Interview with Hedgie Bartol, LPQ, LPC
Bartol serves as business development manager for the retail segment in North America at Axis Communications. In this role, he works closely with partners and retailers on strategic surveillance installations designed to maximize loss prevention and streamline business operations. Bartol is a well-known industry advisor on video solutions.
The role solutions providers played in 2020 changed immediately when the world locked down this spring. With little or no travel, meeting with customers and prospects to support their technology programs required a different approach. We asked one industry advisor how he and his company pivoted to make a difference this year.
What has Axis learned this year?
It’s been one heck of a year. We’re all learning how to work in new ways with plenty of different tools and platforms. What the kids have been doing for the last fifteen years finally caught up to us and fast! Besides learning new tricks and maybe a couple of TikTok dances, we’ve learned the importance of being human. Playing a supportive role may not make you a quick dollar, but it’s the right thing to do. Everyone has heard it a million times, but it is the truth—we are all in this together, and we have to work together and interact with each to get through this year and next. Even if that means taking a mental break or being a friendly face on the other side of a Microsoft Teams call and sharing a joke or two.
How has Axis positioned themselves this year with the loss prevention community?
Early on, the retail team made a conscious decision not to be opportunistic and to be as supportive as possible for the community. We made sure that if someone reached out to us that we did everything we could to assist, even if that meant helping them find the right answer that wasn’t neccessarily an Axis solution. For example, Axis fielded many questions about thermal cameras—they are very expensive and are not meant for medical use. And at the end of the day, when we go back to our pre-COVID state, you’re stuck with an expensive camera that bears little functionality. While the sales from those cameras would have been nice for us, it simply wasn’t the right thing for our customers in our minds. Beyond that, we attended the happy hours on Zoom, we signed up for the webinars, and we tried out the virtual trades shows just as we would if we were in person.
What ways did Axis get involved?
Axis prides itself in its culture. One of our core values is “Act as One.” This means many things, but to us here, it means being supportive and helping each other out. We extend this piece of us to our customers, partners, and entire ecosystem. We strive to nurture thought leadership in the retail industry, and during these tough times, we wanted to be that resource for LP and AP professionals. The best way to do this is listening.
We created a weekly meeting called Axis Retail Open Mic where retailers could share information, experiences, solutions, and current issues. We know that our yearly Retail Leadership Forum, where retail end users can share, network, and discuss challenges they face, has been well accepted amongst leading retailers. These ongoing calls include a mix of US and Canadian retailers helping and learning with each other as 2020 has thrown everything at them. Retail doesn’t have borders; therefore, we united our teams in the US and Canada to collaborate and invite all retailers in North America to attend. Our calls are a variety of technical, emotional, and sometimes just a good laugh to shed some stress. In the end its about supporting one another. Our attendees have said, “Having a person to lean on and share experiences with has gone a long way this year.”
One of the great outcomes for us was to provide learning opportunities for retail teams such as the de-escalation webinar we did with Bottom Line Matters and the Loss Prevention Foundation. There was a need in the industry for this type of information to deal with and mitigate aggression in the workplace, and we were happy to provide it. We’re always listening and encourage anyone to reach out to us with ideas for future topics.
What is your outlook for retail in the new normal?
This is a great question, and everything is still very much a fluid situation. But retailers are resilient and have learned a ton during the shutdown whether they stayed open or had to close for a bit. First and foremost, brick-and-mortar stores are not going away. They are evolving. Through the pandemic, it has forced that evolution on many retailers, while others have been a step ahead for a few years. The future of stores might include a smaller storefront. Secondly, customer service will also go through its own evolution to provide an enhanced customer experience. This will include an increase in technology use including the camera but beyond surveillance.
What’s next for Axis?
Well, we aren’t out of this yet. The retail team will continue to “Act as One” and be a resource that retailers and the loss prevention community can lean on for help. We will continue to encourage the community to work together, assist each other, and be mindful of our mental health. We will remain ready and willing to lend a hand. Simply reach out to us, and you may be surprised in how we can help.