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Selling security.

Selling Security

The following is the second in a two-part series on marketing techniques used by service industries that can be adapted and used by security managers in government and industry. While last month's column focused on techniques and tools available to security managers, this month's column discusses the importance of establishing and maintaining customer satisfaction.

Have you ever heard someone in security say, "Security isn't a popularity contest?" He or she may be right, but isn't this often an excuse for having failed to establish a good working relationship with people? In marketing, it's important to keep the customer satisfied. If we as security managers are going to market security in our organizations, it had better be important to us, too.

First, we should be sure we know who are the customers - the people in our organizations. Remember: The responsibility for good security falls on everyone in the organization, and our role is to provide a service by fulfilling this responsibility. The people in our companies are the ones who have to buy the service. They pay in the time, effort, and other resources they spend on making the program work; by accepting our advice, guidance, and help; and by responding to our concerns and direction.

Marketers have discovered much about what makes people buy and what makes for satisfied customers. One item is that while the quality of your product or service is important, it is the perceived quality of the product that really makes the difference.

Particularly for uneducated consumers, the perceived quality of a product is often heavily influenced by satisfaction with the provider. In other words, if I don't have enough knowledge and experience to judge a product's quality, I tend to make my judgment on the way I'm treated by salespeople, delivery people, installers, and service people.

Another principle that is important to marketers - and should be to us as well - is that satisfaction promotes repeat sales. If I am satisfied with my dealings with a store, I will be more likely to do business with it again. If not, I will avoid that store unless I really need what it is selling and cannot get the item elsewhere.

In terms of security programs, repeat sales means people coming to you more than once for help, advice, or technical assistance. A customer coming back to take advantage of your service can be a critical factor in your success and your program's effectiveness.

How willing are people to come to you for guidance rather than blunder ahead on their own? Are people comfortable bringing a problem to you, or will they wait until it is a full-blown disaster? Do managers invite you into their organizations to help with security education, or does it have to be forced down their throats? Does your boss want you to keep him or her briefed on security developments, or do you have trouble getting on the calendar? Are security incidents promptly reported to you, or does everyone seem desperate to handle them in-house?

To promote customer satisfaction, it is not necessary to compromise your principles, ignore violations, wink at discrepancies, or agree with everyone who walks through the door. You can do a completely honest, competent, and scrupulous job of planning, implementing, and overseeing your organization's security program, and still end up with satisfied customers.

It is not so much a matter of what you do as how you do it. It is less a matter of making things easy for people than of making sure they know they've been treated honestly, fairly, and respectfully, and that you've considered their concerns, needs, ideas, and preferences as much as you reasonably could.

Prompt delivery. Few things seem to irritate customers more than delays in delivering merchandise. People don't like to wait. It makes them feel they're being ignored, and that makes them feel they're not getting the respect they deserve. Prompt attention to a request or question indicates that you think the person is important, the question is important, and the contribution to security is important.

If you can't handle the person's problem or question right away, give him or her an explanation. Don't just say, "I'm really busy right now," He or she might decide that means, "I'm really busy right now, and everything else I have to do is more important than your trivial little problem." Instead, try to say something like, "I'm not going to be able to get you an answer right away. I have two reports I have to get out by tomorrow, and I'll need a little time to get you a really good answer."

Follow-up. Following up on a "sale" shows you care about customer satisfaction, and people tend to attach a lot of importance to it. It usually takes very little time and almost no effort at all. Just a call to see how a new procedure is working out or stopping by someone's office to see if a solution to a problem worked can pay big dividends in customer satisfaction.

Customer service. When customers buy a product or service, they expect it to work and get the job done. Smart marketers know that product support -- customer service -- can often be the key to creating satisfied customers. The computer business iis a fine example, where the reputations of hardware and software vendors often depend heavily on the quality of product support they provide.

When we sell people a security service, we should be willing to provide them the same sort of customer service. We need to work with people to get new procedures implemented properly and painlessly, answer the questions that new ways of doing things always generate, help them make sure things are working properly, and make necessary changes that overcome unexpected glitches. When we don't do this, customer satisfaction, our reputations, and the cooperative attitude of the people we're dealing with all suffer badly.

I can recall a horrible example of this breakdown. While working on a security staff, I saw a directive from our headquarters requiring us to start a major new function. I talked with my supervisor and coworkers. None of us could figure out how we could possibly do it, so I called the office that put out the directive. I explained that we were ready to put a lot of effort into getting the new job done, but we were stumped as to how to go about it. We needed help. I was told, "We don't want to micromanage your program," and got not a single suggestion, let alone any real help.

Customer satisfaction? I was furious. I was convinced that the people in that office hadn't any idea how -- or even whether -- the job could be done and had just out the directive to make themselves look good to their bosses. Their professional reputations hit rock bottom in my eyes. When we sell our security service to the people in our organization, we must stand behind it with good customer service.

Warranty. When we make a major purchase the product's warranty is often an important element in our decision to buy. Problems with warranty repairs produce dissatisfied customers.

When we sell our security service, we also need to provide a warranty. If we've provided advice or assistance and something goes wrong, we need to accept a fair share of the blame. The problem should be our problem. Yet I've reviewed hundreds of reports of inquiry into security violations, and rarely have I seen the security staff admit the system was flawed, the requirements were unrealistic, the procedures were ineffective, or the support hadn't been provided.

Courtesy. The final factor inn promoting customer satisfaction is common courtesy. Think about goind to a security office looking for help. You ask a question about how to accomplish a task. You discover there is a procedure you haven't been following, and you are told, "It's in paragraph 137 og Industrial Security Manual for Safeguarding Classified Information. You mean you people aren't doing that? It's right in the regulation!" You're not going to be eager to go back there for help, are you?

Working in security is not easy - a lot of tension, anxiety, and frustration is involved. Sometimes it's easy to lose patience with basic questions and complaints. But we don't dare have the attitude that our program is so important that we have the right to run over people's feelings and self-respect.

It is for the program's sake that we must treat people with courtesy and respect for them and their concerns. The program demands that we keep people willing and eager to seek out our advice and assistance and accept our guidance and direction. A security officer who willfully or negligently develops an adversary relationship with the people in his or her organization is incompetent and a menace.

The bottom line is that the success of any program for protecting information is heavily dependent on the investment of time, resources, and care by the people who are entrusted with the information. If we want them to invest in our program, we have to sell it. Marketing isn't a mysterious science or arcane craft. It is a system for looking at and thinking about a lot of commonsense issues, many of which most of us do naturally. Thinking about our role in marketing terms can help us make sure we do more of those commonsense things more often.

Joseph A. Grau is the chief of the information security division of the Department of Defense Security Institute.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Grau, Joseph A.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Words:1588
Previous Article:Systematic steps for system success.
Next Article:Why the temptation?
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