Security with a Smile

When restrictions ease and shopping centres come back to life, customer service will be key.

The challenge will be reminding shoppers why they enjoy the shopping centre experience and showing them that, despite a global pandemic, where social distancing will remain in place for the immediate future, their safety is a number one priority. This will be key to determining how quickly shoppers re-establish their shopping habits and ultimately how quickly shopping centres see a return to pre-pandemic levels of footfall.

The success of a retail park or shopping centre depends on strong and effective customer service - this drives customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is fair to say that the visible presence of security officers came into sharper focus in 2020. They became key workers while buildings were shut down and needed protection. Today they are still key workers, and when restrictions are lifted, they will play a big part in encouraging a return to ‘business as usual’ even though their role has evolved. Of course, they must still maintain security, but now they will also help to enforce social distancing rules and support cleaning teams by wiping key touchpoints – giving customers the confidence that the environment is Covid-clean and safe.

‘Customers’ enjoyment of the shopping experience will be reflected in the extent to which customers perceive that they have received good service in terms of friendliness and helpfulness of staff. It seems logical that if a customer has a favourable impression of a service encounter… this will lead to a more favourable impression of the shopping centre. Furthermore, they are more likely to return to the shopping centre.’

From ‘Enjoyment of the shopping experience’ a paper from Cathy Hart, Andrew M. Farrell, Grazyna Stachow, Gary Feed and John W. Cadogan

Never stop training

The shopping centre managers that we speak to often know the close association of security with customer service. They recognise that their officers are there to protect the premises and the people but they should do it with a smile and welcoming manner. Officers must balance the seriousness of their job with the brand values of the shopping centre they are working for, so finding the right people for this role and supporting them throughout their career with the right type of training – from conflict management to customer service – is crucial.

As a business, we focus on excellent customer service, and it is pivotal that our employees feel genuinely valued and empowered to make a difference. As such we clarify responsibility and use learning and development, inclusion and greater rewards to encourage excellent performance.

So we are proud to hear our customers talk about their security teams with phrases such as ‘the town’s most approachable and visible centre security team’, which is how Spencer Hawken, the Centre Manager at The Mercury Mall in Romford referred to us. An accurate label no doubt as our security team on-site can demonstrate all the core customer service skills and play a key role in supporting vulnerable people within the community.

Part of the community

In 2019 our Mercury Mall team won ‘Security Team of the Year’ at the Sceptre Awards in recognition of initiatives that go beyond traditional security duties. The team helped to set up and run a quarterly gaming league for teenagers, for example. It was an initiative which gave the officers an opportunity to show that they are approachable, friendly, and not a threat to such a vulnerable demographic. Similarly, they have even undertaken dementia and autism awareness training, which helped the shopping centre gain an Autism Friendly award.

It is an open-mindedness about what security officers can do that helps to give shopping centres a competitive edge and an even more meaningful place at the heart of their communities.

Taking it seriously

Axis Security is the only manned guarding company that is a member of the UK’s Institute of Customer Service. We believe it to be a fundamental pillar in the service that our officers - and indeed our staff throughout the business - provide. It underpins everything that we do, and we are proud to be recognised for our efforts. We have the Institute of Customer Service’s ServiceMark accreditation and in 2020 we won a UK Customer Satisfaction Award for our market-leading Employee Engagement Strategy.

Regardless of how the pandemic, and the UK’s economic recovery, continues to impact shopping centres, customer service will always be a top priority for shopping centre managers.

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