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Customer Experience Story

Our business development team sat down with a Fortune 1,000 retailer and walked them through a standard needs assessment. The purpose was to gather information about the primary goals of their facility department, relating to the management of their 3,000+ facilities.

Over the years, we’ve asked “what are the primary goals of your company’s facility department” hundreds of times and almost every time the answer is either: “we would like to increase the lifespan of our systems,” or “we would like to reduce the cost of ownership of our facility systems.” The super savvy companies said it was both. 

Sears threw us a curveball. When asked the same question, their answer was: “the preservation of facility assets” and “ensuring a quality customer experience for our clients.” The first answer was your typical run-of-the-mill response, but the second… ensure a quality customer experience for our clients? How dare a facility team undertake such a mighty challenge? Isn’t that an initiative normally reserved for a marketing team or a client relations team? What does a facility team know about “customer experience” anyway?

We expressed their goal was very ambitious and right minded. We were curious to learn what they were doing day-to-day to manage to their goal. Their answer surprised us. Six VPs and directors of a Fortune 1,000 company all looked at each other and shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. After an extended silence, we threw them a lifeline. “Do you try to keep your stores at a comfortable temperature range?” “Do you have a store manager walk the parking lot on occasion to make sure that there aren’t any potholes the size of moon craters?” They agreed that they had low visibility and limited knowledge on the status of their assets (especially related to roofing and paving) and the current process was little more than “when something breaks, we fix it.”

We pressed on. “But doesn’t that mean you are relying on your customers, or at best your employees, to sound the alarm when something breaks? How does that reactive approach impact the customer experience? How long has it been “broken” by the time someone complains? How many people have been affected? What conscious and sub-conscious perceptions are people taking away from this experience?”

We were sensing that this line of questioning was not making us any new best friends, so for the sake of self-preservation it was time to move on. But the message was clear. Even though they had identified “ensuring a quality customer experience” as one of their facility department’s primary goals, they could not identify a single, tactical, day-to-day action item that got them closer to that goal. Someone in a well decorated office decided that it had to be a part of the department’s strategic mission and so it was.