Grosvenor Engineering Group: How we use data to improve visitor and tenant experience in retail facilities

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When it comes to retail, the space is changing, but one thing remains constant: customer experience is everything. For Grosvenor Engineering Group (GEG)’s National Manager of Business Development Michael Brooker, making sure their teams are using data to positively impact the customer experience is at the core of what they do. According to Brooker, “data is the new gold”.

What do you see as the trends from 2022 to 2023 in retail?

Retail was able to bounce back through COVID. Retailers were able to pivot and adapt while focusing on ecommerce. Some consumers were really adoptive of the ‘click and collect’ mentality, so it kept the space going. Others favoured visiting centres and preferred real customer service, essentially leaning more toward traditional retail, particularly for larger Purchases.

But now it’s about getting people back to have a coffee, buy ice cream for the kids or take a leisurely stroll through the centre, ‘making it an outing for the day’. Property owners and managers that we work with have a very good understanding of the consumer market and it’s all about ‘the true customer experience’.

The customers we partner with have introduced cafes, restaurants, day-care centres and recreational activities alongside cutting-edge marketing campaigns. It’s all about increasing foot traffic earlier in the week to have a more even spread of visitors to their properties.

Clients are now wanting more from their service providers. There is a real appetite to move to Data-Driven Maintenance and Fault Detection Diagnostics, due to the financial, operational and customer service benefits they provide.

And, for us at GEG, the thing we are most focused on is customer service. That is at the key of everything that we do. Retail is all about acting now. We need to make sure we remain nimble and that we are acting at the moment. It’s a fast-paced environment compared to commercial, and we use all our actionable insights from data to make sure that everything is maintained, elevating the customer experience within the built environment.

Qualified in refrigeration and air conditioning with 26 years of experience, over the last 24 months, I have noticed a pattern. Clients that are considering HVAC, Fire, Electrical and PropTech service providers are looking for proven experience with data. Data is the new gold.

Clients are looking for vendors who continue to invest in technology solutions and have proven capability to adapt as time moves forward.

How does GEG obtain this data?

Through our unique in-house specialist auditing team and process, coupled with data extracted from the 22,000+ buildings we service to identify root causes of problems. This enables us to take proactive action via service teams integrated with and supported by Virtual Technicians (VT). VTs allow hour-by-hour fault detection and diagnostics. VTs acting as virtual assistants to service teams are helping us evolve labour-intensive maintenance to be more data-driven and ‘just in time’ before equipment failures.

Do you see customers as changing their behaviours in response to the data?

Absolutely! Property owners and managers have had to diversify how they manage their properties. For retailers, they have had to recalibrate to ensure a better customer experience. In retail, the overall experience of shoppers is paramount. Whether it’s their comfort or safety, a pleasant shopping experience without service disruption is key. In addition to this, the end goal of our services is to increase the asset value of our client’s retail property and reduce their outgoings, as well as make the asset more appealing in a competitive marketplace to prospective tenants. In addition to this, it’s about increasing customer dwell times. To do this you need accurate data to make timely recommendations for repairs, replacements and/or upgrades.

The difference that makes the difference in our industry is:

  1. making sure you have a proactive approach to maintenance, and
  2. making sure you have access to quality asset data to make informed decisions about your properties.

So it’s about being fully informed and finding out what works for all of these parties.

For example, you want an air conditioning unit to be running at its best, so that you save in the future on maintenance costs. We focus on poorly performing or sick assets for property owners, managers and retailers. The only way we track all of this is through data, fault detection and statistics.

Clients are now wanting customised maintenance scopes created by verified statistics, essentially ‘walk the talk outcomes’. In turn, they are now more than ever looking further into the future as they implement long-term strategic asset planning across their facilities.

Clients are also looking for financial, and operational transparency. In addition, looking to build trustworthy business relationships to help understand complex data sets. It’s one thing to have data, but clients are wanting vendors to articulate it in a way that makes sense to their business. There is also a strong appetite to better understand equipment performance in relation to sustainability.

Do you find the businesses that GEG works with want to take on these new technologies? Or do you find people pushing back?

Like with any technology, there are: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

The primary pushback is that businesses are happy to receive technology, but at this stage, some are not willing to pay for it. This typically comes from a lack of understanding about the technology itself. Other times businesses haven’t seen or heard of the technology and they don’t feel there is a benefit to their organisation. Businesses tend to want to stay with what they know or have always done as it’s the safe bet. This is where partnering with an experienced PropTech company is key.

Companies that have proven experience in new technologies should be able to have within their suite of services ways of extrapolating the benefits of such technologies using data.

At GEG, we have many wonderful clients we work with who see the long term strategic value in new technologies. This has led GEG to be able to successfully implement many technologies. These technologies include an analytics platform that fully supports fault detection and diagnostics, chiller optimisation, sustainability data reporting and cyber security solutions for operational technologies across our Australian and New Zealand client base.

Do you find that there’s a roadblock with the large one time cost that people won’t look to the future of it being a long-term saving?

It’s not a problem, but it definitely can be a challenge. But like every challenge, you just need to find the right solution.

GEG has always used data to look into the future. A key differentiator of Apeiron by Grosvenor is the way we can be more effective with skinny capital allocations and gaps in non-budgeted expenditure considering various pieces of plant. Chillers, Boilers, Fire Panels that can be comprehensively maintained over five to seven years are examples of this. Our Technical Asset Service Agreement (TASA) with comprehensive maintenance (care) product benefits all parties, and the inherent conflicts of interest between building owners, tenants and service providers disappear, in turn removing roadblocks.

Do you think that a trend for 2023 will be looking at cyber crime and the safety around that?

Yes, absolutely. Retail has always proven to bounce back from the ups and downs. But in terms of cyber security, it’s imperative that businesses protect themselves as technology evolves now more than ever.

Ransomware attacks are targeting Operational Technology on an increasing basis. It’s therefore crucial that buildings have a cybersecurity solution to combat the threat of a cyber attack.

Most people would have seen or heard of a cyber attack at some point. There have been some recently with large well-known businesses. The question a business needs to ask itself if they should consider a cyber security solution across their operational technology is: how would a cyber-attack affect my brand, my access control, my BMCS, or my digital advertising boards throughout their centres?

One thing is for sure: technology improves every day and so do the people who target properties through a cyber attack. It’s better to be prepared than not to be.

It’s not a matter of ‘will a business be exposed to a cyber attack’, but more of a case of when.

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