Cellphones On The Salesfloor – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of It

The use of cellphones in the workplace has become more prolific over the years. It used to be that managers could put out a policy stating that the use of cellphones was strictly forbidden. I used to be in this camp and to a certain extent, I still am. As a Loss Prevention Manager, I saw the negative impact phones could have on customer service. Employees would focus on the phone at the expense of the customers. When the culprit was a cashier I would see the violators of the policy hiding the phone next to the register and texting in the midst of a transaction. That was totally unacceptable and did on more than one occasion result in a register error. Either merchandise was not properly scanned or the wrong change was tendered to the customer. In several cases, I had cashiers texting family and friends telling them to come in and go through their checkout lane. This would result in theft through passing or “giving back too much change” commonly known as cash theft. Of course, using the phone as a means of stealing from the store was the ugly of the cellphone issues. 

     The bad side of the cellphone conundrum is the customer service issues they cause. You have seen it, the sales floor employee looking at their phone and texting or looking through their music. Eye contact is almost non-existent. As a shopper, this drives me up to the wall. If the employees would spend as much attention to shoppers as they do their phones I can only begin to imagine the increased sales stores would enjoy. Now, as a manager in a college library, I have student assistants working for me who all have phones and most carry the phone in their back pockets. We have policies restricting when they can use the phone but often I have to correct them when they violate the policy and pull the phone out and begin texting. We have the policy in place for the same reasons that stores have (or used to have) the policy; to ensure customer service is the number one priority. Making the enforcement of the policy more difficult is that other supervisors are pulling out their phones and using them. This seems a bit hypocritical in my view.  

     There is a good side to allowing cellphones in a retail or customer service environment and it has softened me just a tad to the arguments in favor of them. If a store employee is on the sales floor and sees suspicious activity from a potential shoplifter the employee can quickly get in contact with a manager without looking for a store phone. 2-way radios are not always the most effective communication devices. Some associates keep the volume on their radios turned up and even if an earpiece is in use conversations can be overheard. I have had shoplifting suspects hear employees talking and drop merchandise as I was preparing to stop them for stealing. I have also seen customers get angry when they heard employees talking about them over radios. It could be talking about the customer’s behavior or something the customer was saying that was causing a disturbance. For example, the customer could be causing a scene about a return they were trying to do that was refused. Radios are just not always the best communication tool from a safety or security perspective. Cellphones make a convenient and more discreet method of communication and can even include text messaging which isn’t heard at all.  

     Another pro-cellphone argument is the ability to summon help in a store in the event of an emergency. As we see in social media today there is hardly a significant event that can take place without someone(s) getting it on a cellphone camera. From natural disasters to vehicle accidents and even active shooters, right or wrong people are going to get video and messages out and post it. The more employees that are allowed to carry their phones the greater the likelihood first responders will be notified quickly from multiple sources in the store. Think about the advantages this could have in the event of an altercation or robbery. Someone is likely to get through to authorities much quicker than if a store phone is the only accessible communication device. 

     As much as they can be a pain in the neck to retailers, cellphones are here to stay. By laying out expectations and policies regarding when they can be used managers can try to manage the use of phones while being flexible in allowing them to be in an employee’s possession. Who knows, such a policy might be a lifesaver someday…literally.   

Post Holiday Retail Blues

 

Did your sales meet, exceed or fall short of your expectations? Regardless of how they turned out it is likely they could have been better when you factor in your inventory shrinkage. Shoplifters, employee theft and paperwork errors all create additional loss that drain away some of your profits. What strikes me is that these losses are like adding insult to injury. You ordered, received, put the merchandise out and paid your vendor for it. On top of that you have your expenses, payroll, rent, utilities and more.

After all that someone, a shoplifter, comes into YOUR store with the intent to steal from you. They do not care if it hurts you, your staff and your family. They simply do not care about that. It is ALL ABOUT THEM. And on top of that it just keeps going on year after year.

But, shoplifting is no different than any other business problem. You can fix it the same way by simply paying attention to it and attacking it head on. The problem that most retailers face with shoplifting is the feeling of despair because you are not sure what you can or cannot do. What is legal? The Police seem to have little interest in helping you. The times you have caught a shoplifter have met with mixed results. The shoplifter seemed to get nothing but a slap on the wrist, if that.

So how do you attack the scourge of shoplifting? From a business’ standpoint is actually fairly simple. Cast aside the concerns about prosecution with the criminal or civil courts. We should be concerned about what could happen to us legally but the reality is you want a program to keep shoplifting from happening at all. You must get into a prevention mindset.

A prevention mindset or loss PREVENTION is exactly that we want to prevent the losses from occurring at all. Because when a shoplifter attacks us it costs us money, even if they are not successful. Not just the loss of merchandise but our time and expenses. 

The really great thing about a prevention mindset is that it costs us little in the big picture and actually is in alignment with our sales goals. Yes, you do need an anti-shoplifting system like a Sensormatic system but that is only fifty percent of the equation. 

Step one is to change the way you approach customers. Customer service is king here. Shoppers love attention. They are there for a little retail therapy. They are interested in purchasing something from you and favor the attention that your staff can shower on them. Answer their questions, help them make a choice or just let the customer know that you appreciate their being there.

On the other hand shoplifters HATE everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Shoplifters need privacy even if just for a moment to steal from you. They do not want any attention, assistance or help. They are there to steal your goods and YOU ARE IN THEIR WAY. So what should you do? Remember this, good customers want your attention at various levels depending on the customer’s wants and needs. Any sales floor staff that have any experience at all know when to turn customer service up or down. 

It starts the moment that the customer walks in the door. Every person that enters your store must be greeted. A greeting should include brief eye contact, a smile and a “welcome to (my store) how can I help you?” Very reliable studies have proven over and over again that impulse shoplifters which make up approximately fifty percent of the average retailers shoplifting losses will most likely not steal from you in that visit if they are greeted. This is a win-win situation. Good customers love the attention shoplifters hate it. However, you cannot stop there. Amateur and professional shoplifters will not be deterred by that alone. They require additional customer service. Approaching them to help, suggest additional items they may want to consider not only increases your sales to that customer but it puts the shoplifter on notice that they have been seen and are being observed. The shoplifter will try to shun that help. So what do you do in that case? Step back and still be in range to “help”. Many shoplifters will simply leave. If this is consistent then the shoplifter will go elsewhere to steal from a retailer that is not prepared.

So what is the second part? You must have a Sensormatic system. As much as we would like, we do not have unlimited payroll. We cannot be everywhere at once. Shoplifters look for or even create conditions where the customer to staff ratio is out of whack. That is where the Sensormatic system comes in. Merchandise that is higher value or frequently stolen is protected with a label or a hard tag. If the thief tries to steal it, the Sensormatic system at the customer doors alarms. Your merchandise is protected 24/7.

The combination of these two creates a pretty impenetrable wall that will reduce most of your shoplifting losses and at the same time increase your sales. 

And yes, Loss Prevention Systems can help you with both. As the former Director of Loss Prevention for several major companies I have worked my way up in the trenches from personally apprehending shoplifters all the way to starting and running LP programs for those companies. When you purchase your genuine Sensormatic system from us you get the training and support to fix your shoplifting problems.

Contact us today or call 1-866-914-2567 to find out more about our Sensormatic systems and getting your staff trained up to go on the offense.