So, you’re thinking about hiring a private investigator to handle employee background checks, verify information for your legal case or handle a personal matter, but you’re not sure where to start. For many people, making that initial call is their first experience with a private investigator. They don’t know what to expect, what questions to ask or how much information to share over the phone. In fact, simply deciding who to call is stressful.
Let’s Talk Size – Right Size Investigation Agency
All jokes aside, size really does matter when selecting an investigation agency. Your first instinct may be to go with a “larger” national agency, believing that bigger is better (stop snickering) or safer. But that would be a mistake, because there are some distinct benefits to working with a smaller agency.
Of course, when we say “smaller,” we’re not talking about hiring the local guy that works in his basement with a computer, a camera and his trusty Bloodhound. Between this guy (or gal) and the industry giants, there are reputable, experienced mid-sized investigative services that are the “right” size for your needs. Consider the following advantages:
Less bureaucracy and more personalized service – In general, the bigger the organization, the more bureaucracy. When you work with large professional investigation companies, your case might be handled by a team of several individuals. You typically talk to an assistant or other personnel to provide information and get updates on your case rather than the actual investigator(s).
These added layers not only make relaying and getting information more difficult, they typically lead to higher costs. While you shouldn’t base your decision on price alone (“cheap” or “bargain” services usually cost you more in the long run), you don’t want to pay for a higher level of service than you need or extra personnel.
Some questions to ask an investigation agency include:
- Do you outsource or subcontract private investigative work?
- Will I be working directly with the investigator handling my case?
- Do they have subject matter expertise in the area that I need assistance?
- What’s the typical response time for returning messages and providing updates?
On the other hand, smaller agencies typically offer more personalized service. Clients work directly with the investigator who is handling their case. Calls are returned promptly, and with less people involved, confidentiality is easier to maintain and ensure.
However, be warned, if the company is so small that you can’t get anyone to even answer the phone, you probably want to keep looking! In fact, not being able to reach their private investigator is the most common complaint of clients working with individual P.I.’s. If you get voicemail the first time you call, this is a huge red flag!
Customized service – In order to keep things simple, many large firms offer a standard menu of services (i.e., background checks cost $X, locating assets costs $X, etc.) Yet, when it comes to investigative services, every case is unique. An attorney involved in a complex legal matter may need in-depth, thorough investigative work requiring true expertise, while another has simpler requests.
As it relates to background checks, context is everything. In some cases, for instance as part of an international merger of companies, a background check is very large in scope and is conducted by a team of investigators over weeks. In other cases, such as vetting applicants to lease a rental home, the scope and cost are much narrower. Employee screening differs dramatically from conducting due diligence, which is one of the most demanding investigations to conduct properly.
With this in mind, ask the investigation agency you are considering:
- Are services (and fees) customized by complexity and individual needs? The answer should be “yes.”
- Do they offer free initial consultations? Are these consultations thorough and professional?
- Are they willing to meet with you in person, in their office? (This assumes they have an office!)
Specialized divisions – The “one-man or woman show” cannot be an expert in every type of investigation and therefore, may subcontract services, or worse, try to be a “jack-of-all-trades,” which means they may be ill-equipped or lack training in the type of investigative service you need. Meanwhile, a very large firm may have entire divisions dedicated to each service, with layers of bureaucracy to wade through and very little personal service (see above). A right sized investigation company gives you the best of both worlds.
To ensure that your case is handled by an expert, efficiently and effectively, look for an investigation company that offers specialized divisions, or, at the very least, an expert investigator in each area. For instance, does the firm have an “Attorney Services” group with expertise in handling legal matters? Do they offer investigators that specialize in family services, background checks and corporate matters? Each of these areas of investigation have unique needs that require special expertise and experience. Specialized divisions, even if they consist of a few experts in each area, can help you get better results in a shorter time frame.
- Browse the company’s website and look for separate divisions, examples of work and testimonials.
- Ask for an example of their work in the area you are requesting services (i.e., the type of report you’ll receive, quality of documentation, photos, etc.).
- What type of background/experience do the investigators in each area have (e.g., law enforcement, corporate law, etc.)?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Do they offer any type of money-back guarantee if you don’t get the results you need?
Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there are companies that are way too large, those that are much too small, and some that are “just right.” The right size investigation company agency will offer: customized services, which should translate into more affordability; the ability to listen to client needs and deliver on expectations; and yield better results.
For most people, the greatest benefit of hiring a private investigator is peace of mind, along with the confidence of making a good decision based on facts. Therefore, the worst mistake you can make is to NOT hire an investigation agency! Think about the financial and/or emotional costs of not taking action. With a little research, you can find a trusted, dependable partner to help you with your investigative needs.
Try us on for size! ASG Investigations is an experienced, reputable investigation agency which is designed and staffed to serve the specific, unique needs of each sector of our substantial and diversified client base, including law firms, corporations, business owners, investment firms and private individuals. We pride ourselves in personalized service and superior results. Call us for a free, confidential consultation at 888-677-9700.