October 2014

Good Customer Service Equals Robbery Deterrence

By Tony Gallo

Robbery deterrence in your vaping store can encompass many proactive methods and tools. However, effective loss prevention in the vapor retail business results from some critical practices and attention to detail. Good customer service, proper lighting, assertive signage, cleanliness and heightened awareness are proven effective measures that cost very little but provide the deterrence you need in protecting your business.

Keeping your customers and employees safe is not always easy. Years of experience and loss prevention studies have shown that the No. 1 robbery prevention technique is simply good customer service, which comes as a surprise to many business owners and managers. The easiest way to ensure you are aware of your customers and that they know you are aware of them is by simply greeting them in a proactive, engaging manner. Experience has shown the quickest way to earn more money in any type of retail environment is by properly greeting your customers. What is less well-known is that it's also the single most effective step you can take to reduce serious problems in your store.  

To be effective, the “customer greeting” needs to be sincere, consistently delivered by all employees and rendered immediately upon the customer entering the store. The best greeting is one provided by a cheerful, appropriately dressed, sincere employee, who forces the customer to acknowledge the employee. The best way to ensure exceptional customer greetings and customer service is to have an underlying company philosophy that places customer care at the core of one's business practices and to be certain employees understand it.

Some sample greetings are:

• “Good morning/afternoon/evening. May I help

you?” (This forces the customer to verbally respond.)

• “Thank you for coming in today. I have a (shirt, blouse,

slacks, etc.) just like what you are wearing. What may

I show you today?" (This greeting lets the customer

know you can identify them and forces them to

verbally respond.)

There are hundreds of other effective greetings. Observe employee greetings at other business establishments that you respect and choose a greeting you like and would recommend to your employees. Practice it at home until its use becomes second nature. By using an effective greeting you and your employees make the undesirable person in your store aware that you can identify them. Robbers do not want recognition.

Good customer service forces people to think twice before they decide to commit any kind of crime. A robber wants a situation that is fast, easy and low risk. Being on the floor and effectively greeting a would-be robber makes it harder, slower and increases the risk of their apprehension.  
When robbers choose their targets they look for easy marks, and vapor stores that present a poor appearance or have disheveled looking employees face an increased risk of robberies. It is very important to present an appropriate business appearance and image. Good lighting is a strong deterrent to crime. Ensure all indoor and outdoor lights are operational and used. Check lights at least once a day to ensure that they are working and that non-working bulbs are replaced. 
Ensure the outside of the store is cleaned up daily. During non-business hours people may have dropped trash in your parking lot, so make certain trash is picked up and properly disposed of each morning. A minute or two spent each day cleaning up the outside of the store will greatly reduce the potential for an undesirable person to enter. Remember, a messy store not only indicates you don’t care about your place of business, it also invites undesirables.
The inside of the store should always be spotless. Floors should be swept and mopped daily to ensure they keep a just cleaned appearance. Trash should be disposed of in appropriate receptacles and placed in the dumpster daily. When trash is removed from the store use the front door if possible and always take out the trash during daylight hours. The back and side doors of your store should only be used for emergencies.  
As an owner or operator, your customers' and employees' safety should always be your number one priority, followed closely by protecting the store’s assets. 

1) Be aware of your customers 

2) Be aware of your surroundings 

3) Be safe

Tony Gallo is the senior director of Sapphire Protection LLC (www.sapphireprotection.com) with more than 30 years in the loss prevention, audit, safety and risk/emergency management fields. Gallo is considered one of the leading authorities in high-risk retail loss prevention, armed robberies, smash and grabs, and burglary investigations. Contact Gallo at tony@sapphireprotection.com and follow him on Twitter @SapphireProtect.