As a facilities manager for a retail chain, you probably don’t think what you do impacts your company’s bottom line. Or that you are in any way responsible for retail sales revenue. You would be wrong on both counts!
To be fair, until recently those statements might have been true. However, as more retailers re-imagine and enhance the in-store retail customer experience with the goal of increasing sales, HVAC and facility management are suddenly playing an important role.
Today, HVAC and facility management are tasked with helping to make the customer experience a positive one. That’s why facilities staff must be involved in supporting customer experience initiatives. Because if you’re not supporting them, you might very well be undermining them.
Why is customer experience so important in generating retail sales?
To understand the impact HVAC and facility management can have on in-store sales, you have to understand how and why retail shopping is changing.
Are the products you sell unique and truly unlike anything else on the market? Probably not. That means you’re competing with lots of other stores in your area. And of course, the entire universe of stores online. When people buy “commodity” products like these, they tend to choose primarily based on price. For most retailers (unless you’re Amazon or Walmart), you’ll often lose the sale in those situations.
That is the reason the customer experience is so critical to retail sales. People choose to buy from a physical retail store not only based on products and prices, but because they enjoy the experience of shopping there. Retailers are getting wise to this fact, and doing everything they can to make shopping more pleasant and even fun and rewarding.
How do HVAC & facility management contribute to customer experience?
The Retail Doc explains this concept of the new in-store retail shopping experience in an interesting way. He believes customers go to a store for an exceptional shopping experience, and that the product they buy serves as a souvenir of the shopping experience. The hunt for the perfect item is just as memorable and important an the product they choose in the end. It’s an experience shoppers want to repeat and will share with others.
Here’s how companies are providing that that kind of experience, and how HVAC & facility management play a critical role.
Make the shopper feel important and valued.
Apple is well-known for making customers in their retail stores feel like the most important person in the store. That experience starts with personal interaction with employees who personally attend to the customer’s needs, answering questions and making it easy to get what they want and need.
Other retailers provide features that make shoppers feel valued while also encouraging them to stay longer in the store, such as in-store cafes and lounge areas.
How does HVAC & facility management contribute to that kind of customer experience? It’s simple: shoppers don’t feel valued by a store that doesn’t bother to address comfort conditions. When your goal is to keep people in the store, and feeling like you care about them, you can’t tolerate a store that’s too hot, too cold, too drafty or that smells unpleasant. Facility management must prioritize keeping customers comfortable.
Cultivate happy employees.
The Apple Store example mentioned above touches on another essential tactic for providing an exceptional shopping experience: making sure your employees are happy. Nothing ruins the customer experience faster than a surly or downright hostile employee.
Once again, HVAC and facility management’s attention to store comfort are key. It’s hard for even the most cheerful and helpful employees to keep up the right attitude when they are shivering or dripping with sweat.
Encourage emotional response.
If the buying decision is not only based on product and price, then why do in-store customers buy? Mostly for emotional reasons: “this suit makes me look successful,” or “my kids will have a great summer with these pool toys.”
Forward-thinking retail stores use everything from lighting to music to video displays to encourage those emotional responses from customers.
Once again, proper attention to HVAC and facility management are absolutely essential. If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you may remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which states that physiological needs must be met before we can pay attention to anything else. That’s why, if shoppers are too hot or cold, they can’t even think about how your products might meet their emotional needs. They’ll be out the door and you’ve lost another customer.
Make sure your HVAC doesn’t destroy your customer experience efforts
Here’s the takeaway for facility management & HVAC maintenance staff: if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. If you don’t address it, upper management may decide to explore third-party HVAC facility management companies that can do it for you.
Facility managers have a lot to do… you probably feel like you’re carrying the weight of all your stores on your shoulders. And now you have to be concerned about retail sales and profits? We hate to break it to you, but you do.
The good news is, the right HVAC service provider can take some of that weight off your shoulders. Here’s how:
- Providing thorough preventative maintenance that goes beyond cleaning and actually improves performance.
- Identifying and fixing small problems before they cause disruptive breakdowns.
- Responding fast and fixing problems right on the first visit.
- Recommending system improvements that improve comfort conditions.
- Communication and reports that keep you on top of what’s happening at all your locations.
- Help with managing, prioritizing and budgeting for system obsolescence and replacements.
If you’re in the New York City area, feel free to reach out to Arista to discuss how we can help you provide the best retail experience to your customers.
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