THE SUPERVISOR’S ROLE IN IMPROVING CUSTOMER SERVICE
by Christopher A. Hertig, CPP, CPOI
The asset protection/security supervisor is a key player in both establishing and
maintaining an appropriate customer service orientation within the protection force. To
better understand how the supervisor functions, we must first examine the role of the
supervisor; then assess the development of an organizational philosophy.
ROLE OF SUPERVISORS
• The person who represents higher authority—the core philosophy of the
organization—to subordinates. Supervisors are the links between management and
line officers or loss prevention agents.
• The person who must ensure compliance with policies and procedures and quality
performance in the customer service area.
• The individual who is the first responder to any and all situations—as such a
supervisor must be a model diplomat. He or she must demonstrate diplomacy in
trying circumstances such as accidents, investigations, personnel issues. He or she
must work when there are competing interests involved. These can be subordinates,
other departmental supervisors, higher management, customers, law enforcement
• A master of communications, especially interdepartmental and interagency
communications. Again, other departments (human resources, physical plant, etc.)
and external organizations such as local police, vendors, clients and regulatory
agencies must be dealt with.
CORE PHILOSOPHY OF PARENT OR CLIENT ORGANIZATION
In order to gain a firm foothold in public or customer relations, one must first
understand what the philosophical foundations are within the parent or client
organization. Each organization is different; they do not simply all want “to make
money” as the uninformed may believe. Each organization may indeed want to make
money, but in their own manner. Each takes a different path. Some rely on innovations in
technology. Some work on customer loyalty. Others focus on cost containment. Still
others place great emphasis on close ties to the community.
Whichever guiding beliefs lie at the center of the organization, these must be firmly
understood by those who wish to effectively represent that organization to customers. A
key question to be addressed is:
What makes my employer and/or client unique from other organizations in the same field
Organizational philosophy is founded in the history of the concern. Each
organization is established at some point and evolves over time. The original beliefs may
be modified somewhat, or they may remain unchanged and be further cemented into the
organizational culture. Whatever the case may be, an important question to be asked
when studying an organization’s culture is:
What is the history of my employer?
This is especially important for security service firms. Some of them such as
Securitas (which acquired Pinkertons) have an illustrious history. One could probably
develop a three credit college course on the contributions of Alan Pinkerton. He was a
prominent citizen who played a key role in the history of the United States and the
development of investigative practice. Smaller, newer firms may also have founders and
principals who were industry pioneers. Each organization has a unique history which can
illustrate important lessons. Knowing this history helps to make each officer a more
effective company representative. Unfortunately, this may not be capitalized upon as
effectively as it should be.
Organizational philosophy is framed in the policies of the organization. Reading and
understanding these policies is essential to comprehending the philosophy of the
organization—as well as knowing what the rules are to be enforced. A question to be
mulled over is:
What do the policies of my employer state?
Organizational philosophy is more precisely articulated in the procedures of the
concern. These specify the “what” and “how” of the policies. They state how the policy,
the philosophy, is executed. When reading procedures, some introspection can be given
to the following inquiry:
What do the procedures explain?
Once policies and procedures are fully comprehended, it becomes necessary to
examine the role of the security department in advancing the organizational philosophy.
Upper management has delegated certain functions to the security department. Efficient
use of resources and organizational survival mandate that the following question be
What is the role of the asset protection/security department in advancing that
ENSURING OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE AND ADHERENCE TO “BEST
Supervisors must ensure that their charges perform to the best of their ability. They
must also work to achieve quality through adherence to recognized standards of
performance or “best practices.” There are several steps to take toward this end. The first
step is to conduct a job task analysis to determine roles and functions of officers. Once
this is done, a clear picture emerges as to what officers do, what their key competencies
are. From there, recruitment, selection, training and the remainder of the human resource
management process can occur.
What is the customer service role of a protection officer in our organization?
Protection officers are often highly involved in public relations/customer service. At
a seminar given some years ago by this writer, an officer stated that “public relations is
90% of this job.” It was interesting to note, as the class was at a manufacturing facility
where public/customer contact is not as great as it would be in a shopping center, college
campus, park or office building.
