When you think of loss prevention, you think of the obvious operational strategies against shoplifting, fraud, employee theft, and administrative errors. It’s likely that, as a retailer, you have many systems in place to stay informed about loss in your store, and to act when you’re alerted to an attempted theft.
However, hard touch loss prevention strategies only deal with shrink when it’s already on your doorstep, when a potential thief or an aggravated employee is already considering stealing from your store.
What if you could take a softer approach, one that makes it so that taking advantage of your store never even crosses someone’s mind? That’s what cultivating community clout can do for your business.
How community clout can be used as a loss prevention tool
Community clout is the amount of goodwill and positive notoriety that you maintain within your neighborhood and its inhabitants. It signifies your reputation with your customers and with your employees. The more you have, the more respected you are as a business and a community member.
Through the implementation of community-focused initiatives and relationship-building, you can garner the kind of community clout that does more than give your brand a good name – it can be used as a loss prevention tool.
Let’s face it: traditional loss prevention tools fall flat without the added benefit of community clout. If your business is not well-known in the community, or, even worse, has a bad reputation amongst your employees and customers, you won’t be able to organize your company around any loss prevention strategy. Your employees won’t respect you, and your customers won’t hold the kind of trust or loyalty that keeps them from acting against your business.
It’s true that building a genuine connection between your brand and your customers builds trust and loyalty. By encouraging your staff to get to know your customers on a deeper level than their transaction, you are laying the groundwork for authentic relationships, the kind where your employees can greet a customer by name when they enter your store. Not only are you positioning yourself as a friendly, neighborhood grocer, you’re also reminding your customers that you’re more than just a faceless organization. When your customers get to know your employees, and subsequently you and your brand, it will be more difficult for them to take advantage of your store without a guilty conscience.
In an article in Psychology Today, Sheila Kohler puts it this way, “It is easier to steal from an anonymous, large organization, than from an individual, easier to steal from someone who seems well-endowed, has so much more.”
This soft touch strategy benefits you two-fold when it comes to your customers, giving you a great reputation and diminishing thoughts of theft, but what about your employees? How does your community clout encourage them to uphold your loss prevention standards?
If you have an enviable amount of community clout, it’s likely that your employees are proud to work for your store. You have a great name in the neighborhood, and they’re happy to attach theirs to yours. If you keep your employees engaged, and compensated fairly, they’ll be more motivated to do a good job at work.
Research backs up this correlation between employee happiness and better work. A study by economists at the University of Warwick showed that productivity increased by 12% in companies that had happy employees. This productivity, in turn, will be translated into more profits for your store, but also a general commitment by your employees to do their jobs well, which includes ensuring that loss prevention strategies are being followed meticulously.
How to garner community clout
Now that you know how important it is to cultivate community clout for your stores, you’re probably wondering: how exactly do I go about getting it? We have a handful of tips to get you started.
Personalization is essential to building community clout, as it shows your customers, the people who are really your neighbors, friends, and family, that you know them and are focused on serving their specific needs. This idea can come to fruition through a multitude of tactics, from digital personalization like targeted offers in a mobile app and relevant advertising on social media to the most basic form of personalization, simply greeting a customer by name and having an authentic conversation. When your community feels like you know them as much as they know you, they’re less likely to become a threat to your loss prevention strategy.
Similar to, but not quite the same as, personalization, relationship building reflects a deeper level of understanding between your employees and your customers. Training your employees to spark authentic conversations with customers and endeavor to actually get to know them is a great place to start. As members of the community themselves, it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to find things that they have in common with your clientele.
This goes for upper management in relation to your entry-level employees as well. The more that you are able to build trusting relationships between every person who works for, and shops at your store, the less likely you’ll have to deal with a shrink crisis.
What better way to make yourself a staple within the community than by leading a few events and initiatives to help the people within it? Grocers across the country are coming up with innovative ideas to engage their community, from health-focused run/walks to community giving days where a portion of total sales goes to supporting local organizations. If you establish that you’re not only a part of the community, but a major supporter of its people, respect for your brand will come naturally.
Becoming an active and supportive member of your community is not only good for your brand, it’s good for your business. Cultivating community clout by intentionally encouraging staff to connect with your customers and by creating an engaging environment for your employees can act as a loss prevention tool. If you add this soft touch strategy to your arsenal, it’s possible that you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your shrink metrics, and in the way that your store is seen in your community.
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