To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we have been reflecting on the service changes in the industry and we have been inviting industry experts to discuss what they believe has had the biggest influence on the Facilities Management (FM) and service industry over the past 20 years, and what they think the future may hold.
We spoke with Anne Lenox Martin, Independent Facilities Management Consultant & Trainer, on the changes she has seen in the industry and what she believes is to come.
How do you think service has changed in FM over the last 20 years?
I would say that the most important changes actually occurred 10 years previously. There was a huge shift in peoples understanding of service during the 1980’s, led in the majority by Peter Drucker and Tom Peters (the management gurus) who were talking about service excellence, managing people and how to get the best out of employees. So much so that by 1992 people had already come to realise the importance of keeping hold of their customers. However, FM was still very much in its infancy, with the service of buildings taking precedence over the service of people. Then during the 90’s there was a steady shift towards this new thinking, that facilities was more about people and workspace. I wouldn’t however say there was a major shift at one point; it was more of an evolution rather than a revolution.
Do you think the evolution from a focus on premises to people is the biggest change that has occurred?
I would definitely say the shift in attitude is a major change. The shift is towards understanding that the idea/ concept of service is something that affects people and if it affects people it will impact productivity – this affects the bottom line and that insight is an important change in the industry.
There have also been huge technological advances that have supported these changes in attitudes.
What do you think drove these changes and how far had the end user been responsible for the increase in service levels?
The main driver has been global competition which has meant people have had to find ways of being smarter in business. Working smarter is fuelled by creativity and innovation which comes from people and of course technology. This has also led to the common conundrum of how to improve service whilst reducing costs in the same package.
In terms of the end users role in increasing service levels, they have most definitely been influential in pushing through change. You just need to look at how we use social media and in particular the hash tag on Twitter #customerservice to see how much people’s expectations of service have increased.
What do you think have been the biggest challenges in the industry?
In a way, the biggest challenge has been keeping service aligned to the business. I would also say that the TUPE legislation (transfer of undertakings, the protection of employment), has meant that we often have staff who have become cynical. This is because they have been in the industry for possibly 30+ years and have experienced numerous employers and may be well be jaded by the change experience, so much so, that they begin to switch off at the thought of providing a good service. I see this as an on-going challenge and to be able to combat this we must move away from the idea that if they are employed by an outsource company they cannot also be loyal to the client organisation.
What challenges do you think we are yet to face?
I think that in order to respond to the customer’s individual needs there will be an increase in the use of handheld devices linked to the cloud. This way, customers will be able to select in real time from a pick and mix menu of service offerings. I also go back to my point on increased competition, as I see the increasing pace of change resulting in a world that will get smaller with global commercialisation.