On Wednesday, we hosted a round-table with Facilities Management Journal (FMJ) to discuss the topic of service excellence and examine the methods for achieving it.
The session, chaired by Simon Iatrou, FMJ Editor, brought together industry leaders to share opinions and discuss the issues and challenges faced by managers in the FM space today. The session was attended by representatives from BIFM, MITIE, the BBC and Channel 4.
Hosted at the revered restaurant Roux at The Landau, representatives gathered and discussions focused on three key areas:
1. How do we strive for service excellence?
One thing is clear, an organisation considering service excellence should think first about providing a relevant and value-added service for the customer rather than how much or how little they should be investing in it. A challenge for FMs (and indeed any organisation) in today’s climate is to provide appropriate service levels and services without focusing foremost on the cost.
Good leadership of any service organisation should fight the temptation to allow old-fashioned procurement processes take over the decision-making when it comes to service investment. This should not be an area where management abdicates responsibility.
2. How important are people in the process?
Whilst it was agreed that employees, as brand ambassadors, are critical to delivering service excellence, the experiences shared revealed that there is very little communication around individual performance, over and above standard reviews. It’s clear there is little sign of organisations providing specific and timely feedback to engineers, or the workforce, to encourage the right skills and attitude. It was widely agreed that a sceptical engineer does as much to damage a brand as a ‘can do’ approach does for the positive, if not more.
This is particularly pertinent in a sector where TUPE legislation means organisations have an undertaking to hire staff that are employed by a contract, if they win it from the incumbent. It’s not surprising that staff attached to the work rather than the organisation might have less allegiance. Here it’s up to enlightened service providers to provide the relevant training, but also to measure how it is having an impact. How do you align people to a common purpose and goals? This should be a priority for all service organisations.
3. How important is the technology in the process?
The interesting discussion focused on how technology should not compete with people, but complement them. The best customer service solutions use technology to motivate, and make a workforce more efficient. It’s no good having a motivated workforce and having technology let it down; equally there is no point investing in technology for an under-motivated workforce.
Organisations need to consider processes that are well suited to technology, but need people to support them, for example the recent introduction of self-service checkouts at supermarkets. There are some processes that simply don’t require human interaction longer term, for example nobody questions a cash point instead of a bank, but at introduction stage, people need a gradual introduction to a process. Equally, companies need to consider at which points customers need the interface to be human - ten-stage touch telephone technology will not improve a customer’s perception of a service helpline, nor increase loyalty.
In summary, the recipe for service excellence seemed to lie in employee engagement, combined and supported by an intelligent application of technology. A write up of the full discussion will be published by FMJ in July and will be available on our website.
We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Simon Iatrou of FMJ and each of the attendees for their contribution to what was an insightful debate.