The loss prevention profession has undergone dramatic changes recently in regard to the skill set needed to be successful within the retail industry today. The historic experience level has taken a paradigm shift from possessing an extensive law enforcement background to being viewed as a retail professional that can collaborate well with key internal stakeholders and build support in order to protect company assets while increasing profitability.
Collaboration and salesmanship in my eyes have moved to the forefront of competencies required specifically for any LP professional expecting to maintain a successful career in the industry. As a result, industry practitioners now must be able to sell programs, solutions, and strategies that benefit the entire business, including sales and growth, profitability, customer experience, payroll, and brand protection.
In the 1970s and 1980s, service in local, state, and federal law enforcement was the required foundational experience for most loss prevention leaders. Today the ability to collaborate with business partners has become the most important competency. The retail industry has begun to require loss prevention professionals to be more diversified in their skill sets as opposed to being considered too one-dimensional by today’s standards. As theft scenarios and policies involving such will remain, the strategies to address such must take into consideration the exposure liability and the impact on the greater customer base that drives sales. Loss prevention programs and solutions must strive to remain seamless and transparent to the internal and external customer base.
During a recent conversation with a young industry professional, I was asked, “How does an LP professional establish his or her own professional brand?” My response focused around two fundamental components:
- Providing “WOW” customer service and
- Continual professional development.
- Providing “WOW” Customer Service
The first means delivering outstanding customer service to the various business units that LP traditionally supports, including finance, inventory accounting, operations, and human resources. Customer service is not only answering your phone and responding to emails but also meeting much higher expectations. As the book Raving Fans by co-authors Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles indicates, there are three key principles that are pertinent to delivering a “WOW” customer service experience within any professional environment.
The first step is deciding what you want as your customer service model—how you want to be perceived by your executive leaders, internal peers, and business stakeholders. This not only impacts you as a leader but also resonates with the team you manage on a daily basis. Establish an individual and team presence within the organization that breeds collaboration as opposed to divisiveness. Focus on coalition verses silos, partnership not individualism. Distinguishing your customer service model definitely creates a communication segue to drive your department and team’s overall philosophy and ability to heighten awareness throughout your organization.
The second step to delivering this customer service concept is studying and analyzing your customer needs from a business support perspective. As with any new product launch, there’s a phase wherein the consumers’ needs are evaluated to ensure their needs are being addressed. Hence, you should test your customer service model constantly by obtaining feedback from your internal and external stakeholders to incorporate modifications to your vision as needed to be effective. No plan or blueprint to success works without changes being made throughout your professional journey. As internal and external business stakeholders need change, you as a professional must be adaptive in order to support these changes as well. The leader must anticipate these environmental changes and consider altering his or her three-, five-, or ten-year plan in order to remain aligned with the overall goals of the organization. As business strategies and visions are shared internally, the leader must listen carefully and evaluate existing programs for the need to initiate changes required to optimize success.
Lastly, the third step of creating a “WOW” customer service support model is delivering your vision plus one percent. In order to generate a raving fan, one must exceed every internal customer’s expectations on an ongoing basis, delivering a service to him or her that goes beyond the call of duty and creates a perception of consistency, which builds credibility. This will require a 360-degree evaluation of your customer service philosophy and avoiding complacency with respect to meeting your internal customer needs. To provide this level of consistency, your “WOW” customer service model will need systems, training, and alignment with the corporation’s goals.
Continual Professional Development
The second fundamental component of establishing your personal loss prevention brand is continual professional development. Being a frequent reader of leadership and self-help books, I often refer back to a quote by Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Life. He states, “The moment you stop learning, you stop leading.” My father ingrained this philosophy in me since my childhood.
Continual development doesn’t always include pursuing advanced collegiate degrees and certifications. However, it does take an unwavering passion to always work on your foundation as a professional in an effort to improve your skills as a leader. This can be achieved by identifying leadership publications by authors such as Jim Collins, Franklin Covey, Peter Drucker, and my personal favorite, John Maxwell. All of these authors provide unique methods of establishing leadership characteristics within yourself, which directly impacts your professional brand. Professional development has become a daily quest for me as a loss prevention practioner within the retail environment.
I’m often reminded that establishing a professional brand correlates closely with becoming a person of influence. You must first connect with people, empower others, and reproduce other influencers. This evolutionary process doesn’t transpire overnight. Loss prevention professionals must learn to create a sustainable personal brand that others desire to emulate and carry on long after you have parted ways. Establishing a loss prevention brand isn’t the easiest.
My guidance to this beginning LP executive was development of both a “WOW” customer service model and a continual professional development plan.This allows loss prevention professionals in the industry to create a set of positive attributes and characteristics associated with themselves throughout their journey in the industry.