One Question to Improve Your Store Visits

For market, district, and regional-based loss prevention personnel, store visits are a key component of their responsibilities. Of course, there are many reasons for store visits, ranging from an investigation to a special event to a physical inventory. But none is more common, more routine, and more important for many programs than the audit where LP checks for compliance, monitors progress since a previous visit, and talks with store staff about what is going on in their store.

Non-Productive Visits

Having observed hundreds of inspections over the years, it has been my experience that the most effective field LP people are those who excel at the people aspect of the store visit. Almost any person can learn to audit for compliance. It is simply a matter of knowing what to check and what the current protocol or procedure is for the organization. However, because audits are usually measured against a standard, this is often where the focus lies.

One standard they are measured against is how many audits each staff member makes in a week, month, year, or per store.

Another standard they are measured against is average audit score by district, region, or LPM, often against an organizational standard that has been set by corporate. Alternatively, the measuring stick might be the amount of improvement that the stores achieve from one audit to the next.

While the motivations for all of the above are correct and necessary, they can sometimes lead to non-productive behavior where the focus of all efforts is to audit as quickly as possible, document the findings, give the store management team a congratulations or scolding, and move on to the next task, investigation, or store visit as quickly as possible.

Quality Time with Store Staff

The best LP managers are the ones who take quality time with the store staff—both management and front-line associates—to solicit input, share progress, and do one-on-one training. There are many aspects to being successful at this, but let me give you just one question that will immediately improve your interactions, your relationships with store management, and the success of your audit program:

“Before we review these audit results, can you please tell me some of the successes you’ve had and progress you have made since I was last here?”

That’s it—an open-ended question that invites the manager to talk about what they believe is going well. This accomplishes a number of things:

  • Builds rapport with the manager,
  • Allows for positive recognition, where appropriate,
  • Gives you a sense of where their priorities are based on how they respond,
  • Checks to see if their perception matches your perception of reality, and
  • Distinguishes whether problems are because they don’t know they exist or because they haven’t gotten to them.

This is just a short list of what you can determine with this question. For instance, you may have a manager respond with something like, “Well, really, there isn’t much to brag about. We’ve really been struggling operationally because…” And, then they will give you their perception of why they haven’t made progress. You already know they have not based on your audit, but now we start to get the reasons why.

We all get in a rush with all that is on our plates, but try using this simple question to make sure you have a meaningful interaction with the store team every time you are in the store.

The best LP managers are the ones who take quality time with the store staff—both management and front-line associates—to solicit input, share progress, and do one-on-one training.

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