Another interesting anecdote occurred while reviewing the responses to a curriculum
study done in 1985. The study was an attempt to identify a generic security officer
training curriculum. It consisted of a literature review followed by a questionnaire sent to
randomly selected security managers from the ASIS membership directory. The
questionnaire asked the respondents to rank which topics they felt were most important.
There was also room for additional comments. One respondent felt that public relations
was the most critical area for a security officer to be proficient in as that officer’s
interaction with others determined how a negative event was perceived; that no matter
how bad a situation was, the officer’s public relations skills was the critical factor in how
bad it was felt to be. Such an observation is certainly relevant to emergency management!
Some organizations such as shopping centers, hotels and amusement parks utilize
security personnel as customer service agents to a large extent. Sam’s Clubs “greeters”
serve to welcome a customer into the store while at the same time ensuring that they are
members. In many hotels a similar function is performed by protection officers in the
hotel lobby. Lounges employ “Lounge Hosts” to welcome customers and keep out
troublemakers. The sample job description given below for “HAPPY TIME RESORTS”
provides ample evidence of the customer service role for security personnel:
Job Title: Lounge Host
Organizational Unit: Asset Protection
Accountability: Security Shift Supervisor
Job Summary: to provide for a safe, enjoyable atmosphere for our guests.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Greeting customers in the Lounge.
Controlling access to Lounge.
Maintaining an accurate customer count.
Ensure the safety of the Lounge and the surrounding area.
Maintain order in the Lounge.
Ensure compliance with Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations.
Customer assistance as appropriate.
Interaction: Lounge manager, Bartender
Prepared By: Director of Asset Protection
Approved By: Vice-President, Human Relations
Training and certification of protection officers. Specific, recognized and
documented training of protection staff is essential to projecting a positive image. It is
also integral to making officers competent to provide a meaningful level of service.
State and provincial licensing or certification. This is essential where required by
law. It also helps to give the protection force recognition. While there are serious
deficiencies in state training and licensing requirements (the failure of most governmental
entities to regulate proprietary forces, as an example), there is likely to be more
regulation in the future: licensing may be attractive as it provides a revenue stream to the
state, county or city. Astute managers should see the direction that legislation is taking
and be both proactive and supportive. State mandated standards are generally minimal in
regards to training and screening. Professional managers ensure that their organizations
go beyond the minimal and embrace “best practices.”
Company certification. These credentials are given by private companies, generally
in the use of equipment or techniques. Some examples of company certification programs
common within the protective services arena are the Crisis Prevention Institute, PPCI
Training Inc. Each company establishes it’s own criteria for certification and sells its
services to customers. These certifications may be important as they are “best practices”;
only those organizations interested in being on the leading edge of professionalism
embrace these programs.
Of note is the use of instructor certification programs. PPCI Training, Inc. and CPI
have instructor certification processes where an individual becomes certified to teach.
Having one or more individuals certified as instructors who teach non-security staff, is a
valuable customer service within an organization. Having Certified Protection Officer
Instructors on staff can be a valuable customer asset for security service firms who may
wish to offer training to clients.
Professional certification programs such as the Certified Protection Officer (CPO)
and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Similar to company certifications, attaining these
credentials affords one industry recognition. Security staffs that are professionally
certified are at a higher level of professional development. As such, they are providing
more service to their customers. Professional certifications make one stand out; they
enable the organization that has certified employees to demonstrate a superior level of
professional development. This is markedly different than simply claiming professional
status without proffering any evidence. Having professionally certified staff members is a
very powerful marketing tool as G4, Securitas as well as some smaller firms have
Industry certification. This includes such things as the International Association of
Health Care Security and Safety’s Basic Standard. This is a definite standard within
healthcare protection that should be obtained by security forces. As specialized, vertical
market sectors of security grow and develop, more of these types of programs may
appear. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators has
established a Campus Protection Officer program. As the needs of campus asset
protection are unique and relatively few schools have police academy trained staffs, this
program will probably become heavily utilized.
