An exploration of the balance between customer service and adherence to best practice operating procedures, in the private, non-hostile close / executive protection industry.
“I don’t carry shopping bags.”
This statement, when uttered by the modern-day private security operator, has a surprising number of connotations to consider.
Is the issuer of this proclamation such a purist to the close protection craft that they choose not to hinder themselves with something in their grip, that could even slightly slow reaction time in the event of an incident? Or are they suggesting bag carrying is beneath them?
Equally, there are those who eagerly volunteer to carry a principal’s (client’s) bags, in an effort to show usefulness, unpretentiousness, and adaptability. “I can just drop it if needs be.” ….. Of the two, this one makes me a little more uncomfortable.
That said, we are a PRIVATE security company, i.e. we are employed to provide close protection services at the will, discretion, and cost, of a private client or organisation. In short, customer service matters.
The example of bag carrying is a tired and cliché’ one, and frankly its easily solved by making sure you limit it to one bag, call a waiting (backup) driver to come and collect bags periodically, or in many cases just have the bags sent to a collection point to be dealt with later.
It’s a £100k piece of jewellery in a small bag with “Van Cleef” plastered all over it? Then pass it over and I’ll keep hold of it, the principal or entourage shouldn’t be carrying it anyway.
If you genuinely have an immovable conviction one way or the other on this particular example, then I would suggest you consider a new career before yours is cut short. Multiple factors come into play and have to be assessed case by case. There is no absolute.
However, this example does helpfully highlight a larger issue: How far into the realms of facilitation should the modern close protection operator stray, and at what point does it begin to impact the clients safety?
In operational dynamics where a P.A. or E.A. are absent, and sometimes when they’re not, it’s common for principal’s to turn to their close protection operative, or close protection team leader, and make requests for facilitation. In my experience they have ranged from booking restaurant tables, private aircraft, and hotel suites, to sourcing domestic staff, new cars, and new houses.
The competitive private security marketplace means that an operator who refuses to engage with a client on this level, or a company who has a strict “security only” policy of non-facilitation for its personnel, fear the perceived risk of being replaced by one who will.
I have seen a close protection operative walking along a busy street with a principal, so engrossed in two smartphones whilst fulfilling their client’s latest wish, that I witnessed his principal’s confused yet quick thinking friend pull him back onto the pavement, and out of moving traffic. This is definitely not textbook CP.
Providing dual purpose facilitation with security makes the operator feel indispensable, and frankly, sometimes that’s true. If your bodyguard of 10 years is able to facilitate anything and everything, has a little black book for those things that you need and love world wide, knows your history, preferences, and tastes, then are you likely to change him? No? Guess what?! You have a P.A. I can assure you that whilst you have been enjoying the benefits of your dual purposed facilitation expert with a military background and an “executive protection” title, your security has suffered without you realising it.
A suitable level of close protection cannot be provided if the operator is distracted by handling his principal’s bookings, emails, quotes, diary management and shopping whims. However, approaching a low threat project in a low risk environment with complete inflexibility is likely to make an operator appear at best unhelpful, and at worst - fanatical.
It’s important for the security company to support its operator on the ground in setting realistic limits based on intelligent assessment of an individual case, and giving the client the option to ask the security company for assistance if needs be, rather than the operator.
Ultimately, the client is paying for a security service and as such should be secured to the highest possible level, even if that means an operator politely saying “No” from time to time.
At King safety and security, we have a policy – restaurant booking by the executive protection agent on the ground is permitted, anything else is passed up the hierarchy. We have a 24 hour ops room, and office staff who are well placed to deal with the requests of our clients. We do not add commission, although for complex projects requiring significant time and input we do charge a pre-agreed flat fee.