The primary role of security officers in any business endeavour is to ensure the safety and security of assets, staff, and customers. A close secondary duty – perhaps much closer than people realize at first glance – is to provide various forms of customer assistance or customer service to shoppers. Oftentimes, these two roles are so intertwined with each other that to be effective in the first (safety and security), a security officer must also be adept the second (customer service).
There are endless variations and derivatives of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, it has been proven time and again that first impressions can make or break a business. In most establishments, the security officer is the first person a potential customer will have actual physical interaction with, and how a security officer conducts himself or herself during this first encounter can create a lasting image on potential customers’ minds: Do the security officers look the part? Do they smile and greet customers at the entrance? Do they look like they can handle themselves in potential emergencies? Do they seem like they are properly equipped for their duties?
In the minds of shoppers, they will have answered these questions already within the first two minutes of seeing security officers and answering “yes” to all these questions is a good start.
Most customers will approach a security officer because they need assistance. Whether asking for directions, asking for help in finding a missing companion or panicking because their wallet was stolen, these customers will usually be in some state of emotional stress. Under such circumstances, the ability of the security officer to communicate clearly with the customer is placed at the forefront.
An important part of effective communication is listening, specifically active listening. Being able to echo a customer’s concern back to him or her creates the impression that the customer has the officer’s full attention and that the officer is taking the call for help seriously. Other important communication skills included good eye contact, an even tone and appropriate body language.
Keep in mind that a lot of conflicts arise because of poor communication. By the same token, most – if not all – misunderstandings and confrontations can be resolved satisfactorily with good communication and a genuine intention to come to a conclusion that is pleasant to all parties involved.
The ability to put oneself into another person’s situation and understand the “other side” is both an innate gift and a skill that can be honed through practice and constant interaction with people. Security officers who are empathic to customers’ needs can elevate the customer experience because not only are they able to make customers realize that the latter’s grievances or complaints are not only taken seriously, but also understood by people who genuinely care. Another facet of empathy that can elevate the customer experience are security officers who have the initiative to assist customers who may not explicitly call for help or assistance but need it nonetheless.
In the face of a very tense encounter – such as an irate customer, a botched attempt at theft with the perpetrator caught in the act or a medical emergency, emotions can run high. Often, acting based on strong but fleeting emotions can become a cause for panic, escalation or breaches of civilized conduct. It is therefore of utmost importance that security officers maintain respect and professionalism as much as humanly possible by talking in even, reassuring tones and addressing customers, other business personnel and even potential criminal perpetrators with respect.
If it comes to a point that the security officer is forced to defend himself or herself (or other people around) from verbal or even physical assault, the officer must ensure that the circumstances are well-documented, that others around him or her are made aware that there is no other course of action but to act defensively, and that as soon as the situation is brought under control, the officer immediately resumes a respectful and professional posture and attitude.
Customer service is something security officers in retail businesses should be trained for. The interactions they have with shoppers require them to have good people skills and be able to anticipate their needs. What good is a highly-trained security guard if he drives customers away? There has to be a good balance between their duty to protect and role in providing shoppers with the best customer experience they can get.
Customer experience is something we at Prosek Security value greatly. Our security officers possess high-quality training so they can make your shoppers feel how valued they are. Get in touch with us and we can show you how we can provide you with top-of-the-line security services while contributing to one of your business’s main objectives: making your customers happy.