Have you ever bought a product or service convinced of what it would do, only to learn that it failed to deliver on the promise? The reality of security vs the expectation of security can follow the same path.

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Expectations and Reality Don’t Always Align

In November 2019, Elon Musk introduced the new Tesla Cyber Truck, an SUV with modern high-end technology and a unique look. One of the more compelling arguments for this new truck was the safety features. The vehicle was ultra-reinforced with steel and the windows were made of “Tesla Armor Glass”.

At the rollout event, the press watched as Musk had someone hit the side door with a sledgehammer and — voila! — not a scratch. Then, Musk had someone throw a heavy ball at the driver’s side window to showcase the strength of Tesla Armor Glass. The volunteer hurled the ball and shattered the window.

Musk was clearly mortified. He carried on with the event, but the car was doomed. He had made a very public promise about his product that was simply not accurate. However good the truck may have been, it was dead on arrival at the market.

Expectations in the Security Industry

It’s these sorts of disappointments and outright lies that give pause to buyers. Sales pitches that make unbelievable promises usually are just that: unbelievable. What’s more concerning are the sales pitches that are close to the truth but not quite accurate — especially when safety is at stake.

The security industry has been guilty of this in many ways. While not always intentional, those who sell security services and products have routinely promised a level of expectation that will be proven untrue when the rubber meets the road.

This is not to disparage the industry or the many fine, dedicated professionals striving to protect people, but to highlight a logical flaw in the industry — many people don’t have an accurate idea of what actually makes a facility secure.

Setting a Security Plan

Many end-users have become accustomed to a certain type of security posture and feel confident that their program will withstand any challenge (despite countless real-world examples disproving this notion). They say they want unarmed guards, CCTV and access control. Those satisfy their risk management team and become their baseline security profile.

When selling to these decision-makers, salespersons address only these concerns. They want to make the sale, not turn off the client by trying to oversell, and the recurring revenues from this approach are impossible to ignore. So, they tell the client that they have a secure environment and they move on to the next potential sale.

Numerous security industry manufacturers and service providers have embraced this baseline approach. Moreover, they openly advertise that their service or product will keep you safe. In the real world, safety is a far more complicated effort.

The Reality of Security

For example, a school district in Florida recently announced a multi-million-dollar purchase of a mass alert system for their schools. School officials touted the system as the best use of their funding to ensure the safety of their students and staff. Many applauded this decision. However, while such alert systems can be great, and should be present in a truly comprehensive program, they stop nothing by themselves.

Advertising that a detection device can save lives is a stretch of the truth, one that will inevitably be proven a lie should a gunman enter that facility. Detection devices do just that, detect, and perhaps notify. That’s great, but that’s it. They do not save lives. They enable early detection which can help make for a faster response. But it’s the responders, or the tools that confront the shooter and stop the shooting, that save lives.

Aligning Expectations with Reality

We need to challenge the industry as a whole to rethink the flawed approach of overpromising clients. This widespread practice has hurt the reputation of the industry and decayed the trust we need to help people wisely protect themselves against harm. We should advise clients of the benefits as well as the limitations of what we represent to align their expectations with the reality of security. That honesty is ultimately what generates trust with clients and reflects well upon the industry as a whole.