7/9/2014 4:00 AM

Mind Your Business: Surveillance Cameras and Video Monitoring

Surveillance and video monitoring have become very affordable, easy to implement, and effective. For very little investment, cameras can stream video onto the internet so the owner can monitor and record activities in their business, on site or remotely. Data storage, that is image storage, is almost limitless; and the video history of the store can be kept in multiple locations for safety and replacement ease. Keeping logs and indexes simplifies filing to a few mouse clicks.

This video record has multiple uses. In real time, monitoring can deter violent crime, shoplifting, or employee theft. It can help address customer service by dispatching employees to underserved areas of a store, recognize a need for restocking merchandise, or securing a blind area on the premises. Monitoring your business from any remote location allows you the freedom and capacity to balance your family and professional life better.

Historically, employee surveillance focused on stolen trade secrets and theft of goods. When computers became mainstream, production, sales, key strokes, and time wasting became monitor-able issues. The company would sweep off all games and lock out internet sites, monitor key strokes for productivity, even keep hours worked time cards based on key strokes.

Call center managers then recorded and/or listened in on calls for training purposes. With video capability, safety and security concerns are addressed. Employees trained in safe behavior and conflict resolution may be better than those who are simply monitored; watching does not replace training. So, what are the effective uses of monitoring and surveillance?

Certainly watching the perimeter of the business, exits, entrances, and sensitive areas prevents break-ins and provides evidence when crimes occur. Monitoring the inside of the business after hours does much the same and helps detect fires, water leakage, earthquake damage, and other losses where quick response is vital. When the public is on the premises, crime prevention, safety, and liability loss prevention top the list of concerns. Video has been used to discourage criminals from choosing businesses as a target, to witness parking lot dings and accidents, to prove the illegitimacy of slip and fall claims, and generally to keep records of what did and did not occur.

The video record of events is a great training tool. Choose examples of good customer service, poor service, difficult customers, identify good customers on sight for new employees, good lifting techniques and other safety tips, correct and incorrect behavior, or any other teaching moment gleaned from the tapes can become a lesson viewable at the convenience of the employee rather than holding a formal session on expensive company time.

One restaurant client even holds an "Academy Award" dinner with tapes from the year. Worst tray spill, funniest moment, most bizarre event, or any other noteworthy clip. Perhaps if a customer goes out of their way to help a lost child or carry bags for an elderly patron, you can reward them with a framed picture of the event or a gift card. You cannot possibly see and know everything that goes on in your business without employing many eyes. Cameras and surveillance equipment work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a one-time cost which is very affordable. No vacations, no health benefits, reliable, accessible from anywhere at any time. And, their memories are flawless.

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