“Choosing a private investigator based on price — smart business or potentially costly decision?”
I posted that question on social media last week after capenews.net (Cape Cod, Massachusetts) reported that a school board had hired a private investigator to look into some accusations about its local superintendent because the firm “offered the best price.” (In fairness, the article also reported that the firm was chosen because of “its larger scope” — whatever that means — and its experience.)
Meanwhile, just a few days later, I met a potential new client who told me that my proposal was nearly double what another firm was charging and that I would have to reduce my fees in order to get the case.
I didn’t reduce my fees, and I didn’t get the case.
Another business owner might consider me an idiot; personally, I think I made a smart business decision.
Indeed, many products and services we purchase are discounted these days … but have you ever stopped to think about why? And should private investigation services fall into that realm?
That said, if you plan to forge ahead and make a decision to hire a private investigator based on price, here are a few tips.
Price Counts, but It Should Never Be the Most Important Thing
In my experience, choosing the cheap option usually means that you don’t get what you really need, which doesn’t help anyone.
Cheap usually involves taking shortcuts, using unqualified people, cutting corners or doing shoddy work. None of which we do, which is why we are not going to be the cheapest solution most of the time.
In my opinion, the three most important qualities in a good private investigator are his or her resourcefulness, creativity and transparency. Look for them.
Making Choices Based Simply on Price Is Stupid
That might be a complete oversimplification, but generally speaking, making choices based simply on price is pretty stupid, especially when you are talking about professional services.
Two investigative firms tasked with doing the same thing may provide you with two completely different results — one achieved by doing things the right way, and the other via the not-so-right way. That is how the latter firm keeps its costs down and can charge you less money.
Don’t Concentrate on the Hourly Fees; Concentrate on the Value
Let’s say that Firm A charges $100 per hour while Firm B charges $200 per hour. For some people, it might be a simple choice to choose the less expensive firm.
But what if Firm B can do the same thing in half the time?
Or what if Firm B has the specific talent, experience and subject matter expertise that will be particularly relevant for your case?
Firm A doesn’t look like such a good deal when it doesn’t provide you what you need, does it?
Determine the Value the Service Actually Provides
Just this week, a Chinese collector bought a 100-year-old painting by the artist Amedeo Modigliani for $170.4 million. If I had $170 million lying around, I can assure you that I would not have spent it on a painting. The value for me is only a very small fraction of that amount. But obviously, in the high-priced art world, the value to others is much greater.
The same goes for services provided by professional firms, including private investigators. What is finding your biological father — who you haven’t spoken to in 30 years — worth to you? What is the value in our finding clues that the person you are about to invest with is really a fraud? Or evidence that your former spouse has transferred a bunch of assets into the name of his business?
In Summary …
As an investigator, my singular focus is on getting my clients their desired result, giving them peace of mind or helping them make a more informed decision. If that means my price is going to be twice as much as the client would prefer to pay, so be it.
We attract and get hired by clients who value our quality of service, professionalism, creativity, expertise and honest answers to their particular issues.
If those things are important to you, then you just might be in the right place.