I’ll never forget the first time a company asked me to omit a recommendation from my vulnerability assessment report. The staff at a utility company complained to management that they felt unsafe at their customer service center. So the company hired my team to assess the vulnerabilities of the facility. We interviewed the staff and learned that they often took in a lot of money from customers in a single day. Having that much money onsite made them nervous.
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During the assessment, we discovered an intersection about a quarter mile away. In the previous year, banks at three corners of that intersection had been robbed. The convenience store on the fourth corner had been robbed the year before that. It was clear that the utility company was vulnerable.
Our report detailed the areas of vulnerability and made recommendations to mitigate risk. One of those recommendations was unpopular with management: to install bulletproof barriers at the customer service windows. They didn’t want to implement a solution that could highlight potential danger and make customers feel unsafe.
So they asked us to remove the recommendation from our report, primarily because they didn’t like the look of bulletproof barriers and thought they would drive away customers. They also thought that they would be held legally liable if they didn’t install one and a report showed that there was a recommendation to place bulletproof glass in the service center. Were they right?
You’re Always Liable
There’s a myth out there that ignorance is bliss. If you don’t know about a problem, you can’t be held liable if an incident occurs. Too many companies rely on that belief, only to find out they made an expensive mistake.
In the case of a robbery, my utility client would be held liable for several reasons:
- The testimony of employees would show that they told security consultants about their concerns and the amount of money they were taking in.
- An independent security professional would be asked to be an expert witness to provide an expert opinion. Their testimony would doubtless find them liable.
- Legally speaking, ignorance is never a valid excuse for not providing reasonable protection.
It’s like standing water in a grocery aisle. Even if the store doesn’t know about it, they’re liable if a customer slips and injures themselves. But what if the manager placed a caution cone on the floor and was grabbing the mop, they were actively working to mitigate the danger. In that case, they’ve got a better shot at a favorable outcome.
Just because a security consultant makes a recommendation, that doesn’t mean you have to follow it. It’s up to you to weigh the costs and benefits, and determine which solutions to implement, and when. The utility company didn’t have to install bulletproof barriers, as long as they could show that they were making reasonable steps to provide better security.
What About Customer Experience?
But what about the importance of the customer experience? Certain industries depend on creating a positive customer experience at their facilities. Organizations such as banks, schools and health care facilities can’t afford not to provide a positive experience. So how do you
So how do you balance customer service and building security?
There are almost always multiple ways to improve building security without hurting your customers’ experience. Bollards can be designed like sculptures. Double-door entrances can be triggered to lock a robber in between the doors on their way out. Bulletproof barriers can be designed aesthetics in mind. Total Security Solutions specializes in designing bullet-resistant barriers that look beautiful. They even have a case study that shows how they improved security at a utility company while also improving the customer experience.
You don’t have to choose between the customer experience and better building security. They can go hand-in-hand.
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