Systematic, automatic professional development is necessary! For employees to
function at optimal levels, they must be constantly learning. There are several programs
that aid protection supervisors and managers in this regard:
• The Safety Standard of the IAHSS which is a logical means of organizational
development for healthcare protection organizations. The Safety Standard helps to
enhance the safety orientation of protection officers so that they can provide
additional services. This not only expands the services of the protection organization,
but presents them in a more positive manner. No longer is security seen as a
paramilitary, law enforcement type organization. Instead they are viewed more as
helpers. And “helpers” who assist the parent/client firms in complying with OSHA
regulations are a valuable asset.
• The Professional Security Training Network (PSTN) offers subscribers monthly
training tapes. Each month a different topic is covered so that a subscriber firm can
enjoy continuous professional development for its staff. Tests are also included with
each month’s tapes so that learning is measured and employees are not simply
* AST Corporation has a series of program available online and on CDRom. Courses
on Retail, Homeland, Physical and Special Events Security can aid in staff
development. These programs can help to develop specialties within a security
organization as well as new career paths for the officers and agents.
• Periodic guest speakers from police departments, local colleges and civic
organizations (Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce, volunteer fire department, etc.)
can also aid in continuous professional development. Much of this is essentially free
training. Having representatives of these organizations speak to protection forces also
raises the level of visibility of the security department.
FEEDBACK LOOP: AUDITS, CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS
The quality assurance aspect of the supervisory process can be accomplished via two
different evaluative techniques: audits of individual officers and an analysis of customer
complaints. Audits can take the form of “shopping” an organization by having someone
unknown to the protection officer ask for directions or assistance. Phone inquiries can
also be made and the results of each contact documented. Investigators can use pre-
designed forms to rate pleasantness, appearance, knowledge, responsiveness or any other
criteria deemed to be important.
While a formal assessment performed by an independent entity may be preferable,
and indeed quite appropriate, to large protection force operations: informal audits can
also be used. The latter are much more common and easy to implement. Care must be
taken, however, not to use slipshod methods when evaluating or disciplining an officer.
Customer complaints are another source of valuable intelligence. Inappropriate
customer service practices, such as surly officers, can be detected through customer
complaints. More importantly, systemic deficiencies such as inadequate staffing levels,
substandard procedures, shoddy maintenance or poor personnel traffic flow patterns can
be spotlighted. A series of complaints focused on a particular area gives managers a clear
signal that something is amiss. The challenge is to design a system where the information
(complaints) can be easily retrieved, analyzed and acted upon. Interdepartmental relations
may be key here as personnel in other aspects of the organization may be aware of the
problem areas. Meeting with them and having open lines of communication can keep the
security department apprised.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Layne Consultants International (Layneconsultants.com or 303/377-2176)
offers a seminar on Customer Service.
The Professional Security Training Network (www.twlk.com/security/ or 800/942-7786
has numerous video programs on Public Relations, Customer Complaints, etc.
The Office of Community and Professional Development at York College of
Pennsylvania (www.ycp.edu or 717/815-1360) offers a seminar on Customer
Relations as well as one on Crowd Management.
THE SUPERVISOR’S ROLE IN IMPROVING CUSTOMER SERVICE
1. The asset protection/security supervisor is a key player in both establishing and
maintaining an appropriate customer service orientation within the protection force.
2. Knowing the organization’s ______ helps to make each officer a more effective
3. Supervisors must ensure that their charges perform to the best of their ability.
They must also work to achieve quality through adherence to recognized standards of
performance or “______ ______.”
4. What percentage of an officer’s job is related to public relations?
5. Specific, recognized and documented training of the security department
personnel is essential to projecting a positive image.
6. For employees to function at optimal levels, they must be constantly ______.
7. Having guest speakers from police departments, representative from local
colleges and civic organizations (Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer Fire
Department, etc.) can aid in continuous professional development.
8. Astute managers should see the direction that legislation is taking and be both
______ and ______.
9. Understanding the organizational philosophy is only important to the management
10. Some examples of organizations that may utilize security personnel as customer
service agents to a large extend may include: (Select best answer)
a) Shopping centers
c) Amusement parks
d) All of the above