virtual concierge and armed guard protection.