Customer Service as a Loss Prevention Technique

Never Argue with Customer

Loss prevention means ‘to prevent losses of company assets’. Shoplifting creates losses of one of the company’s most significant assets – their inventory.

To a new retail person the idea of dealing with a shoplifter (sometimes referred to as boosters but this is usually dependent on their methods) can seem quite scary but you really do not have a choice in the matter if you are to protect the company’s assets.

Always remember that your safety is most important. Never put yourself in harms way to ‘catch a thief’.

If dealing with a shoplifter conflicts with your ideas on customer service it is helpful to remember that great, focused customer service skills will help you through it.

Shoplifters look like every other customer so when you see a customer who looks suspicious you need to pay very special attention to them.

  • Be sure to make them aware of your presence through your greeting and approach.
  • Make a mental note of their physical description in case you are asked to assist in the completion of a police report later on.
  • Stay close enough to see what they are doing. Shoplifters like to hide behind racks and tables.
  • Start a conversation which engages the suspicious individual. Ask the basic open ended questions as you normally would to determine their needs.
  • Do not be deterred when the suspicious individual tries to make you go away. Continue to stay close and keep conversation going.

A real customer will probably enjoy your undivided attention but a shoplifter will likely become agitated because they won’t be able to shoplift when you are showing so much interest in them.

If this is the case, the shoplifter will likely leave your store and go elsewhere to commit their crime.

Teams of Shoplifters require a different approach. The point of team shoplifting is distraction.

One team member will demand the attention of one or more store associates or create a major disturbance that will leave the actual shoplifter(s) free to steal as much as they can carry while the disturbance is being dealt with.

Things to look for:

  • 3 or more individuals entering the store, usually heading in different directions; these teams rarely ‘shop’ together
  • all well dressed; possibly suits with oversized coats – some of these oversized coats have large, lined pouches sewn inside
  • they may be carrying lined bags which will defeat an electronic alarm system (EAS); these bags may carry the name of a well known retailer but, upon closer examination, you can see the bag is homemade and the retailers name has been  printed, fraudulently, on the front
  • unreasonable requests or demands for your attention

If you find yourself in this situation you will need to act according to the number of staff in your store at the time.

If possible one staff member should be dedicated to each of the ‘shoppers’.

Staff members should stay close to the suspects, make lots of conversation, maintain eye contact with the suspects bag or coat.

If you are alone, remember to stay calm and do not be distracted by whatever disturbance the ‘shopper’ is trying to create.

Place a call to the security department in your shopping center and ask that they come to your store quickly.

Make a mental note of the physical descriptions, as above.

These teams absolutely do not want to be caught because their livelihood depends on their success and they cannot afford to become known to the police.

So, once detected they will likely run from the store as quickly as possible and move on to another store.

If you are in a strip mall or stand alone store you will likely be able to get the license number of the getaway vehicle. However, do not put yourself in danger to do this.

Call the police and describe the incident.

You can become a major asset to your company by providing excellent customer service to every single customer who enters your store.

Customer service is the first, and most important, step you can take to protect your company’s assets.

If you use customer service and selling steps with every customer shoplifting incidents will be reduced.

Shoplifters case stores to find out their level of attention to customers. You definitely do not want your store to be known as one that ignores customers.

On the contrary, you want to be know as a store in which every customer is welcomed and attended to for the duration of their visit.

This will not only inspire customers to visit you again and again, but it will signal shoplifters to stay away.


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