Security in Retail and Entertainment, Who is Really in Charge?

The end-state for any effective security program is proactivity. Rather than chasing your tail responding to loitering, vandalism, safety issues, and customer concerns, you want a security program that anticipates and takes the necessary steps to curtail potential issues before they happen. For retail and entertainment businesses, this is often easier said than done. I liken it to a scene from the movie The Dark Knight Rises (link) when Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) sheepishly states, “I’m in charge,” to which Bane (Tom Hardy) replies, “Do you feel in charge?”

I’m not insinuating that your customers are villains like Bane, non-state actors hell bent on the destruction of your property and profits. However, when you’re running a successful retail or entertainment spot, there’s a point where your level of control is diminished and even non-existent when you have throngs of people coming to your property. When drastically outnumbered, your control becomes illusory, and the only thing that’s stopping you from losing control is the good will of your consumers. That’s a tough spot to be in. We’ve all seen events on the news where crowds take control of a shopping center or other establishment. At that point, it’s going to take a lot of security or police to quell their actions and regain control.

Like any psychologist in the movies will say, “The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.” So, let’s admit we have a problem: property managers and owners are not in control in retail or entertainment; the consumer is. Consumers are in control not just tangibly from the standpoint of breaking your stuff and taking it, but also intangibly through social media. This isn’t just a security issue, this is a public relations battle.

Impression of Control

Simply put, even though you know that your guests are in control, they feel that you are. I’m not talking about some grand Illusion conjured up on stage by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman; what I’m talking about is an actionable plan that does more with less, is cost effective, and creates an impenetrable image of safety and a positive guest experience.

The guests, even a small number if determined enough, have the ability to take control of your establishment at a moments notice. The point of your security program should be to never let them know this.Your security program (even a small one) can be executed for maximum visibility and engagement with your customers. Your security program can be meticulously planned, monitored, and reviewed to ensure it is proactive. And how do you achieve this mystical shield? Evaluation and statistics. Whoever is managing your security program should be keeping track of your incidents, finding trends and vulnerabilities, and adjusting your program to target these issues through prevention. If you can anticipate and increase your presence in vulnerable areas, you’ll see a notable drop in the types of incidents you’re targeting.

Questions for your consideration? Think about your current security program. Are your security staff…

  • ….proactive, or are they swamped with having to respond to a multitude of issues?

  • …easy to find and highly visible?

  • …accessible to the public and interacting in a positive way with your guests?

Positive Guest Experience as a Security Strategy

I know some of you took a step back in the last paragraph when I mentioned that your security program needs to be engaging with your customers. That’s understandable, since the current industry standard would suggest this is a bad thing. However, if properly executed by effectively trained professionals, it’s not. Instead, this is an emerging industry best practice and proven strategy that requires engaging with your security staff.

When I say, “I want my Security Specialists to engage with your consumers” what I want is my security staff to have positive interactions with your consumers. One of their primary missions is to act as an ambassador for your brand. They’re available for giving directions, helping jump cars, and giving lunch recommendations. Your security program should be a friendly face to your consumers, as much or even more than your organic employees. People take note of the demeanor of your security staff. If they are helpful, courteous, and engaging, they’ll not only provide valuable information but also act as additional sets of eyes and ears.

Another positive outcome of a “customer first” mentality is it is a huge boost to your impression of control. Anyone intent on doing anything harmful on your property can see that your security team is visible, engaged, and proactive, and bad actors will decide to go somewhere else. A proactive and customer focused security program increases physical security, reinforces your organizational brand, creates a seamless impression of control, and promotes customer satisfaction with and trust in your business. A proactive security team is a winning strategy for your business.

Marty Zalla

Marty Zalla is an Army Veteran with over ten years of military experience in overseas and domestic operations. He also has extensive experience in the security industry, risk management and mitigation, and asset protection.

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