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5Qs for Dawn Stamper on how retail tenants should be treated

Al Urbanski
Dawn Stamper
Stamper (l.) aims to create beautiful days for PECO's retail tenants.

Well, we all need someone we can lean on. 

It was back in the Sixties that Mick Jagger sang those familiar lyrics, but they could serve well today as Dawn Stamper’s motto for good retail tenant relations. After 12 years in property management at Phillips Edison & Company, Stamper was named senior VP of customer experience for the owner and operator of some 330 grocery-anchored centers. In that capacity, she says she hopes to emphasize the “neighbor” in neighborhood centers. We asked her to elaborate.

What, bare minimum, should retail tenants expect from landlords?
Bare minimum, tenants should expect to be treated respectfully and receive prompt responses to issues they bring to our attention—within 24 to 48 hours for non-emergencies. Even if the actual resolution takes longer to achieve, they should know we are working on it.

In what ways does Phillips Edison endeavor to go above and beyond that?
2020 will be focused on getting some benchmarks in place to gauge how our tenants perceive our level of service and then engaging in conversations with tenants and associates to get ideas about how we can improve. We had roundtable discussions with our local tenants and associates in 2018 about how we can do better and they had a lot of ideas. That helped shape the tenant communication portal we have been working on. As for national retailer tenants, our team is in touch with them regularly, and they are very valuable in letting us know how our customer experience rates versus other center operators.

The majority of new tenants in outdoor centers are service and experience-based--fitness centers, restaurants, urgent care. Do they demand a different kind of customer experience?
I’m not really sure it matters what type of business they’re running. They all want the same thing: convenience. They expect to have the information or answers at their fingertips whenever they ask, whether it is convenient to us or not.  Because of that, it’s not okay for the answer to be that it’s the weekend or someone is on vacation. Getting our customers prompt responses to their questions is extremely important--even if they don’t like the answer they’re given.

What's the most common complaint you get from local tenants? 
The most common issue is that they aren’t sure who to talk to when they have a problem. They want to be able to reach out to one person, and unfortunately that’s not always possible. Our property managers are regionally based and each handle between 12 and 15 assets. That’s another issue we designed our communications tool to answer. When someone is on vacation or transitions to a new property, the notifications automatically change so our tenants don’t have to keep track of the change and their question doesn’t slip through the cracks.

Name one new goal you've set for yourself as the leader of customer experience at PECO.
I want our tenants and associates to see Phillips Edison as a company that cares about the success of our tenants, whom we call “neighbors.” We call them that because that’s how we want our associates to see them.  About six months ago, Jeff Edison and I were talking about what we could do to lessen the automatically negative connotation surrounding tenant-landlord relationships. We saw a lot of companies using new terms for their customers, and we thought “neighbors” suited us.  Good neighbors help out.  When you’re away, they take out your trash and feed your dog. Doing little things like that can go a long way to making people’s lives less stressful, and that’s what we’d like to do with our neighbors.

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