JCK Show: Balancing customer comfort and staff safety

There is a delicate balance between keeping salespeople feeling safe within the store without allowing their biases to offend customers, said consultant Kate Peterson during a seminar on Thursday.

With biases being inevitable, awareness is the only solution to avoiding alienating customers while protecting staff. “It’s the nature of the beast; we all have biases of one kind or another,” Peterson said.

She asked jewelers to consider the concept of someone unknown ringing to be “buzzed in” through a safety door. What criteria determine whether or not that person is allowed in? Biases, she said, run dangerously close to the surface in decision making and emotional reactions. “What happens when someone who doesn’t fit the bill walks into your store? Do people react differently?” she asked.

Along with alienating customers, biases have the potential to create legal liability. Profiling on any grounds is dangerous and far too prevalent. Eighty-six percent of African Americans surveyed, for example, believe they have been treated differently in a retail store.

In dealing with possible bias situations, Peterson suggests the following steps:

* Don’t deny it is happening

* Don’t lean on policy only

* Hire right through thorough interviews and reference checking

* Be proactive in controlling the perception

* Conduct community outreach

* Provide diversity training for sales staff

* Mystery shop your own store

* Create a tolerance standard