One day you recognize that your property is in crucial need of security. You begin by researching a few local companies, reviewing their ratings, narrowing down a list and making phone calls. Some companies reply immediately, others a few hours later and some let’s say, too late to consider. Once you’ve identified a few good candidates, you get to the last step of the process: reviewing the proposals. That’s the critical part for this decision making process.
Being in the service industry, we’ve worked with many customers. We’ve heard numerous stories from clients who regretted not comparing vendors and accepting the first proposal or the lowest bid, which ended up costing them much more in the long run.
When a bargain isn’t always a bargain.
If a contractor’s low bid seems too good to be true, it probably should not be trusted. A contractor may have the lowest initial bid, but they will usually try to make up the difference through hidden charges and fees for materials and service equipment not included on the original bid. “Unexpected” charges can result in property owners paying an amount equal or greater than the highest bid.
So how can you identify the best solution at the best price?
By asking them the following three questions:
- What are you really quoting here?
Comparing Apples to Apples
A lower price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best deal. To compare quotes efficiently, it’s important to understand what each offers. The key is to evaluate the equipment and services on the same scale. Compare apples to apples. For example, recently a client called us for an estimate on installation of high definition security cameras. We provided a quote with 3 mega-pixel cameras with a wide dynamic range function to block sunlight because we know regular high definition cameras will not capture details if there is excessive sunlight. Our client asked why our price was higher than the other company. We explained that the other company only offered regular high definition cameras. We suggested that the client ask the other company if they would match with the same or at least similar functionality for the cameras. Without understanding what type of system or equipment they’re comparing, most people will likely choose the lower bid. When quotations offer the same quality on equipment, other variables such as warranty on equipment, warranty on labor and maintenance plans will increase the value. What is most important to you?
- What is the warranty on the equipment and what does the maintenance consist of?
Quality versus Quantity
Companies offer anywhere from 3 months to 2 years’ warranty on the equipment and/or labor. Do not assume either of these will have a warranty unless it is clearly stated on the estimate. Ask about their maintenance plans and the benefits of adding this plan at the time of your installation. Proper maintenance can save you lots of $$$ and time. Learning about these policies will give you a good start in building a relationship with your new security provider.
- Do you have a list of references and can I contact them?
Online reviews vs. Personal recommendations
The company you choose to work with needs to be able to respond to your needs promptly. Ask for references, if possible for projects similar to yours. Instead of saying something like: “I heard great things about your security company, how do you like the service?” try this: “I am looking for a security provider and contacted your current company, can you tell me what type of security system you have, how long you’ve been with them and your overall experience? These questions leave room for the client to speak freely. Online reviews are great, but might only be the first impression of a company. Ask for references of long-term clients as they will be able to give you a more comprehensive overall review of the company.
We hope these questions will be helpful with your next security project. Good luck.