The customer experience is rapidly changing from one that is based on transactions to customer-led experiences that prioritize relationship building at every step of the customer journey. Some retailers are shifting to pick and order models where goods aren’t stocked at the stores while others are developing omnichannel experiences that allow customers to shop in their unique ways. As retailers strive to provide top-notch customer experiences and maintain their competitive edge, the importance of a well-managed facilities maintenance program to further these goals cannot be overstated.

However, with limited resources and ever-increasing demands, running a lean, full-capacity facilities maintenance program can be a challenging task. We've compiled these 10 tips to help you optimize your facilities maintenance program for retail locations. From proactive planning to strategic outsourcing, these tips will provide practical strategies to streamline operations, minimize downtime, and maximize your facilities' performance.

1. Know your numbers

Before looking to making any program more efficient, the first step is to understand the baseline operations of the current program by asking the big questions:

  • How much is typically spent on parts and materials?
  • What’s the combined provider cost?
  • What’s the combined value of personnel in procurement and accounting?
  • How much is typically spent on third-party maintenance work?

Getting a clear sense of facilities spending baseline allows for better tracking of future spend and how it compares over time. Reliable reference points make it easier to know what kinds of work should take priority.

2. Make technology do the work

A work order management system should provide information about what is happening at each retail locations. However, there are two important elements to keep in mind.

A system isn’t helpful unless it’s accurate.

Create a detailed work history by using a work order management system to record accurate check-in and checkout times, specific work process notes, asset information, parts and materials, and photo evidence of work performed. Without this information, it will be challenging to build a database for work at each and compare performance metrics.

A system should reflect the total facilities operation

Stores are filled with revenue-generating equipment and other assets. To a modern-day facilities manager, every piece of that equipment is an opportunity to track and manage data. Where is the warranty and lease information for each locations? What about important contact information or process knowledge?

Being unable to access this information risks wasting time and money. Even today, companies store much of their facilities knowledge in analog sources. Printed guidebooks, three-ring binders, and sticky notes are popular places—and also in the heads of employees.

Prepare for the day when those employees move on. Losing employees doesn’t have to mean losing what they know. Storing critical information in a centralized platform is a form of insurance against tribal knowledge.

3. Align your facilities plan with company goals

A facilities plan should be streamlined with the higher-level strategy at your company. This is because the state of facilities impacts nearly every aspect of a company. Make sure to organize discussions with heads of finance, legal, and brand strategy.

Legal: A snow-and-ice management program could have an impact on the number of slip-and-fall claims at any number of stores.

Finance: Installing energy-efficient devices will create long-term energy savings and reduce maintenance costs over the long term.

Brand: Brands tell a story, and customers form a narrative about a business long before they even walk through the doors. Well-maintained facilities help customers understand what the brand values—and that can solidify the brand’s reputation.

A strong facilities strategy can generate enormous value for these other departments and their leaders. It influences how people think, feel, and behave in response to a store. This strategy belongs in conversations about the overall mission, strategy, and corporate values.

4. Prioritize specific store locations

During challenging circumstances, setting priorities is critical. Identify specific business goals, like operational efficiency and customer care. Then budget time and attention as well as finances.

To begin, ask some key questions.

  • Which locations tend to have the most foot traffic?
  • Which locations have shown the greatest maintenance needs?
  • Are there certain trades that should be prioritized at those locations?
  • How much time is left on a lease? Will a location close, remodel, or continue as-is?

Reacting to repairs instead of being proactive about them will only lead to a slow deuteriation of a facility and the related brand equity that goes with it. Creating a priority schedule with preventative repairs and capital replaces will allow for more consistent budgeting and experiences.

5. Tap into a strong provider network

Creating a budget and using a work order management platform are two of the pillars to creating successful facilities that support customer-led experiences. Another pillar is a deep vendor bench. It's possible to maintain a roster of service providers, but that requires managing multiple relationships, keeping information up to date, and making sure invoices and paperwork are submitted on time. When an emergency happens or there is severe weather, this can only complicate the issue.

Using a third-party provider shifts these burdens and provides a deeper roster of vendors that can respond when needed. It also alleviates pressures of having to handle these back-office functions, allowing for more focus on the customer experience.

6. Educate providers on safety procedures

Retail locations that adopt a customer-led experience model need to make sure that all elements are operating as functionally safe as possible. This includes letting providers know about any specific maintenance requirements, potential hazards, or local requirements. Using a centralized work order management platform can be used to store this information so it is easily accessible to any provider called to complete a repair.

7. Bundle work orders together

Sending one service provider for each work order will quickly dent maintenance productivity—as well as a maintenance budget. Bundle work orders instead.

Maybe an overhead light has been out for days. Perhaps, one of several toilets in the customer restroom stopped flushing. Maybe, it is a lock on one of the doors not working. Rather than sending three providers for three work orders at the same location, schedule one provider to address all three. This will save time and money, and providers will accomplish more in fewer trips.

8. Consolidate invoices by consolidating service providers

For every provider, there’s a different invoice. And for every invoice, there’s a different set of payment terms, submission guidelines, and other particulars. Managing third-party invoices can quickly become time-consuming. It is possible to lessen the extent of this issue by consolidating providers and managing fewer invoices. Consider expanding their presence across your portfolio, and in different trades.

9. Get a handle on deferred work

It can be tempting to defer work until the budget is available. Maybe the repair doesn't seem like such a big deal yet. Maybe it is for a non-critical part of a location. However, seemingly small repairs or unrelated fixes can cascade to other assets and areas of a store. When looking to defer work for whatever reason, it is important to use data-driven analytics to make the best decision.

How work is prioritized will vary according to location and severity; however, strategies for tackling older work orders tend to fall within the same themes. Use a work order management system to track deferments and match this against the established budget and current goals. This will inform if some repairs will have to wait.

10. Identify opportunities for investment

For many retail locations, the assets could likely use a reboot. Traditional light bulbs could be converted to high-performance LEDs. Touch-operated restroom facilities could be converted to more sanitary touchless models. Getting through these changes will require capital investment.

Instead of thinking of these as one-time charges, think of them as facilities upgrades that will pay for themselves through efficiency and reliability. To help shoulder the initial costs, consider working with an energy services company, or ESCO. They’ll cover the initial funds, normally settled over a long-term payment plan.

Rethinking your facilities program isn’t easy, but how an organization adapts to uncertainty today could position for future growth and market share in the future.

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