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 more diversified loss prevention skills.
As theft scenarios and policies involving such will remain, the strategies to address them 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 conversation with a young industry professional, I was once asked, “How does a loss prevention professional establish his or her own professional brand?” My response focused around two components that are now fundamental loss prevention skills:
- Providing “WOW” customer service, and
- Continual professional development.
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Providing WOW Customer Service
The first skill 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, several key principles 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 loss prevention 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 rather than individualism. Distinguishing your customer service model 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 as needed to be effective. No plan or blueprint to success works without changes being made throughout the journey.
As internal and external business stakeholders need change, you as a professional must be adaptive in order to support these changes as well. Leaders 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.
Continual Professional Development
The second fundamental component of establishing your personal loss prevention brand is continual professional development. As 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.”
Continual development doesn’t always include pursuing advanced degrees and certifications. However, it does take an unwavering passion to continually work on your foundation as a professional in an effort to improve your leadership and loss prevention skills. The former 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 practitioner within the retail environment.
Read the full article, “Developing Your Own Loss Prevention Professional Brand,” to learn the third key step in delivering WOW customer service. The original article was published in 2016; this post was updated March 19, 2018.