An old saying (and honestly, I may have made it up) states that Good Loss Prevention is simply Good Operations. Therefore, if we have the correct brand standards and adhere to them, we will have fewer losses.
The reason is simple. Most intentional and unintentional losses are the result of two things: Opportunity and Behavior. It is, of course, an imperfect world, and there is no perfect system. But the greater the number of opportunities for mistakes, errors, or unnoticed theft, the greater the likelihood of occurrence.
Likewise, the larger the variations in behavior, the greater the probability that some of those behaviors will be detrimental to our loss and performance goals.
The former are loopholes in our system, and the latter is a result of human psychology. The systemic issues are easy to address. Most companies have a clear vision and plan of effective operations. Finding and fixing is about adding policies and processes for improvement and removing policies and procedures that hinder.
If brand standards were a simple matter of systematic processes, every company would operate exactly to their vision. Brand standards, however, are a combination, or an interaction, of the processes and the behaviors. Therefore, having brand standards, the expectation that employees are doing the right things in the right way is not the same as actually “having brand standards.”
Brand standards will reduce losses. But only if the theory and the practice are aligned.
Broken Window Theory vs. Half Day at School
American psychologist Philip Zimbardo formulated the Broken Window Theory. In short, he postulated that when small things like vandalism, graffiti, petty crime, and states of disrepair existed in a neighborhood, then it was more likely that more significant crimes would ensue. In other words, broken windows left unattended were gateways to worse things. He contended that if we swiftly dealt with these smaller items, we could avoid advancing toward the more concerning items.
Today, the theory is both applauded and criticized. Although the theory’s champions and detractors disagree on the exact mechanism of cause, evidence supports that when we enhance our focus and fix the small things, the more significant problems stay at bay.
Companies don’t have a lot of broken windows, but they often suffer from the Half School Day attitude. And yes, that I made up. Most school days are regulated. Classes and activities are scheduled. There are assigned seats and talking amongst friends is minimized. There are, in other words, enforced system and behavior standards.
Except on half days. Especially those preceding a holiday or vacation. On those days, things are a bit faster and looser. Kids may sit next to their friends, and there is less serious work, classes may be shorter, parties may incur. It’s still school, there are still conduct rules, but there is a lot more leniency.
And therein lies the real question to our brand standards. Do we have locations operating like a half school day every day? Because if we do, then we’re not protecting against loss; we’re promoting it.
Not Draconian but Not Freestyle Either
We don’t want our brand standards goals couched in a draconian set of rules and regulations that create an environment in which no sane person would work. But, on the other hand, no matter how “fun” our product is, we can’t allow an utterly free-style approach.
We want our brand standards to equal a great experience for both our customers and our employees. And, when properly executed, those standards can greatly assist in reducing our losses or at least the opportunity for losses.
Having neat and clean locations, orderly processes, an easy-to-understand service model, and straightforward and understandable policies that demonstrate the “how to do something” are the foundation of brand standards.
The key to effectiveness, performance and fewer losses is to inspect those standards, remain firm on their execution, and remove obstacles that hinder them. The process creates a culture that minimizes mistakes and oversights, no idle hands can cause issues, and an environment exists where we notice things out of place and when things are wrong.
And that is good loss prevention.
About the Author
Raymond Esposito has over 30 years of loss prevention experience, working within the department store, specialty, and grocery segments of retail. He has developed loss prevention programs for over 130 retailers in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut and is an expert witness.