Your #1 Theft Deterrent = Customer Service

by Andrew Hoeft | Feb 28, 2017 12:00:00 AM

When it comes to deterring shoplifters, more retail professionals realize that the best defense can be a good offense. That is, it’s not enough to catch shoplifters once they have taken an item. All efforts should be made to ensure that they never even get a chance to steal.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Catching shoplifters in the act is an inherently reactive method of loss prevention. The shoplifter has already taken an object, and you’re attempting to react and stop them from leaving the store.

But we know this doesn’t always work. The chance of a shoplifter being caught, overall, is an abysmal 1 in 48. This means that nearly every shoplifter gets away with stealing from your store. Even when caught, the “stolen” merchandise usually is discarded in case of product tampering.

On the other hand, deterring shoplifters by ensuring they can’t steal anything in the first place is a proactive strategy. Not only do you minimize the chance of a shoplifter getting away with stolen goods, but you also reduce the chance that they’ll try to come back and steal from you again.

Obviously, that sounds great! But how do you do it? You might ask. How can I deter shoplifters from stealing from my store?

Simple. Excellent customer service.

Excellent Customer Service – The Ultimate Deterrent

Here are a few factors that go into a great customer service experience:

  • Personal Recognition – Each and every customer is a unique individual, and should be identified and treated as such.
  • Respectful, Polite Treatment – Employees should never be rude to customers, and should always treat them with the respect that they deserve.
  • Knowledge – Knowing your store and knowing your products conveys professionalism and confidence to your customers.
  • Empathy and Understanding – Taking the time to look at a situation from a customer’s perspective, Understanding their feelings and needs can be extremely helpful when providing customer service.
  • Being Professional – Your employees are professional, and the conduct of each employee reflects upon the company. These actions have a significant impact on how customers view your company.
  • Being Aware – Awareness of customer service abilities and of the needs of customers is crucial to providing great customer service.

How does this have anything to do with shoplifting?

Simply consider that most shoplifters are opportunists. There is a small percentage of them who steal for profit, but most of the time, shoplifters don’t plan on stealing at all. Instead, something catches their eye, and they make the snap decision to steal. The best way to prevent shoplifting relies on reducing opportunity.

Opportunity is the number one requirement for a shoplifter. They need a chance to get away from sales associates, other staff, and other shoppers to steal items.

Incredible customer service can reduce these theft opportunities in many ways. Great customer service means that any sales associate in the area or department where a potential shoplifter is should be aware of their presence and attempt to engage with them, understand their needs, and provide an exceptional customer service experience.

Even if a customer turns away the assistance of an associate, the battle has likely been won. Knowing that your associates are around and possibly watching likely eliminated any perception of opportunity “to get away with it.”


Incredible customer service should always be a priority. Not only does it create a more loyal consumer base and help reinforce the values of your corporate brand, it can minimize the opportunities that shoplifters have to steal proactively.

Active, eager, and happy associates who are providing an excellent customer service experience have a great idea of their surroundings, some customers present, and the needs of each one. This allows them to identify and deter potential thieves before anything is stolen.

So focus on an excellent customer service experience. Not only will you minimize shrink and loss, but you’ll also grow your business, create a happy, loyal, and satisfied customer base.

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