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Facilities Management Takes Center Stage

Facilities management has taken on increased importance during the past 18 months amid concerns about customer and health safety.

Chain Store Age spoke with Rob Almond, CEO of NEST, a pioneer of the integrated facilities management industry in the United States since 1994, about the evolving role of FM in the retail industry.

How does NEST see the in-store shopping experience evolving in this new era of retail?
The in-store shopping experience can only be as great as the staff you have in place and the quality of the facilities your customers are in. Let’s talk about staff first. In this environment of labor shortages and high demand for skilled staff, retailers should look hard at the employee experience first. 

When you create a positive work environment with a motivated team, that climate will be passed down to the customers. It also puts you in a position to attract more talent to work for your company.

As for facilities, if you don’t have a clean and safe environment for employees and customers, it’s hard to execute the next levels of your customer experience strategy. With a partner like NEST, we can ensure you have the appropriate resources to maintain a first-class facility and scale up and scale down as needed based on emergency cleans, weather events, COVID spikes, unpredictable foot traffic and more. On the COVID front, NEST is nimble enough to provide a custom strategy, region by region, based on what is happening in a specific market. 

Do you think the increased store safety measures/best practices that came out of the pandemic are here to stay?
We’ve learned so much since the start of the pandemic. In addition to many of the safety protocols remaining, we’re seeing new strategies evolve that were a byproduct of an early COVID response. An increase in buy online, pickup in-store and curbside pickup were accelerated because of COVID. But 18 months later, we’re seeing people continue to utilize those services out of convenience.

Facilities management took on increased importance — and newfound respect — during the past 18 months. Do you think that will continue?
The additional attention to sanitation, janitorial and safety will be top of mind well into the future. Those areas were always thought of as important before the pandemic, but not to the level we’ve seen since it started.  So yes, that line of thinking is here to stay. At NEST, we continue to guide our customers on how to maintain a sanitized and safe environment. 

We also believe new store layouts that focus on the customer experience will also continue.

Is the country’s labor shortage impacting the trades involved in facilities maintenance?
There is no doubt the trades are seeing a labor shortage across many industries. At NEST, we’ve made it a priority to support the trades from a grassroots level. This year, we sponsored and helped organize a young women in construction camp in Philadelphia.

I think the labor shortage in the trades will only get worse if we don’t educate and highlight the benefits of the skilled trades as a meaningful and rewarding career path.

What are the benefits of working with NEST? 
We view our clients as partners and they have told us over the years why they like to work with NEST. Some of those reasons include that we offer a true partnership; we work to understand our clients’ business and even rate our own performance to improve.  

Also, retailers look at NEST as an extension of their FM team, allowing their in-house FM department to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Many retailers focus on a tactical approach to their FM. We’re strategic. Through our analytics and insights, we can implement tactics more deliberately that lead to cost savings for our partners. Other benefits include that we excel at service delivery and sourcing and provide more advanced reporting that ties directly into financial statements. And NEST does not charge technology subscription fees to clients or independent service providers.

What are the key differences between integrated facilities management and an in-house approach?
There are positives and negatives to each approach. The key difference with an in-house model is the inefficiencies with scaling and adapting. IFM allows you to streamline your facilities management processes and leverage financial savings in an efficient manner.  

At NEST, our IFM approach utilizes data analytics to track trends and streamline a retailer’s operation. It consolidates staff, contractors, service providers, KPI tracking and projects into one easy-to-use, data-driven platform.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see retailers making when it comes to their FM programs?
We often see retailers going with the lowest bidders rather than the best fit. The lowest bidder strategy frequently results in more costs in the long run. We also see retailers working under an hourly-rate model and have outdated reporting systems. Those are two more mistakes that IFM can fix.

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