Often pricing is relatively comparable when looking at vendors. How a vendor is able to respond and provide service is the only real difference.
Make certain you engage the vendor’s operations personnel at the onset. Also give them a few small test cases. Do they respond to your email or telephone calls in a timely manner? Do they make simple tasks more difficult? Can they use common sense? Some individuals come from environments that are extremely process driven and are unable to think outside the box. Failure is almost certain if you require services in a crisis and/or when your needs change on a case-to-case bases.
Having a military or police background does not always mean these individuals have the necessary skills to meet your expectations. Individuals who do not come from industries where customer service is important, often struggle. They often fail to communicate, provide updates and lack the ability to manage project budgets and seek the proper approvals should the scope of work expand. Anything can be solved by spending money foolishly. Can your vendor’s operations personnel manage your cost expectations? Receiving a bill that is 100% over budget is not the kind of surprise you need.
Also ensure operations personnel are clear on whether those supporting them are direct employees or subcontractors. All too often you find out your folks on the ground are dealing with a subcontractor, who in turn has subcontracted out the assignment.
Not only is it wise to meet the operations personnel but also at a minimum you should speak to the people providing support on the ground. By doing this, it will provide the only true sense of their skills, expertise and ability.
By taking time on the front end, you will save heartache and mistakes on the back end.