Police Department Vendor Decisions

As I was sitting at my desk this morning, struggling with some issues and a vendor I had a thought.  This is always dangerous territory for me.

Can social media/networking benefit government agencies, specifically police departments in the decision making process of selecting a vendor for a particular solution?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  But of course, it has it’s limitations.  Right now for instance, the number of police departments leveraging social media is limited.  Those limitations transfer directly to the effectiveness of this thought process.

When an agency publishes a request for proposal and describes their needs, many companies jump at the chance to provide the solution.  Sometimes, even stepping outside their area of expertise to gain the contract.

These same companies will gladly offer “references” for their benefit.  These may not be a good cross representation of the company.

Were an agency to go out over a social media outlet and request feedback about a company, they may get a better representation of that company and the kinds of service they provide.

I recently experienced this.  I spoke with my counterpart at another police agency and asked which solution provider he was using for a particular application, and why he chose them.  Granted it wasn’t through social media but the application is the same.

He provided an excellent sales pitch for the company, provided a wealth of information about the company, it’s services and some very positive feedback about the product.

I was able to take this information, couple it with quotes and other documents and secure funding for my project.  The company ended up with a new client and hopefully, we end up with a solution that makes my users happy.

At the end of the day, a couple of things were noted.

1.  They vendor didn’t have to sell much.  It was pretty much “sold” when I called them.

2.  My end users have a friendly user base in a neighboring city, whom they communicate with often anyway.

3.  A lot of leg work was saved by talking to USERS vice sales people.

4.  We as an agency are gladly paying the fees for this service and solution since we know, from our peers that it is valuable and worth the money.

All in all it’s a win/win situation for everyone concerned.

2 thoughts on “Police Department Vendor Decisions

  1. Christa M. Miller

    Now that I’m representing a vendor, providing PR services for them, these are issues we’re dealing with on the other end. We know the customers are online… it’s just been a bit of a struggle to figure out where and how to reach them (since we also know many of them are undercover while online).

    I think to reach this space, it will take “early adopter” vendors like my client, who is very jazzed about social media, to show both cops and other vendors how it can be done. For the time being we’ll still have to reach prospects in traditional spaces like magazines and trade shows. But while there, ensure they know how to reach us in social web spaces. Our contact page will have info on our social media presences; so will handout material at tradeshows, and I may even be able to talk the client into live-tweeting his booth conversations at upcoming shows.

    I think vendors have a good opportunity here, in any case. TASER’s stance is always defensive; I’d like to see them develop a strong social media presence. Body armor manufacturers, too. Their reputation has suffered horribly in the last few years since the Zylon debacle, and now they are having to return to more rigid, heavier models of armor thanks to the new NIJ standard. It’s already shown that half of cops don’t wear body armor… but what if strong social media helped get them through these tough times until R&D gets back underway for lighter and more flexible materials and design? Well, anyway.

  2. Scott

    Well, my target was not so much vendors reaching out or prospective agencies reaching vendors as much as it was “fact checking” vendors.

    I am dealing with one that when you ask for references, they will send you their “vetted” list of references. But when you discuss them with other customers, you get a completely different perspective.

    It’s incumbent upon those of us in the decision making process to make sure we are looking out for our agencies. With the advent of social networking, and the ease of discussion, it’s going to be harder and harder for a vendor to represent themselves in a specific “light”. Therefore making it incumbent on them to hold themselves to a higher standard.

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