Raising staff morale and boosting business confidence with access control
Among the many challenges facing the retail sector today, crime is one factor that can have a devastating impact on a retailer’s ability to trade. Damage to premises and fittings, loss of products and costly repairs can result in lengthy periods of downtime, representing a loss of earnings and a period of great stress and anxiety for all involved.
When violence and intimidation come into play in the retail space, the effect on staff, management and the general public can be great. Fear plays an important factor in confidence levels, so when staff are fearful of coming to work and customers are wary about re-engaging with a retailer after an incident, the onus to create an environment where people feel safe sits squarely with the management.
A challenging trading situation
A high-end jewellery store became the victim of three armed robberies in a rolling twelve-month period. Staff morale dropped to very low levels, with fears for their own safety having a direct impact on their ability to serve customers. From a management perspective, the inability to guarantee the security of the premises, the stock and the employees meant that the traditional approach to shop-keeping was no longer a sustainable business model.
After trying various strategies such as locking down customer entry, blacking out windows and online retail only, the decision was taken to blend some proactive solutions in order to meet key business objectives. These involved: protecting premises and products, ensuring the safety of staff and customers; offering a safe yet personable experience for both customers and staff when entering and exiting the store; ensuring a timely entry/exit process; and introducing acceptable controls that would not restrict the customers’ experience.
Preventative measures in practice
The business opted to trial a combination of online and in store, introducing an appointment-based system which would allow customers to browse products online and make an appointment to view and try products of interest in store. A simple, low-cost Axis solution was utilised, using QR codes sent to visitors which were read by the door intercom on arrival. This meant that the amount of physical goods held onsite at any one time could be reduced, limiting the effect of crime by holding in store only those pieces where pre-arrangement to view had been made.
Managing access to the premises was carried out using a network door station complete with a fully recording 180-degree camera. Reassuringly, a tv monitor connected directly to the door station displayed the view outside the door in real time, helping to further improve staff confidence. With an appointment-based system, using verbal and visual confirmation to enable staff to know exactly who should be visiting the premises and when, a safe and personalised customer experience was created. A confident greeting by a staff member who felt safe and secure themselves added to the experience.
Real time monitoring and surveillance
The installation of surveillance cameras would play a dual role of crime deterrent and remote viewing of the store for situational awareness if an alarm were to be raised. A panic alarm button triggers high frame rate recording on site while pushing low frame rate video to the remote viewer. A video verified report can be passed to the Police so they can decide on an appropriate response to any crime in progress.
When video is triggered an automatic audio warning is also delivered. The remote site can also take over the audio system and talk directly in real time to anyone attempting unauthorised entry. This gives the staff confidence that they can raise an alarm quickly and receive appropriate support from the monitoring station to deter a potential attack. When not in use for security purposes, the audio system can play ambient music to enhance the shopping experience, or even deliver pre-recorded announcements. In the current climate these could be reminders about social distancing measures.
Smarter security by design
In any environment, good physical security design is key to create the right balance between making a space secure and making it welcoming. The retailer in this example achieved this balance by using sleek and streamlined technologies which are not intrusive to the aesthetic of the shop. A door intercom which lets staff see customers through the integrated camera and/or via an IP connected desk phone or mobile app allows for control over the technology, even remotely.
No further incidents have occurred at this branch in the six months since the new security solutions were installed and staff training has enabled the business to resume trading with confidence. Morale has improved and staff feel confident in working with the new technology to better protect themselves and their environment.
While retail crime continues to present an ongoing challenge, the evolution of access control and surveillance integration means that there’s a solution for every business. By providing peace of mind to retail store staff and management teams and increasingly deterring would-be criminals with ever more intelligent solutions, we can continue to innovate for a smarter, safer world.