Making a Good First Impression

Exterior maintenance is an ongoing challenge for all retailers, particularly during the winter months when many chains have to contend with snow and ice removal. Kevin Dent, CEO of DENTCO, a national exterior services management company, spoke with

Does exterior service get the respect it deserves in the retail community? 

No, not in my opinion. Generally speaking, curb appeal plays a significant role in forming first impressions, and is also an important aspect in forming a company’s brand identity. However, it is also one of the first areas to be reduced or eliminated from budgets. The customer’s interior shopping experience is a priority, and exterior assets often play second fiddle to other store upgrades. It is very important that retailers keep in mind that landscaping and parking lots are a substantial investment, and they will cost more in the long term, if not properly maintained.

Now that fall is here, what steps should retailers be taking to prepare their exteriors for the winter months? 

Start planning early, and consider hiring DENTCO as your exterior services management (ESM) company to help eliminate any concerns! From snow removal to irrigation and preparation of other assets, there is much that must be completed before winter’s arrival. On our Web site, www.dentco.com , you will find numerous articles that I have written over the years on this topic as well as related subjects.

What are some of the most common problems retailers face in maintaining their exterior assets? 

With reduced facilities and operational staffing, I believe timing and prioritization is the biggest problem many retailers face. These teams only have so many hours in the day, and attempting to manage multiple exterior disciplines (sometimes with minimum knowledge) is an unfair expectation because the physical building and/or guest experience must be their primary focus. The most common problems literally change “with the seasons.” That said, snow-removal management is business-critical and landscaping maintenance services are multi-faceted. Attempting to manage hundreds of vendors is time-consuming and challenging. Again, budgetary decisions influence the degree and timing of “common problems.” Operations and facility teams can only do what is allowed within the confines in which they have to work.

Is there one area that tends to get overlooked? 

Parking-lot maintenance is frequently delayed to a point where it actually costs more, and the life span of the parking lot and ROI is greatly reduced without the proper upkeep.

What about climate change—is there anything retailers can do to help their facilities deal with this challenge? 

Be prepared for additional and more frequent intense weather patterns. Whether in a region that is at risk for floods, droughts, hurricanes or severe winter weather, it is essential to have plans in place with your vendors in the event of an emergency situation.

Snow and ice removal are always critical concerns. How can retailers improve their efforts in this regard? 

Snow and ice control is far from an exact science. Pushing snow and clearing ice sounds easy to some people, but no two winter-storm events are the same; timing, intensity, length, temperature, wind velocities, downed trees, power lines down, state of emergency, closed roads, etc., always differ.

The No. 1 guiding factor should be the safe ingress and egress of employees and guests. This is best accomplished by leaving the snow and ice decisions to a professional ESM company who, in turn, will burden the liability for their customer, manage contractors and ensure timely services. Unfortunately the budget demons arise and safety is frequently sacrificed in the attempt to reduce spending.

Tell us a little bit about DENTCO and the services it provides. 

Driven by our family’s service philosophy and our time-tested consolidated service model, DENTCO has more than 30 years of experience specializing in the management of exterior-grounds services, providing ESM to the retail, hospitality, financial, utilities and communication industries, among others. We manage all of the exterior services that are necessary to properly maintain or enhance our customers’ exterior assets—from complete landscaping maintenance to snow removal and ice control, parking-lot maintenance, irrigation and other exterior building services, we have you covered, guaranteed.

Services include consolidation and centralization of all exterior vendors to a single point of contact. Our customers tell us we remove all of their “pain” in dealing with exterior services. We provide one contact, one invoice, one insurance policy and indemnification, one online database and one Quality Assurance guarantee for all of your exterior services.

What do you see as the main advantages of centralized or consolidated exterior-service delivery? 

Quality, consistency, brand image, increased customer counts, information delivery, efficiency and soft-cost elimination are all advantages of a centralized, consolidated exterior-service delivery.