In a retail shopping centre the concept of a customer service station works well, particularly with the bigger retail properties.  When you have plenty of people walking around a retail property looking to purchase goods and services, there can be confusion and special needs evolving with shoppers; those needs should be addressed effectively so that the shopping experience can be encouraged and improved.

Why do this?

Make it easier for customers to do their shopping and find exactly what they want in your retail property.  The tenants and the landlord will both see benefits from a Customer Service Booth and in that service helping customers with their shopping experience.

Before going too much further here, it is important to decide how this additional service in a shopping centre will be funded.  It is a cost component that should be written into a special budget for the property.

Service coverage?

A well-functioning customer service booth will assist property operations, and tenant identification across the broader property.  So who will be paying for this service?  The cost structure should be shared in some way across the tenant mix and the landlord.  The cost recoveries for the service booth should be incorporated into the shopping centre building budget through the outgoings for the property.  There are many stakeholders the benefit from the service booth in different ways.

The response elements?

So this is how it works.  When fully considered there are a number of functions to be fulfilled by a customer service booth in a shopping centre, such as those associated with:

  • Security services – On any day and at any time there will be events in a retail property requiring security response. You can centralise the security team coordination at the customer service booth during shopping hours.
  • Lost and found – When you have people visiting a property, things will get lost and other things will be found. You should have a register and system at the customer service station to control and note those events.
  • Injury responses – Slips and falls, and injury or emergency responses are part of shopping centre operations. A variety of floor surfaces combined with volumes of people create the ideal circumstances for personal injury and or emergency circumstances.  Every retail property should have a defined emergency response and a documentation process that records any injury or emergency.
  • Finding tenants – In a large retail property it can be a real challenge to find a particular tenant or tenant service. The people chosen to work in the customer service booth should be highly familiar with the tenant mix and the design of the property.
  • Directory boards or maps – The information booth can provide maps and brochures to help shoppers move around the property, and also find the tenant and or the service that they are looking for.
  • Maintenance controls and responses – When a maintenance response is required, the issues should be reported to the customer service station and the response activity could be controlled from that point.
  • Emergency responses – Ensure that the customer service team is well trained in the different responses needed for all types of emergencies and injuries. There will always be a variety of challenges when it comes to emergencies and injuries in a shopping centre.  The greater the number of people that you have moving through the property on a daily basis, the greater the potential for emergency events.  The staff in the customer service booth should be trained for resuscitation, injury control, and risk management.
  • Lost children – There will always be issues with lost children in retail shopping centres; the problem gets more complex when it comes to the busier times of year when retail shopping is at its highest level of activity.. The staff in the service booth or area should be trained to handle this problem, integrating their responses with police and the authorities.
  • Competition controls and gift certificates – The lodgement of information and entries into retail competitions and marketing events could be centralised at the service booth. Gift wrapping can also occur at the booth for a small fee, and or a contribution to a community service group or charity.
  • Cleaning coordination – When you have people moving through a retail property continually, you will require special ‘day cleaning’ strategies and responses. The customer service desk can be the first point of control when it comes to cleaning coordination in the property.  They will be the first to hear about the cleaning issue or event, and can get the right people on to the job as soon as possible.
  • Risk management – Across all of the issues previously mentioned there will be factors of risk, injury, and risk management to control. The insurers for the landlord will have some significant interest in how risks are identified and responded to as part of the function of a customer service booth.  Choosing the right staff for the role and training them accordingly will be important.

It is easy to see and understand how the function of a customer service desk will enhance the daily operations of a retail shopping centre.  Some real strategies and operational structures should be considered to make the customer service booth effective and responsive to customers, tenants, and landlord issues.

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