With retail becoming even more challenging in recent years, those winning the battle, rely on a customer service oriented atmosphere to keep their share of the consumer market returning and creating brand loyalty amongst shoppers. Focus on Customer Service and your bottom line will reap the benefits.
Most Loss Prevention Professionals have adapted to this shift and incorporated customer service into their daily routines. Speaking with upper management, training store teams, and partnering with district or regional managers are a few examples of how loss prevention can incorporate the importance of customer service into their initiatives. Overall, this has not been a difficult transition as loss prevention professionals have long understood the importance of customer service in reducing external theft in a location. When we speak of how to recognize and reduce external theft incidents, customer service has always been an important part.
So why doesn’t the reverse always hold true? Why are there organizations that do not incorporate loss prevention when speaking of or training to customer service?
Have we, as Loss Prevention Professionals, not done a good job selling how our programs and initiatives blend with customer service? Have we overlooked or forgotten to show how many of the “best practices” in loss prevention for reducing external theft are actually the same “best practices” taught in customer service? Here are some examples:
Greeting the customer upon entering the location:
True customers want to be greeted and feel welcomed into an establishment. This is considered “good customer service”. Shoplifters on the other hand don’t want to be noticed, approached, or assisted. Greeting customers as they enter will make good customers feel welcome and at ease to approach associates with questions while at the same time make shoplifters uncomfortable and question the ability to steal with ease.
Servicing the customer throughout their shopping experience:
Overall, customers like, and often want, to be assisted throughout their shopping experience. The ability of an associate to understand the customer’s needs/wants and assist them with the “perfect purchase” is often a service sought by customers. In contrast, a shoplifter does not want to be assisted. A shoplifter most often attempts to remain “anonymous” and often refuses assistance. The more times a shoplifter is approached and offered assistance, the more frustrated s/he will become and the more likely s/he will exit without stealing.
Asking to hold items for the customer, at the register or in the fitting room, while they continue to shop:
This allows customers to keep their hands free to continue to shop and select additional merchandise to purchase. Shoplifters on the other hand do not want you to take their items away from them. They will have to begin over selecting the merchandise to they want to steal. In addition, you have approached, spoken to, and serviced them once again which means you are more likely to remember them if in fact they do steal from you.
Assisting the customer once they are in a fitting room:
This is another aspect of good customer service that most customers appreciate. A customer may need a different size or color and will find it helpful to have you bring it to them. Conversely, shoplifters do not want you to “bother” them while they are in the fitting room. However, servicing a shoplifter while they are in the fitting room can afford you the opportunity to hear them stuffing merchandise into their bags, popping sensors off of clothing or other items or even see them concealing merchandise in certain circumstances.
Checking back with the customer throughout their time in the location:
One of the keys to good customer service is to continually check back with the shopper to see if they have any questions or need additional assistance. By checking in with a customer, you may be able to increase the sale by answering questions about an item or adding on items that will compliment the purchase they are going to make. Checking back with a shoplifter annoys them and again, does not allow them the continuous “alone time” they look for when stealing.
All of these behaviors are taught during customer service training, yet all of these things help reduce the opportunity of external theft as well.
So, why is it that many outside of Loss Prevention often seem to forget to train to the loss prevention benefit associated with these behaviors?
Some would say we have not done our part to truly sell the idea of loss prevention as a part of customer service. Others may say loss prevention has a negative connotation associated with it and store ops and other departments often want to remain upbeat and positive with training.
Whatever the reason, those who manage to gain the partnership of operations in incorporating loss prevention as part of their customer service training and initiatives have been more successful in reducing the shrink caused by external sources.
What are some of the ways you work with Operations to incorporate loss prevention benefits into operational training?
Share your ideas by leaving a comment!
Shannon Hill, CFI, National Client Services Manager