RLT Group

Can the FM industry halt the demise of their retail clients?

Can the FM industry halt the demise of their retail clients?

First and foremost, we need one fact straight. The physical store is not on its way out. It certainly needs a revamp, and some will need closing, but it still has a role to play!

You don’t need to look very far to see that physical stores are not dead, but successful retailers are changing them. The reason behind this is simply because the role of the physical store has changed. It is no longer primarily a conduit through which goods pass to the consumer, but a conduit of passing on a great brand experience which is seamlessly linked to online presence. Consumers are (mainly!) humans and many simply enjoy ‘retail therapy’. That is, a day at a shopping centre is a great day out.

The reality is that retailers who embrace the need for great customer experience instore and adapt accordingly (often aligning themselves with complimentary retail brands) are actually doing a lot better than those who are racing to the bottom in terms of price.

So back to the question…
The FM industry may seem completely irrelevant to the need for great customer experience, but in fact, it has a huge part to play. There is nothing more frustrating to a consumer than when their great day out is spoiled by some asset not performing as it should, a poor experience with security staff, or even the integration between offline and online not being as it should. With the move towards TFM (Total Facilities Management) FM providers have a great opportunity to partner with a retailer to provide exceptional customer experience or be the reason for not providing it. Here’s four common areas that we see facilities managers can be instrumental in.

Attitude towards their clients’ portfolio…
It’s interesting to see that facilities managers with a great internal culture perform much better than a mediocre culture and add additional value to the retail environments they look after. FM organisations that invest in their people and have a great attitude towards their customer at every level provide truly outstanding service that has a direct impact on the success of the retailers they support. It can be something as small as ensuring jobs they complete are left looking great, not just doing the minimum to comply. The same goes for lighting and heating in store. Bad lighting is directly related to low footfall and the facilities manager is responsible for this. Ultimately, the staff may be employed by the FM organisation, and may spend all of their time in retail chains maintaining stores, but they should treat them like they would their own home.

Attitude towards their clients’ shoppers…
The role of the facilities manager is crucial to ensuring a great customer experience for the shopper. It is ensuring everything is operating at optimum performance that contributes towards ensuring the shopper comes back. For instance, if a till fails, causing longer time at the checkout, you have damaged the retailer’s brand. The quicker that is up and running again, the less damage to the brand. If manned security is part of the package, how do the personnel treat shoppers? Sometimes work is done instore during trading hours. FM personnel are seen to be one and the same as the staff of the retailer particularly at this time. A bad experience with any personnel employed by the FM organisation directly impacts the retailer’s brand.

The role FM plays in online trading…
Typically, the FM organisation will also have staff at distribution centres and their role in ensuring the operation continues to run smoothly is paramount. Again, the speed of rectification, the relationship with the staff of the retailer and preventing any asset failure where possible can be the difference between great and poor customer experience for hundreds of online shoppers. Power outages, breakdown in systems and poor workmanship can cause huge problems for distribution centres. Proactive facilities managers have a huge part to play in ensuring the retailer can deliver a great customer experience to online shoppers from order through to delivery.

Saving the retailer money through value rather than price…
The Carillion episode certainly was a lesson book in price vs value. Retailers who succeed are differentiating their brand rather than racing to the bottom and FM’s need to adopt the same mindset. It is a focus on innovative ways of reducing cost rather than how low in terms of price that creates value for retailer and FM alike. This can be anything from cross-training personnel to be able to perform more than one task through to unique and innovative methods of communication and having materials delivered to sites to save waste amongst the workforce. This focus can create much more value and save much more cost than focusing solely on price.

It comes down to culture
FM organisations with a great culture which is focused on the wellbeing of the workforce and creating long-lasting relationships with their retail clients are the FM organisations that are making progress. Any FM organisation that operates in the retail sector needs to understand the shifts that are happening in the retail sector so that they can adapt their offering to retailers. Once this culture flows through the organisation, the benefits are enormous for both the FM provider and the retailer. It will reduce costs, improve workforce productivity, improve profits, increase brand awareness, enhance the shopper experience and forge longer-lasting relationships. There are some great examples out there of FM’s and retailers who have got this right!

Ultimately, the FM industry does have a role to play in differentiating who wins and who loses in the retail sector.

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