Every retail shopping center should have a defined and active customer service program to help shoppers and tenants alike. Many things happen in a shopping center each day. The greater the number of tenants in the property, the greater the potential is for customer problems and issues. You want to make it easier for tenants to come to and shop in the property. That is where customer service kicks in.
Many shopping centers outsource the customer service requirement given that staff issues are involved and people need to be employed. When you already have a fully staffed center management office, the extra people in the customer service team can be an extra complex burden that could easily be outsourced. The cost doesn’t disappear but the control and implementation of that extra team of people gets a bit easier through the outsourcing logic.
A Customer Service Model
So how can this be done? Think about some of these things for starters:
- You could place the customer service team into a facility management contract for the property where a number of other people are employed and or maintenance disciplines are also covered.
- The cleaning contractor for the property could employ the customer service team as an extension of their contractual arrangements.
- The security contractor for the property could employ the customer service team as an extension of their contractual conditions and services.
Why outsource this requirement? Well in any employment situation you get the added complexities and systems associated with wage standards, employment standards, staff performance, staff selection, and task accountability. It is preferable that the main shopping center management team is relatively small and specialised; the customer service team is however more general and on that basis can be separated off into a contractual arrangement.
What are the elements?
When you are considering the customer service strategies and support systems in a retail property, also consider the following related issues and services:
- Center management office – The office will need to be located on site where customers and tenants can get access on any issues and important events.
- Concierge booth – In a large retail property it is wise to establish a booth in the common area where customers and tenants can ask for help and or information.
- Security staff – The security people in the property will be a part of helping customers with information.
- Directory boards – What types of directory boards will you be using? Where will they be located?
- Brochures about the property and tenant mix – Get some informational brochures printed for the property.
- Website – Your website should include details about the tenants, the products and services, and how to connect with the right people in the property.
- Marketing plan – Put customer events and local celebrations into your marketing plan.
- Common area use – Look at the common area in the property and understand how customers use the area. Can you improve it so that customers stay longer in the property?
- Risk management and emergency responses – Things will go wrong in the property and the tenants and customers must know how to find the right people and get help. The customer service point and or team will be part of the resolve.
- Lost and found – Keep a register of the things that are lost and found in the property. Track the events and the issues. Keep addresses and names of the people involved in any such event.
- Signage – All of the signs in the property should be checked for presentation, quality, and information. Make it easy for shoppers and tenants to move around the property.
- Car parking – A user friendly car park will help customers with access when they need it. Ensure that customers can get to and fro the property in a practical and direct way.
- Services and amenities – All the amenities in the property should be well maintained, clean, and easy to find. Remember that you will have an array of people visiting the property including young families, children, the elderly, and the disabled. All levels of customers and members of the public should be well served in the property.
- Opening times – There will be times where the property is very busy. There will be peak times of access where things will get pressured with motor vehicles, public transport, and people moving around. Ensure that your property is designed and maintained to help that people movement.
- Public transport and taxis – If the property is moderate in size it is likely that you will have drop off points adjacent to or in your property for public transport. Look at the signage and access issues from the public transport points of entry to the property and the malls or common areas.
- Valet car parking – In any large shopping center it is normal to have a valet parking service for customers. The staffing of that service should be part of the customer service model.
- Car washing – You can install a car park washing station in the property and lease it out as a tenancy. Rents will apply and a standard lease should be established for a fixed period of occupancy.
It is possible that your retail property or shopping center will have other customer service issues to add to this list. Importantly you are to be servicing the customer and their shopping experience in many different ways. When you put the customer at the center of your retail property and its daily performance, the sales potential and the success of the tenants starts to improve.