As retailers struggle to combat the worsening problem of shrink and theft, they’re also engaged in battle on another front—getting store employees to file incident reports. All too often, we hear that stores have given up reporting, and police state that without incident reporting, they cannot take action. It’s a vicious cycle.
Retailers have invested in incident- reporting technology over the years but are finding that it does not completely solve the underlying problem: store employees don’t report theft when it happens. Yes, improper training plays a role. Additional factors include low employee morale and feeling like “nothing will come of it” when they do report theft to retailers and local law enforcement. This happens when there are rarely enough follow-up actions or consequences on theft due to resources or legal constraints within the judicial system.
The longer store employees bear the direct burden of crime and theft coupled with a lack of action, the less they feel compelled to report incidents.
Better Incident Reporting Starts with Proper Training
Encouraging incident reporting among store employees starts with proper training and continuous support and education. Training in-store employees on the basics is imperative, including what to look out for, what theft can look like in its various forms, and most importantly, how to stay safe when crime is happening. Regular reminders and safety training can help keep this information top-of-mind for employees.
Next, retailers must train and retrain employees on how to report an incident quickly and accurately when it happens. Walking through the incident- reporting process on the store’s case management platform on a regular basis ensures quicker, easier, and more complete reporting.
Create a Follow-up Process to Ensure Success
As my colleague Ray Adams, COO of ALTO USA, frequently talks about, the best way to reinforce incident reporting is to ensure action is taken once an incident is reported. The key is creating a system that unites staff, community, and law enforcement. And Adams agrees: “Getting to the root of the problem in a community not only helps to reduce crime in stores, but also helps to create meaningful change that can impact a greater group of people.”
An example of this process in action is the ALTO Alliance, a team of in-store customer success specialists (CSSs) who partner with retailers and employees to provide boots -on- the-ground support through in-depth training and, more importantly, relationship building. CSSs foster trust and build relationships with employees as well as local law enforcement by holding in-store meetings with lead officers and highlighting store problems. From there, they work with attorneys to ensure shoplifters get charged, evidence gets collected, and people get prosecuted.
This process, starting with timely reporting by employees and ending with concrete legal action and support from law enforcement, is the key to bolstering your incident-reporting program and ensuring it is successful.
The Key Is Building Trust
We have seen this play out too many times—theft and lack of reporting on an endless loop. But there are two realities: one in which this continues and one in which communities come together to close the loop. We can’t expect to reduce crime and shrink in stores without the proper training and support for our frontline retail workers.
At ALTO, we believe that human connection and community can make the most direct impact. And we have found that the support, encouragement, and training of our in-person specialists bolsters morale, strengthens in-store relationships, and increases complete incident reporting by our employees.