This week we feature an article by Tom Buiocchi who writes about the importance of the “behind the scenes” work facilities managers do in order to enhance the customer experience. – Shep Hyken
When you think about how to provide excellent customer service, chances are facilities management might not be the first thing that comes to mind. This isn’t terribly surprising, given the work facilities managers do have been traditionally considered “behind the scenes” of the retail experience.
However, digital transformation has changed the game on who is responsible for delivering customer service and how. It’s all part of the critical need to deliver an overall positive retail customer experience that gives shoppers a reason to come into the stores instead of just surfing online. And when it comes to servicing customers well in any store, it begins with a warm, well-lit, safe, and welcoming facility.
So, all those “behind the scenes” work the facilities managers do – making sure all equipment is functioning properly, keeping stores clean, handling weather-related emergencies, managing contract workers, ensuring store security– is actually at the forefront as part of the customer experience. The goal is for all retail stores to maintain the highest levels of brand uptime, which directly correlates the state of a facility with the experience any brand wants its customers to experience.
3 Ways to Support Excellent Customer Service from Behind the Scenes
There are three major ways to enhance customer experience and service through strategically managing your facilities:
1. Keep Up Appearances
It’s no secret that the Internet has reshaped the in-store shopping experience; where the physical store was once the only way to interact with a brand, now the role of brick and mortar store has morphed into a “showroom”, or a way for businesses to connect with consumers through experiences and amenities. This puts an even greater emphasis on store appearance. Stores must be clean, visuals like decorations, mirrors, shelving, and installations must be kept in top condition, and equipment like registers, HVAC units, and lights must be fully functional.
FMs do the work that makes all of this possible, like monitoring store conditions, managing all of the repair and maintenance work that keeps things in tip-top shape and tracking everything’s repair histories and warranties. Facilities managers are always looking ahead so that instead of reacting when things go wrong, they anticipate potential issues and address them before customers can even begin to notice. The result? Customers never experience burnt-out lights, snow-covered entranceways, broken air conditioning, dirty floors, or tumbling decorations, leaving them with only positive in-store experiences.
For businesses that have more than one location, consistency is another key aspect of customer service. Chain brands need to standardize customer experiences across locations; the look and feel of stores should be the same no matter which one a customer visits. Centralizing facilities management operations can help ensure this consistency.
2. Turn the Focus Back to Customers
Often, retail businesses don’t have specialized facilities managers. Instead, they rely on individual store managers to handle repairs and maintenance, in addition to their regular duties. This can cause a number of issues because of the time-consuming nature of these tasks. The result is that store managers have significantly less time to focus on customers.
Implementing automation software that takes care of scheduling repairs on its own, as well as hiring experienced team members dedicated to FM, can free store managers from in-the-weeds facilities work and give them back the time and resources they need to give customers the best possible service.
3. Optimize Customer Flows
Strategic use of space is key to creating great in-store customer experiences; how and where amenities like dressing rooms, services such as cash registers, and products are situated within stores affects what customers see, how they move, and whether or not employees can serve them properly. Poor space planning can lead to negative consequences like crowds that block easy access to products and long lines that customers have to wait in to pay.
Facilities managers should be involved in space planning because they have unique perspectives and expertise in equipment and assets. They can ensure that assets both internal— pipes, wires, and ducts— and customer-facing— registers, shelves, tables— are strategically located so that they create smooth customer movements.
Additionally, FMs can oversee space optimization initiatives like moving shelving or updating displays, which are especially important for creating special customer experiences during times like the holiday season. It’s facilities managers’ jobs to execute space changes during off-hours to minimize any impacts on customer experience.
Businesses are now competing in a marketplace where customer expectations are elevated. It’s no longer enough to just present products anymore; stores have to create in-store experiences that delight shoppers in order to earn their business. To be successful, companies need to maximize their stores’ potential and use in-store experiences to set themselves apart from the pack. Don’t sleep on facilities management, since it can be the difference between delighting customers in-store and driving them away.
Tom Buiocchi joined ServiceChannel as an Executive Director in 2014. Tom has more than 30 years of experience leading growth companies in both technology and energy services, including Drobo (CEO), Brocade Communications (CMO), Rhapsody Networks (VP Marketing), FMES (co-founder and COO), and Hewlett-Packard.
For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.
Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: The Other “E” In Customer Experience: Customer Effort