Recently, we discussed the importance of size and structure of various investigative companies. We also spoke about how these agencies must adhere to strict legal guidelines when it comes to the collecting, preparing and disclosing of personal information.
In this issue, we’ll look a little closer at some additional criteria that are equally important in your quest for the “right” private investigator.
When doing your due diligence in searching for a qualified investigation company or individual, a primary consideration is the “stability” of that organization. What do we mean? Does the company have a broad base of experience? Do they have more than one area of expertise? How much court experience do they have as private investigators? Are they familiar with the procedures and processes of preparing legal evidence for a court of law or the forum where your matter is being heard? Can they communicate in a professional manner that is clear and concise? What is their format of report delivery, does it meet with your needs, what is their evidence retention policy, (duration and security) can they deliver electronically. The question to ask is: would you want this investigator to represent you and your interests? If the answer is yes, then you’re off to a good start. You also need to ask how long have they been around, are they a real full time investigation business or a part time operation with a few clients. Are they able to handle a project involving more than the owner of the business and, if your matter is likely to need resources do they have them or have access to them.
With many businesses your reputation is your best sales tool. Most credible investigative companies have a track record of their performance. One way in which you can “investigate” their reputation within the industry is to check which professional associations the investigator is a member of. There are many and they each have a registrar that should be familiar with their membership. Call and inquire about the investigator / agency that you’re researching to see if they are members in good standing. On occasion, while checking, we have found businesses using accreditation that they no longer have, or are claiming to belong to an association where their membership has lapsed. Another method and perhaps the best way to determine if the investigator is suited for your needs is to ask for references. Bad references are rarely given for obvious reasons, but others in your business sector may be able to provide you with valuable insight on the investigator’s qualities.
Speed, Quality and Cost
Generally, when there is the need for an investigation there are three characteristics that clients should inquire about. Speed is the first. Does the investigator respond to your request in a timely fashion? Are they available 24/7? Do they come up with a plan of action and report their findings in a reasonable time frame? Asking references for this type of input up front can avoid issues once a request has been placed. Time service is critical in almost every investigation and not just the completion of a task, but the timely reporting of findings.
The Quality of an investigation can mean many different things. It is number two on the list of considerations. Professional demeanour and attitude when performing an investigation / service is critical because they are representing your corporate interests and may impact your reputation. As your representative in an investigative procedure their behavior needs to reflect your corporate mandate. When presenting their findings are their reports well written and put together in a professional package? Were their findings obtained in an ethical and legal manner or are there issues that may cause concern over relying on the detail in a report, written or verbal. Other factors that influence the quality of any particular investigator is the amount of experience they have. What may appear to be simple things are often skills that have been honed over many years on the job. Listening and hearing can be very different. Does the investigator “listen” when you’re communicating your situation, do they “hear” what you’re asking of them and do they know the result you are looking to achieve? Do they understand the complexities of your business or do you have to take the time to “educate” them. Hiring experienced investigators can save both time, money and generally will result in investigative services that are of a higher standard.
In this economy, Cost is always a concern. A properly executed and successful investigation can result in a large monetary saving or at the very least, reprieve from a potentially disastrous situation. In this industry, as with many others, you get what you pay for. Beware when companies offer cheaper rates, there are usually hidden costs that surface after the fact, the most costly of all being diminished quality or poor time service. Investigators tend to be called in for reactionary reasons to prevent further damages or for proactive ones to circumvent possible future “issues”. The resources spent to find the “right” private investigator should be viewed for the long term as money well invested. We often suggest that an investigative project is phased to provide the client access to the ongoing decision and direction process and to control costs. Providing a phase by phase budget and expectation plan will permit you to control the investigation and further determine if you have the “right” investigative partner.
The “quality” of an investigative agency’s report starts with the collection of material and ends with the professional preparation and delivery of a legal document.