The Customer Service Institute of Australia hosts the annual Australian Excellence Awards. Last year, AMPCSC won the coveted ‘Customer Service Organisation of the Year (Large Business)’, for their ‘Inspiring Moments’ initiative. Belinda Daly and Anthony Saunders talk about the project which involved all staff levels at their centres.
The AMP Capital Shopping Centres’ (AMPCSC) vision is to ‘create inspiring shopping experiences’. The importance of this was cemented by the findings of our 2017 Recommended Retail Practice Report, From A to Gen Z: Shopping with the Future Generation, which revealed that even the tech-savvy Gen Z future shoppers like or love shopping in-store more than they do online. This came as no surprise to us.
The reason why is simple; despite the attraction of online shopping, nothing can replace the valuable social and communal experience found exclusively in a shopping centre or in-store. Providing the chance to touch and feel a product and engage person to person will continuously drive the popularity and preference of shopping in-store. It’s important for us as a business to reward our shoppers with an experience worth leaving home for, aligning with our overarching business purpose of creating inspiring experiences for our customers. Basically, our philosophy is you cannot do better than the personal touch.
Rather than apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the marketing and leasing requirements of our properties, we believe in making each centre its own and truly relevant to its local market, to provide the most relevant services and experiences for that particular community. By collaborating closely with our dedicated in-house research team, we’re able to uncover what is highly valued, needed and wanted by shoppers in the area through annual shopper surveys and online collaborative forums. These findings then contribute to our tailored place-led approach in creating a unique and authentic destination to suit, attract and deliver distinct experiences.
While people are drawn to well-designed spaces, it’s an emotional connection to a place that makes customers return to a shopping centre continuously and develop a loyal relationship.
This is often achieved through the interactions with the people we meet. Inspired by the hospitality industry, at AMPCSC we have recognised that service, and the sense of community that service creates, is a key opportunity to differentiate a business from its competitors. In 2016, AMPCSC won the Customer Service Organisation of the year (Large Business) Award at the prestigious Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA) Australian Service Excellence Awards for our Inspiring Moments initiative.
Developed in partnership with employee engagement specialists, Meme Partners in 2011, the Inspiring Moments initiative has since grown to provide a significant impact in organisational culture. The initiative works by highlighting and educating our staff that an experience is simply made up of many small moments and invites all centre staff, not only customer service teams, to act as hosts. The close engagement with contractor partners who provide cleaning, security and customer service staff across the portfolio has been the driving force towards success for this program.
Now running successfully for six years, Inspiring Moments asks every member of staff to be accountable for each given moment of interaction with a customer, and to be on the lookout for chances to create an inspiring experience for a shopper. Regardless of which role they have or centre they work in, whether it’s a ‘shopping destination’ like Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, Macquarie Centre in Sydney’s north or a community shopping centre in New Zealand, every member of the team is a host. We regard this as an extremely important role that everyone has.
At the outset of the program, it was our belief Inspiring Moments could only be created through natural interactions and motivation. It was a fundamental cultural shift that needed to be supported at all levels of the organisation. We conducted workshops across Australia and New Zealand, engaging a range of employees to discuss what the customer experience should be and developed key ‘Service Standards’ which acted as the foundation for the initiative.
Visual communications in the work environment and face-to-face sessions were the main media used to communicate and educate our centre staff and ensure the program was rolled out consistently across all centres, with staff sessions led by local centre management.
Through the introduction of ‘Program Champions’, a select number of staff from each centre were chosen to work closely with the National Customer Experience team to provide direct feedback and drive local efforts.
By adding this level of collaboration, a communal aspect of the initiative was created with the Champions running a series of learning modules for the team and engaging in regular interactive learning sessions.
To continuously inspire and motivate our staff to provide ongoing customer service support, we encouraged the team to collect, curate and disseminate real stories across the portfolio as a way of showcasing the desired behaviours and inspiring other staff to step into the role of host in their own centre. To continue building the communal aspect of the initiative, team members are encouraged to nominate each other’s outstanding service stories for Inspiring Moments of the Month awards which are hosted in each centre.
Inspiring Moments has been a well-received initiative amongst staff, enhancing what was already a highly positive organisational culture to one that builds a greater sense of community. The open environment where centre management staff and contractors can learn from one another, where they are recognised and encouraged to feel empowered by exercising their own judgement, are the main motivators behind the continued delivery of exceptional customer service.
Our portfolio has expanded through our redevelopments with the introduction of ‘premium centres’ offering service amenities like valet and concierge, however we’ve reminded our centres that, regardless of size and physical offerings, personal service is the premium that will differentiate us.
That’s why we launched Premium Service Standards. The program was implemented across the entire portfolio of large and small centres to encourage and remind customers that premium personal service can be provided in any centre and in every retailer.
The launch of this new initiative encourages centre management staff and even retail staff to leverage the face-to-face contact we have with our customers, and use this opportunity to develop a real engagement with shoppers through conversation.
We strive to educate and share our key learnings derived from our research with not only our centre management teams but our retailers too, with the aim of supporting the business goals for each retail outlet and creating inspiring experiences at every touchpoint. This can be seen through inviting retailers to workshops including our Talking Shop retailer engagement series, where they are provided insights and advice from expert speakers.
Each year, our annual Recommended Retail Practice report, which showcases the latest retail trends and consumer behaviours, is delivered to our retailers. This two-way engagement between the centre and the retailers means we create a supportive, collaborative and positive relationship, with each striving to create inspiring shopping experiences for our shared customers.
We understand that customer service will always be a core value for our shoppers, driving an emotional connection and loyalty.
The success of our Inspiring Moments initiative, and our close relationships with our retailers, providing them with research-led insights, are some examples of how we provide our shoppers with the inspiring experiences.