Finding a solution provider that best fits our loss prevention needs in an ever-evolving retail market is something that must reach well beyond the latest gadget or technology being offered. In a world where change and innovation are driving the success of the business—one where the status quo only exists in the moment—decision makers must venture beyond those that simply sell a particular product or service and are capable of serving as true solutions partners that work hand-in-hand with our loss prevention teams to tackle the latest industry challenges.
But what does it take to be a true solutions partner? How do they go about approaching their business partners and establishing the foundation for real and lasting solutions—and relationships—with their loss prevention customers? For perspective and input, we turned to executive leadership from three leading solution providers to discuss some common themes.
What would you consider to be the most important factor that separates one solution provider from the next?
EWTON: One of the leading factors that elevates a solution provider is their level of service and support. In other words, the ease of doing business with the provider. This includes all aspects of a symbiotic relationship: conceptualizing a potential solution, evaluating a system pilot, creating system specifications, pricing continuity, deployment logistics, system commissioning, ongoing training, product warranty, and technical support. It also includes the solution provider’s agility to prioritize the customer’s needs and ability to understand that the customer’s urgency is often based on fluid requirements.
ISCH: Innovation is still one of the most crucial factors. The opportunity to find new ways to streamline efficiencies and reduce shrink is always critical to our retail customers, especially those that can bring operational value across the organization. It’s scalable performance—do you have the right team to see the needs of your customers and create solutions that may not exist yet to fix problems?
NORTHRUP: Loss prevention innovation is a vital component that separates solution providers. As traditional anti-theft devices become more vulnerable, loss prevention suppliers must adapt and develop more advanced security solutions that reduce or eliminate the significant causes of shrink. Implementing innovative and effective loss prevention solutions that mitigate losses and safeguard profitability is critical.
What are the most important questions that decision makers should ask before choosing a product or a solution provider?
NORTHRUP: Does your LP solution help increase sales as well as reduce shrink? Many solutions just lock up product, which does protect it but can also diminish potential sales. Does your LP solution improve category management while reducing labor costs? The more time employees need to work at securing product, the less time they are spending with customers. Does your LP solution integrate with your current LP environment? Retailers should be looking to reduce complexity as much as possible, while still providing multiple layers of theft protection. Having disparate systems and solutions means higher maintenance costs and less integration.
EWTON: We’ve witnessed other solution providers spend a tremendous amount of resources getting the installation “sign-off,” without any—or very few—resources available for system life-cycle management. This can leave the customer feeling like they’re stranded without any system support. There are questions that will help ensure the solution provider is taking a holistic approach to the solution, such as:
- What is your methodology to help ensure the deployed solution will meet project expectations?
- What is your view of this solution’s life-cycle management?
- How will I use today’s solution and infrastructure to support future needs?
- What is the warranty support for the next five to seven years?
- How may I participate in new product development?
- How easy would it be for me to pick up the phone and speak with the president of your company?
ISCH: Security itself doesn’t have a shelf life, so a customer should ask questions from a growth perspective. How will you bring solutions to my business that are both valuable today and provide ROI justification for investment in the future? Any solution provider can bring product today. Do they maximize your security infrastructure and help you achieve the most return for your security spend?
What do you feel is the most common mistake that solution providers make when dealing with their customers?
ISCH: Making sure to ask enough questions—and the right questions. This can be overlooked in our industry and is a mistake that often hurts everyone involved. We can’t properly take care of our customer if we can’t visualize the problem holistically. Bringing the right loss prevention experts to the table and examining the scenarios from an outside-in, 360-degree perspective will help drive successful outcomes.
NORTHRUP: While cost plays a significant role in every business transaction, choosing a loss prevention solution provider is much more complex than simply taking the lowest bid. When evaluating costs, companies need to consider the cost of the product, cost savings to the bottom line, time savings, and labor savings, while also considering the sales lift of the implemented solution.
EWTON: The most common mistake is presenting a message that one size fits all. Each customer has a unique set of challenges and constraints. A responsible provider must be conscientious, open, and flexible in order to collaboratively design customized system requirements. Providers should also understand when to facilitate leveraging partner resources to fully support the customers’ challenges. Today’s providers should introduce trusted integration partners early on when conceptualizing how to address customer needs.
In addition, not all solution providers include customers in the beginning stages of product development. This is the only way to ensure the products fully meet the user’s challenges and helps to solve their pain points.
What personal qualities or character assets do you think are most important for solution providers to possess?
EWTON: Honesty, integrity, understanding, and reliability are the most important qualities that every solution provider should exude. The customer needs to be able to trust that
the solution provider will maintain open channels of communication and full transparency for collaborative problem solving. With any large, long-term deployment, issues are going to surface whether it is product availability/development, logistics, or simply meeting established deadlines. Agreeing on common goals and regularly communicating mutual performance expectations only proves to strengthen any professional relationship.
ISCH: Solution providers need to be excellent listeners. Sales people usually want to talk, talk, and talk. It should never be about, “Here’s what we have,” but more about working hand in hand in a strategic partnership. That’s how world-class companies formulate a strategy. You’re not burning empty calories. Rather, you’re finding the right solution based on as many perspectives as possible. Go wide and deep into the organization to see who is impacted and how their daily role changes based on security.
NORTHRUP: As mentioned, innovation in product solutions is key. Creativity is also a must, along with adaptability, preparedness, and the ability to deliver. It’s also beneficial to work with a solution provider that can provide a wide range of solutions for every area of the retail environment, has a history of building strong partnerships, understands retail and the impact of loss prevention solutions on the overall store environment, and factors all of those assets into the solutions they provide.