Keeping The Balance Between Customer Service And Retail Theft Prevention
How often have you referred to your Loss Prevention department as the “sales prevention department?” Every time I hear a manager, or even an executive say those words, it makes my cringe. To me, it’s the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. Why do we have that perception? After all, our goal is the same as the store operations group; sell more and loose less. I’ve learned through my career that there is a delicate line one must walk between to be able to stop shoplifting and provide great customer service.
My argument for anti-shoplifting devices were (and still are) this: If we don’t have the item the true customer wants because we were targeted by a thief, we are not providing the level of service our true customer deserves. In order to be a destination of choice, you have got to have the item that your customer wants, in stock, whenever they walk through your front doors. If not, they will go up the road, or down the block to the retailer that is ready and willing to take their money! Your customer also doesn’t want to feel like you think everyone is a thief, either. That’s why we can’t put everything behind a locked counter… There’s a balance and sometimes it’s downright a pain to deal with.
Earlier this year I was part of a team that was trying to address high losses in our pocket knife section. Over the past two years, this area of the store had seen so much loss that the category was not profiting. We were losing more dollars than we were taking in. A team was assembled composing of the buying division, the operations folks and the Loss Prevention department. We needed to address the issue of shrink without hurting the sales. I immediately offered the idea of utilizing something as simple as Checkpoint Labels, but I was dismissed at first. Imagine that. The buyer wanted to see how using a locking peg would affect sales. Their idea was to remove all anti-shoplifting devices from one test store, and add that same device to every knife at the other. Both test stores were stores with the highest shrink in knives. I couldn’t understand why they wanted to do this. I already knew what was going to happen. In one store, the knives wouldn’t be stolen, but they probably weren’t going to be purchased either. The other store… well, that was equivalent to a knife giveaway.
Thirty days went by and the test results came back. I was right. It was clear by locking the items up, we could prevent theft. It was also clear that our customers did not like the added hassle and avoided buying the product. Locking them up wasn’t a solution. We tried the Checkpoint Labels for another round of tests, and to my surprise, that really didn’t stop the theft either. The thieves were simply taking the knives out of the package, so the label was pretty in-effective for this application. After some trial and error (and a lot of customer confusion) we found that by using a Checkpoint Tag, we could secure the knife into the packaging. This greatly deterred a shoplifter since they had to take extra time to defeat the hard tag. While this didn’t stop thieves altogether, it did reduce our losses dramatically. The other great thing about this solution; it was customer friendly. Customers barely noticed the tag and it didn’t prevent them from handling the product prior to purchasing. We had found a winner.
For more information, contact us: Anti-Shoplifting, or call 1.770.426.0547