As a CRA, when you’re looking to choose a public records research provider in a given jurisdiction, region, or even nationally, it pays to take a careful approach to crafting your RFP and evaluating the responses.
What is an RFP? An RFP (Request for Proposal) is a written request, issued from your company to a handful of service providers, asking for a bid for the services you need.
Below are some of the key areas your RFP should cover.
Your RFP should start with an introduction of your organization, an explanation of why you’re putting out the request, when the supplier’s responses are due, and when you would like the services to begin. Importantly, you should provide a detailed explanation of the services you are requesting, any budget expectations, and any other details that will help the respondent clearly understand your requirements.
In your response requirements you should, of course, include pricing as one of the response fields, but don’t forget about the other aspects that, as we like to say, “don’t matter until they matter.” There’s simply too much at risk to blindly hire the lowest cost provider.
You should ask prospective suppliers to address the following aspects of their company and their work:
Inquire about the history of the company and its mission and core values. Who are its founders and leaders? Is the company involved in the industry association, NAPBS? If so, in what capacity?
The supplier you select should run a tight ship when it comes to operations. This includes how it fulfills research requests, its use of third-party suppliers, and how it maintains quality control over online data sources. Be sure to ask about aspects such as their research fulfillment process.
Your customers expect responsive, knowledgeable service from your staff. In the same way, you need to know that your research supplier will be there to answer questions, give you updates, and address issues. Ask questions to better understand the supplier’s approach to customer service, such as average response times and how technology is used to facilitate communication.
Quality is a must-have for any supplier you select, so your RFP should help you assess the quality of your prospective supplier. Does the supplier make their quality metrics known? What does their training program entail? How do they handle defects? Can they back you up in the event of a dispute?
Talk is cheap. Your research partner should be able to back up their claims with real metrics. Ask for documented turnaround time averages and for all levels of court searches, comparing clear vs. hit TAT averages. Ask about the metrics that will be available to you on a daily basis.
Security Compliance and Business Continuity
Hardly a day goes by without news of another data breach, let alone another catastrophic event threatening to disrupt our way of life and our business operations. Now, more than ever, you need to know that your suppliers have compliance and risk management processes in check. Find out how your supplier protects PII. Ask about their security protocols and training programs. Do they have a records retention policy? These and other aspects of security and business continuity should be explored.
In a perfect world, you’ll have all of the metrics and status information you need at your fingertips. Be sure to ask your prospective partners to provide a sample customer dashboard. Check that is allows you to see TATs, ETAs, work in progress, and outliers by individual service.
Next, you should make your priorities clear. If price is your number one priority, say so. If the supplier’s technology platform is most important, make that known. If compliance is a top concern, make sure to note that here. Are there any criteria that are nice-to-have but not required? What factors will ultimately drive your final decision? The more you can clarify your criteria here, the better.
When are responses due? When do you plan to make your decision? When would you like the services to begin? Be sure to specify your timelines.
Probably our best advice to CRAs for writing an RFP for public records/background screening services is to be clear, concise, and reasonable. If you’re asking for a detailed response, give suppliers adequate time to respond.