In the retail industry, holiday shopping accounts for about 20 percent of annual sales. In the final few weeks of the year, it’s easy for retailers to feel overwhelmed—with not only an influx of shoppers—but the added pressure of needing to tie up loose ends before January 1st. These weeks can make or break the year and creating a positive customer experience that’s memorable is essential for continued success.
For this reason, retailers need to strive for 100 percent Brand Uptime in order to meet customer expectations, maximize sales and revenue, and deliver a positive customer experience. The preparation must have an omnichannel focus. It starts with digital realms such as ensuring your website can handle the influx of visitors in the weeks leading up to the new year as well as the months following. But for most retailers, the key factor will be how well they prepare brick-and-mortar stores for increased inventory and foot traffic.
For the latter, retail facilities management is at the forefront and are tasked with keeping store locations in peak condition amid the hustle and bustle of end-of-year shopping. The state of retail facilities plays an important role in the customer experience — it can turn them away or entice them to spend more.
An optimal facility requires being proactive with facilities maintenance — a yearlong process, especially if multiple storefronts are involved. Technology designed for facilities management can provide increased visibility into operations and assets, support automation, and make preventive maintenance more efficient.
Let’s take a look at four areas facilities managers should focus on to be ready for the new year:
Scheduling preventive maintenance
Getting ahead of potential problems is the essence of a retail facilities manager’s job description. It starts with taking care of routine maintenance of interior and exterior assets. Keep the customer in mind as you anticipate equipment that will need tune-ups or replacement before the end-of-year rush.
Creating and managing a preventive maintenance program helps facilities managers stay on top of tasks and ensures they are completed without interfering with business, especially during this peak season.
With proper planning and scheduling, routine maintenance can be completed during off hours and/or slow times of the year to limit impacts on customers and business operations. Many retail facilities managers are employing specialized software to assist in handling the scheduling and coordination of routine maintenance, improving efficiency and freeing up time for more important tasks.
As facilities managers look toward the new year, it’s smart to look back and review prior season spend and get ahead of any issues. With analytics technology, retail facilities managers can get a deeper understanding of their operations and how they can do better moving forward.
Relationship building with service providers
Even with the best preparation, there is the possibility of unforeseen repairs or service needs. If critical facility functions (such as HVAC systems, lighting, and restrooms) aren’t working properly, having the right team of contractors in place can resolve these challenging circumstances quickly.
If you have positive contractor relationships, they will prioritize your needs if an emergency occurs during the season. It’s a busy time of year for everyone, so build goodwill throughout the year through regular work orders and prompt invoice processing and payments.
Great relationships are built on trust, which requires honesty and open communications. Businesses can achieve this by working with their vendors on a set of key performance indicators that they can hold each other accountable. These KPI can be the basis of regular, evidenced-based performance reviews with the goal of making each other better.
Manage in real-time with mobile tools
Keeping tabs on multiple retail locations is a challenge, but mobile tools designed for facilities managers can give visibility into assets, service work, and store condition remotely – a huge help when it gets busy.
For example — during the year-end rush, assets might be brought in or moved from other locations. There are mobile technologies that allow facilities managers to tag and track all assets across multiple stores. This makes it easier for FMs to view up-to-date service requests, warranties, and service providers for each piece of equipment, minimizing potential errors and costly emergency repairs.
Automate where possible
During the busy time of the year, facilities managers can easily get bogged down in paperwork, phone calls, and coordination. Leveraging the technology available to support facilities management can boost efficiency, allowing work to get done, invoices completed, and payments made without spending hours at a desk.
For example, a store manager arrives for his shift and realizes the HVAC isn’t working properly — a major issue for customers and employees. When a work order is put in, the facilities manager can automate dispatch for pre-assigned providers (in this case, a preferred HVAC contractor) and the issue is able to be resolved quickly with minimal impact on customer experience. Creating an automated process for the work order life cycle saves time for all parties involved.
In retail, the weeks leading up to the new year is a chaotic time; not only are stores busy, but everyone’s lives are busy. Putting systems and technology in place that support facilities management all year pays dividends during this critical retail season. Are you prepared?