Marketing Security's Mission
Print Issue: March 2013
GETTING CORPORATE executives to focus on security issues can be a challenge, especially in the hospitality industry, where generating revenue is a constant goal and is pursued afresh with every new conference or event. A security manager must establish security as a top priority for the organization so that security recommendations are sincerely considered by the senior team and not simply pushed aside.
One hotel chain security chief successfully did that by adopting performance indicators to measure the value of security and having the general manager share those same goals. Security was also marketed to the organization as a unique selling point, further cementing security as part of the property’s culture.
The first step was to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that were unique to security. KPIs are used to evaluate the performance of employees all around the world. They are measurable and objective indicators that determine whether a manager has succeeded or failed to meet the set expectations.
For example, in the case of both a general manager and a sales manager at a hotel, the KPI might be revenue per available room, a comparative peer-group ranking such as market share, or a dollar amount of revenue that needs to be generated and surpassed per month. The HR manager and general manager may jointly be evaluated based on a KPI related to employee turnover or overall employee satisfaction.
As the hospitality industry becomes increasingly environmentally friendly, some chief engineers and general managers now have to meet KPIs related to power consumption, water usage, or overall green efforts.
While the general manager has included the KPIs from sales, human resources, and engineering in his own goals, he has no KPI related to security. Before asking the general manager to take on a security KPI of his own, the hotel security team in our example first set out to create a quantifiable, objective, and effective KPI that could be easily measured, just like the sales manager’s numerical revenue-based goal. Security decided to use three measurements for its KPI: customer satisfaction surveys, a secret shopper program, and the company’s employee-satisfaction survey.
Customer surveys. The hotel already conducted customer surveys to evaluate the performance of the hotel. Customers were asked to rate their satisfaction with everything ranging from the variety of food on the breakfast buffet to the cleanliness of their rooms. The security manager asked the general manager to add a question along the lines of, “During your visit, did you feel secure in your hotel room?” Customers could answer the question on a sliding numerical scale that could be used to tally an average score for the month or year. Shortly after the question was added, security began receiving the monthly scores of the security question.
As the new surveys were implemented throughout the region, security could also see its ranking against the company’s other hotels. This added an unexpected tone of competitiveness amongst sister properties that greatly benefited the security of all the sites.
Secret shopper. A secret shopper program is where someone is hired to come in under the guise of being a paying customer to evaluate the services and report back to management. The practice is common among hotels, and this hotel had such a program in place via a third-party provider.
The secret shoppers’ reviews under this program were detailed and included play-by-play accounts of how a front desk agent greeted them, if there were smudges on the elevator glass, and if the tip of the toilet paper had been folded properly.
A security component was already included in this survey, but it was related to housekeepers leaving guest room doors ajar. For the purposes of the current effort to develop KPIs, the security manager added a new segment to the secret shopper’s itinerary. During future visits, secret shoppers would call for security to help open their in-room safes. They would time how long it took security to respond, if the responding officers followed the safe-opening protocols, and if they provided the proper customer service standards such as greeting the guest by name and asking permission to enter the room.
Employee satisfaction. Security also added a question to the company’s employee satisfaction survey. This survey included general questions about working conditions and asked whether the employee would recommend the company to a friend. Security’s question was: “Do you feel safe working at the hotel?” The fact that there was now a measurable indicator of safety as a component in employee satisfaction quickly resulted in a heightened level of support from not just the general manager but also from the HR team, because their own performance rating was tied to these results.
Ultimately, the general manager combined these three KPI measurements into a single Security Survey Index which he included as one of his own KPIs. The existence of this new index and its inclusion by the general manager as an indicator of his success led to a new level of support and respect from the entire management team. It was readily apparent that security had been upgraded in the company culture.
A security manager must also learn to think like a sales manager and learn to promote security as something that enhances or protects the company’s financial well-being rather than as something that is a drain on its finances.
Another key aspect of the business that security had previously not been involved in was wooing clients when they were invited to the property for a site visit.
Site visits were a critical part of marketing the hotel to potential clients. These tours, which took two to three hours, would include all parts of the hotel property, with the hotel’s most valuable players choreographing a presentation of the property’s finest amenities into one large, walking sales pitch. Apart from arranging for a good parking spot, security had previously taken no part in the marketing of the hotel.
The involvement of security came about somewhat serendipitously. One afternoon, the security director was walking outside a ballroom when he ran across the sales manager giving a tour. The security director jokingly asked if the sales manager had pointed out the automated external defibrillator (AED) mounted on the wall nearby. The tour participants were curious what an AED was and asked for more information.
After that tour, the sales manager came to the security director and suggested that the AED become a part of every sales tour going forward. After several iterations, the tour had evolved to permanently include a brief stop at the security control room. The officers would show the visitors how seriously master key security is taken, and how quickly security cancels lost keys for the protection of guests. “Cancel first, ask questions later,” the sales manager would chime in each time.
For privacy’s sake, security would turn off the CCTV monitoring panels during the visit but would take a moment to show them a camera image zoomed in on their arrival earlier in the day. Anytime a security training session was taking place, security would invite the sales manager to bring a tour through for a brief stop.
The new tour experience proved to be a great success. Clients would regularly say that no other hotel showed them how much effort went into protecting guests. Others remarked that it broke up the boredom of touring hotel room after hotel room and that it was interesting to have a look behind the scenes. All the feedback was positive.
Three months later, a well-known technology company booked a weeklong conference at the hotel. The company took every meeting room and almost every guest room, and it booked private events at the different hotel restaurants each night. The conference was a major win for the hotel. The sales manager forwarded an e-mail to the security director, which contained the signed contract. The last lines of the e-mail read, “Our company is very sensitive to the security of our employees. Your hotel’s similar commitment to guest security is one of the primary reasons we are entrusting our event to you.”
This e-mail elevated the security program to an entirely new level. It was clear that, in addition to generating revenue, the security team’s participation in the sales tours had also made security part of the property’s culture.
Every major security project proposal must still be sold on its own merits, every decision still debated, and every line in the security budget must still be justified based on its return on investment. However, the department has a much better chance of having its concerns taken seriously now that it can show results with KPIs that are shared by the general manager and tied directly to the company’s bottom line concerns.
Michael Merola, CPP, is an international security consultant currently based in Dubai.