Every retail shopping centre should have a customer service plan. That plan can and should be part of the overall property business plan created as part of the centre management strategy.
The object of servicing retail customers is to encourage ongoing sales and repeat visits to the property. Customer service is therefore a big part of the marketing focus for the tenancy mix and the overall property itself.
When you compare property types, retail is by far the most specialised when it comes to customer interaction, tenancy mix, and presentation. That is why many property specialists only choose to focus within the retail market segment; they tend to ‘live and breathe retail’. The selling, leasing, and management of a retail property are quite specialised skills for any agency to provide.
It is interesting to note that the commissions and fees charged within the retail property segment are generally larger given the intensity and complexity of the average transaction.
So let’s go back to the topic of customers and their importance within a successful retail property. Here are some general concepts to consider in servicing your retail customers:
- Make it easy for the customers visiting the property to find the help desk or the information that they seek. In larger properties you will have security staff and help desk staff employed for that very purpose. You should also have strategically placed directory boards and information booths to help customers find the tenants and the tenant types that they require.
- The maintenance contractors within the building should be trained to an appropriate level of customer service and customer contact. If they are to repair or maintain parts of the property during the working or shopping day, and particularly so in and around customers, then they should know how to interact professionally as part of the customer service plan.
- When it comes to larger shopping centres, there will always be challenges when it comes to security. Security staff should be chosen for their customer focus and communications skills, notwithstanding that security services will also be required.
- The renovation and upgrade process in a retail property can be ongoing and extensive. Shops and common areas will be regularly upgraded as part of the property presentation plan. Most renovation works and particularly tenant fit out works should occur outside of shopping trading hours. In that way you will not inconvenience the customers with construction noise and materials.
- If an area of the retail property is to be renovated, ensure that the works occur behind high level barriers and inside appropriate soundproofing. Cover the barriers with advertising and marketing material to promote the property whilst the renovation works are underway. In this way the customers will know what is happening and yet not be inconvenienced with and construction activity.
- The tenants within the property can be a big part of the customer service program. They should be trained in customer service as part of their involvement in the property and within the marketing program. The tenants are likely to identify a distressed customer needing help and can therefore direct them to the right place.
- Establish a website for the shopping centre that is interactive and comprehensive. The website should be up to date when it comes to retailers, the contact details for shops, property configuration, and trading hours. The online image for shopping centres today is quite important and integral to the marketing strategies for any retail property. Details of the centre management office should also be available on website. Make it easy for the customers to find what they need online before they visit the property.
- Understand how customers visit your property and why they do so. Understanding those patterns of property access will help you with common area configuration, and tenancy placement. There may be special customer access factors associated with public transport, car parking, entrance points, and security that require unique consideration. These things can be investigated further through a customer survey strategy on a quarterly basis. When customers feel inconvenienced in visiting your shopping centre, they will soon move to another location where they enjoy shopping.
From these things it is easy to see the importance of the customer in the success of any retail property. On that basis develop a customer service plan for the shopping centre and integrate the planet into the property business plan.