Retail Real Estate Experts talk about their life and career on Bayfield Training Blog.
Managing Director, Livewire Performance Consultants Ltd
PATRICIA: You have been working with many different clients from various businesses for a long time now, in the UK, Europe, US, and the Middle East. How have you helped businesses around the globe achieve better performance?
AUDRA: We connect with the brand before anything else and capture the very reason why they are in business. We gain a perspective on the DNA of the client and match the training to their needs, their employees and customers. Mystery shopping them first helps me to gain an experiential advantage, seeing the reality of their supposed experience. We profile ourselves as one of their employees or customers and see what touch-points they hit on our journey…are they living the customer services they espouse? And what senses do they appeal to? What’s great about them? What do we need to change, increase or remove? Once we have our intelligence in place we begin designing the learning and performance content from there.
Once in class we raise their awareness and dig deep to make sure that every single employee knows and understands the vision and values of the company and how the customer service standards can be lived. This helps all of our clients raise the bar in customer service, from average to iconic, from infrequent service to consistent service, from simply serving to becoming a servant leader…that’s our aim…that’s our focus.
Everyone, no matter what their role, should be a Customer Service Champion, that’s their role…the job they do is a given…but everyone from the safety and security officer to the house keeper and retail assistant is in the hospitality business from now on!
PATRICIA: Is there a particularly challenging task that your client faced that you remember? And if so, what was the solution that you gave?
AUDRA: One open air shopping centre in the US had a problem with undesirables, drug pushing, prostitution and even a drive by shooting – we looked at the 3rd party partners (after a challenging week mystery shopping!) and realised their 3rd party partners, who were safety and security officers, housekeeping and car parking to name a few, were not servant leader focused and had no desire to put on their clients hat and live the brand. There was no collaboration on property to make sure relationships were formed, the brand was lived or the people were protected. Tenants and customers fled…so we proposed new tenders go out with specific customer focused and relationship edged contracts, that enabled collaborative thinking, training and working practices. Protect the employees and they in turn look after the customers. After the new partners settled in, the shopping centre won 5 gold and 1 silver MAXI awards for a variety of things including customer service. Families began to return and pour in…it really is the place to be!
PATRICIA: When companies approach you and ask for advice, is there a common aspect of problems that they face? If not, then what factor do you think is generally the most overlooked and may lead to poor performance?
AUDRA: Consistent learning and performance can be over looked. Once a client feels they get their people into position or to a certain level, they do not always see the reason to continue it! Of course, with growth, churn and complacency, learning and performance is always required…adding new twists and stories, facts and scenarios to keep it fresh and fun. We tell our clients to never practise service on live customers…if opening a new shopping centre for instance. The employees should be trained in their environment, the property, customer service and team/communications before they open. We have our delegates walking the malls and centres and picking out the good, the bad and the ugly, getting them to use their critical eye and treat the property as if it were their own!
Accountability is a huge issue right now…so training them early in responsibility, recognition and support is vital. Oh and the management have to support those who take responsibility for their roles and do the right thing…even if it doesn’t work out the way they hoped!
PATRICIA: You have presented at our Shopping Centre Investment Course about customer experience in a shopping centre. How does this link to the performance of a shopping centre and what are the main challenges that shopping centres usually experience in this aspect?
AUDRA: Iconic or remarkable customer service will always increase customer loyalty…we love to tell a great story about great service…but we enjoy telling people about bad experiences even more! So, providing remarkable service that goes beyond consistently, helps to gain traction and loyalty. Customers always want more…you just have to want to give them more….and then some!
One of the main challenges we often face is shopping centres who are willing to include tenants in training. The tenants have their own brand and that is not to be trifled with, however, the shopping centre has its brand also, and that should be shared so that the customer gets the same, great level of service and experience whether at the concierge desk, in the car park, in the restroom or in a store…everyone needs to be on the same page and know what the ultimate vision of the centre is. If one, two or more stores let the centre down, how do you think that affects loyalty?
PATRICIA: Lastly, as an expert in business performance, can you tell us about what you identify as the major changes that are upcoming in the near future that needs to be taken into account for successful business management?
AUDRA: We see personalisation of service blending with technology as a continuing advantage. Understanding the demographic and how millennials especially work, shop and play give centres an edge when it comes to designing in the right features, such as skate or ice parks, WI-FI plug in areas and grass/water features and payment methods.
But looking after your employees is just as important, wellbeing, mindfulness and colleague care are critical factors in making sure the service they give is remarkable. The workplace environment should be given considerable attention too, getting the best from your team can come from how well they are treated or how pleasing the workspace is.
Customer loyalty can be generated in a different way, through RIFD technology for instance…so that as you walk in a store, coffee house or even the car park, you are recognised, your favourite coffee can be made, a VIP car space is reserved, your last outfit details can appear to the store assistant, or on a smart mirror in the dressing room and you can gain discounts through VIP status etc…linking the mall with hotels and other amenities could again reinforce loyalty…whichever State or county you are in, you could benefit from a membership approach to a shopping centre/mall.
Use of 3D interactive ‘fun stuff’ that collects data and perhaps a centre that has a village feel help to increase linger times in this, the 3rd place, are all key. There is still room for bricks and clicks, we are seeing how people research on line for items, yet still like to touch, see and smell the items they wish to buy, so they collect items bought on line from a store.
Mixed use schemes are popular in the US…having residential above retail, but with a glamorous hotel flair and surrounding grounds…we are seeing this throughout the US and going into Canada