By Keith Aubele and Grant Cowan
These are unprecedented times in our world, our lives and, of course, our industry. As front-line defenders, loss prevention leadership is in a critical position.
We have multiple fronts that we need to protect. First and foremost is the protection of our customers and employees. Then we have the products we sell, and the need to protect the profits that our respective companies generate. Finally, we have a leadership role in evaluating how prepared we were for this crisis, and what we can begin planning for today to ensure we are better prepared for the next crisis. In these times, loss prevention’s position of knowledge and expertise is essential to the safety and success of our companies, while also navigating these unchartered waters.
Here are a few things that we can do to help our companies make it through these challenging times.
As asset protection and loss prevention practitioners, we wear multiple hats. Safety is one of these. Ensuring the safety of both our employees and our customers is vital. Let’s look at some of the smart trends being put into practice that make perfect sense today.
Encourage social distancing on the sales floor. Keeping customers and employees separate is challenging, especially in a service industry. However, I subscribe to the 10-foot rule. I know that 6 feet has been the standard, but in retail, a 10-foot rule has been in place when deploying great customer service. If a customer comes within 10 feet of you, you address them and offer your support. With a slight modification, a 10-foot distance rule can be applied for added safety.
Use video analytics like loitering and queue management to help monitor and report areas where customers and/or employees are congregating. Salient users can access this automatic oversight to help teams identify and correct customer and employee behaviour to help maintain healthy social distancing.
Install physical barriers. Using plexiglass guards between registers, creating pass-throughs for handoff of merchandise, eliminating reuse of shopping bags, and encouraging curbside pick-up or delivery, all helps to protect customers and associates.
Constantly clean and sanitise your stores. Using a scheduled and frequent cleaning approach will ensure all key areas are cleaned and sanitised to reduce the risk of virus spread. Having all associates use gloves is advantageous, if they are available. Also, providing cart and hand sanitiser is a great method of defence.
Encourage buddy checks. All too often, we see employees that will work through illness as they are driven towards getting the job done. In this environment, that could prove disastrous if someone ignores symptoms and continues to work alongside others. If everyone takes a moment to make sure their buddy is okay, and not showing symptoms, then it could go a long way in keeping those who may be sick from endangering others.
Protecting Store Assets
We know that criminals never take a break. As a matter of fact, savvy and professional criminals will exploit a weakness to ramp up their theft operation. Therefore, now is the time to be on our highest alert for internal and external theft opportunities.
With fewer employees, management and shoppers in our retail facilities, thieves have a much easier time stealing those items that will either be returned at a later date, or fenced for resale. A retailer’s ability to use Salient’s video analytics and TransactionTracker™ to help monitor loitering, potential theft activity, and suspicious behaviours is critical in this crisis. Being able to save time and expedite relevant information should be everyone’s focus when protecting store assets.
Criminals know that staffing is slashed, and we know that traditionally our frontline of defence, shoplifting agents, are typically the first to be cut, which could be a recipe for disaster. By engaging video analytics and similar tools, we can still defend at a time when our headcount may be limited.
Here are some things we can encourage our retailers to deploy to protect assets.
Limit returns during this crisis. Not only is it dangerous to receive items from an unknown external source, but putting a stop to merchandise returns stops the ability of thieves to get instant cash from theft.
Use video analytics to identify key theft indicators – both internal and external. Salient users have deployed video analytics that can alert employees by radio when potentially unfavourable customers have loitered in an area for an extended period of time.
Employ uniformed guards to provide a visible level of defence and deterrence.
Start or increase in-store security calls or announcements to alert would-be thieves to your vigilance. These announcements can also be automatically announced with Salient video analytics over a traditional radio system or an IP speaker.
Advise employees to be extra alert to theft attempts. Aggressive hospitality will go a long way towards deterring a potential theft.
Ensure all signage, public view monitors, shelf monitors, and other security tools are fully functional and in use. The ability to use a video system that minimises bandwidth, like Salient, can allow more users to connect remotely and verify signage and other security tools from their desks. Dynamic Resolution Scaling allows more video, more users, and more sites with the same bandwidth.
Keep in contact with retailers in your area and share information. In our profession, we have never seen other AP or LP teams as competition. Now is the time to band together and keep relevant on trends and criminals that are impacting your local area.
Stay close to your law enforcement partners. Keeping in communication on risks and trends is critical during crises.
We have the role of corporate gatekeepers in protecting profit and mitigating risk at the highest level. The greatest reward an LP executive receives is when his or her team is recognised for their job in adding to the bottom-line profitability of the corporation. Keeping a sharp prevention focus during these times will help your company in many ways.
Our future lies in our hands. During this time of crisis, we should all become better students of the business and, more importantly, in the business of crisis planning. There is not a better time than now to be completing an ongoing correction of errors on what is working and what isn’t working in your organisation. Your leadership is key, in that not too many people in your company have the ability to properly effect or influence continuity and crisis planning like you do. Seize this moment, this event, and prepare to be better prepared next time.
Dust off your continuity plan and update it with the relevant information you are learning during this crisis.
Now is the time to begin work on developing one if you do not have an active continuity or crisis plan in place at your organisation. There are many resources out there (ASIS International is a great start) to help you put a plan in motion.
Take the leadership role in continuity planning. If someone else in your organisation has this responsibility, you must request a seat at the table and play an active role.
Educate yourself quickly if you feel you lack knowledge in continuity and crisis planning. Make it your mission to dedicate the proper time to get educated as quickly as possible.
Put together a priority list of items and a budget to help deal with crises. By working on needs now, you will have time after this event passes to ensure you are working on getting your company aligned with the items they need in the future.
Engage a continuity planning partner. If you feel that help from an experienced crisis planner would make sense, look at engaging experts in this field.
Crisis planning is one of the most important hats you can wear in your company. With a crisis unfolding, now is the time to help educate your leadership on the importance of planning and anticipating another crisis. Then take the leadership to get a solid plan in place.
Hopefully, everyone makes it through this time with minimal impact. There will be business fallout at all levels. And, even more sadly, there is the loss of life. We must all do our part in preserving our business but, more importantly, preserving the health and safety of our people. Let’s all do our part!
Keith Aubele, CPP, LPP has over 30 years of senior executive leadership in global loss prevention, CSO, asset protection, risk management, and retail operations with The Home Depot and Walmart Stores. Today, as the founder of the Nav1gate Group, Aubele and his team provide senior advisory services to retailers and businesses around the world.
Grant Cowan is the Director of National Accounts for Salient Systems where he focuses on regional and national retail project design and deployment. Cowan serves as a trusted advisor to his customers by helping find creative solutions for the problems that exist for retailers and other customers. He can be reached at email@example.com.