Service Works’ CEO, Gary Watkins, discusses how self-service technology is revolutionising customer service in the FM industry, the benefits it offers and how to market self-service to ensure effective adoption.
To view this article as a PDF click here
Gary Watkins is CEO of FM software expert the Service Works Group of Companies
Customer service is an important part of a facility manager’s role. But the growing global trend for self-service technology is revolutionizing that aspect of FM and, with it, the way people choose and purchase products and services.
Shoppers now pay for their goods using a self-service check-out; travelers print out their own bus, train and airplane tickets; while hospital patients check-in at kiosks, improving service levels while helping to ensure that patients’ data remains secure. And recent hardware trends, including the growth of the tablet computer and smartphone, already prevalent in the consumer market, are being deployed by commercial organizations to support self-service working and underpin 24/7 business operations.
The facility management profession around the world is mirroring this trend, using self-service to transform the way in which it operates. By empowering office workers to log maintenance requests or book meeting rooms online, 24/7 via the web, engineers or support staff are able to receive, update and complete tasks on the move using mobile devices and the need to go via a manned help desk is circumvented.
The traditional helpdesk model often attracts criticism for being a reactive, non-agile ticketing system, where jobs take too long to complete, service levels are not aligned with key performance indicators (KPIs) and staff are frustrated with the perceived lack of activity once a job has been logged.
A white paper published by Symantec titled ‘The Modern Service Desk’ suggests that the traditional help desk struggles to keep abreast of the service demands typically found in today’s businesses and that the impact of slow service delivery can profoundly affect not just the perception of customers but can also extend across the whole business. This is often the case when service operations score low on customer satisfaction and the IT department’s reputation and value to the business is diminished.
This research underpins the value of investing in self-service implementation, to achieve a more streamlined method of managing facilities, maintenance and bookings requests.
Benefits of Self-Service for FM
Self-service offers many benefits for facilities departments and service providers organizations, delivering substantial efficiencies both at an operational and a strategic level. These include:
24/7 environment: Self-service is available to staff and customers on a 24/7 basis, ensuring that jobs are logged at the earliest possible time, therefore improving job rectification times and increasing customer satisfaction.
Reduction in job logging time: Because jobs are logged via the web, systems are able pre-populate jobs with pertinent data such as staff information, location and fault type, therefore reducing the amount of time it takes to log a job.
Increase in staff productivity: Staff are able to log jobs or book meeting rooms more quickly, allowing them to focus on completing their day-to-day tasks.
Elimination of duplicate tasks/bookings: Users can easily view previously logged requests, either within a building or particular area of work, ensuring that fewer jobs are duplicated. Enabling staff to view available meeting rooms or desks also reduces double bookings.
Improved communication between client and help desk: Self-service delivers contractors, staff and customers with instant access to real-time job information, irrespective of their location, significantly improving the communication between all parties.
Improved contractor performance: Instant access to information allows engineers to start and complete assigned jobs more rapidly. In addition, if, while completing a job in a particular location, an engineer discovers a new fault; using self-service facilities they have the ability to log the job instantly, adding supporting photographs if required, thereby improving efficiency.
Help desk efficiency: Self-service eliminates the need for help desk staff to answer high volumes of telephone or email enquiries. This allows them to become far more proactive, managing existing jobs and prioritising resources rather than logging requests. Automatic job assignment to the most appropriate contractor further improves efficiency.
Reduced operational costs: With improved help desk productivity, the requirement for extra resource is reduced, delivering expenditure savings in terms of salaries, occupancy and infrastructure costs.
Administrative savings: Since the majority of jobs are logged online, the workflow process becomes more streamlined; engineers and help desk staff spend less time managing paperwork or other administrative tasks.
Space efficiency improvements: With flexible or remote staff gaining greater access to available desk space or hot-desk opportunities through self-service, they have more control over desk space allocation and feel secure that a space can be reserved when visiting the office. This enables staff to become more productive and motivated.
Who benefits from self-service?
Every individual related to a maintenance or booking request can benefit from self-service:
Building users: This accounts for any staff member or end user who might need to log a request; whether it is a teacher or nurse logging a request to have an important piece of machinery repaired, or an office-based staff member requiring a meeting room with a catering request. Through self-service, users can rapidly log requests via an intuitive interface which removes the potential for errors and ensures that their request is assigned an appropriate rectification time. They can track the status of a job or booking from start to completion, and can log any notes to help facilitate job rectification.
Remote / mobile engineers: Utilizing self-service on the move can significantly enhance the work of an engineer carrying out maintenance or service requests, whether they are in-house staff, remote engineers or contractors. They can receive, update and complete jobs remotely, via a tablet or smartphone device, thereby improving job rectification times, enhancing service levels, reducing administrative and operational costs, and achieving greater job satisfaction.
Help desk staff: Self-service functionality enables users to log, view and update jobs themselves, and therefore traffic coming into the help desk is significantly reduced. This allows the help desk to be proactive rather than reactive; staff are able to concentrate on ensuring that work is being completed on time instead of spending time manually logging jobs.
Support staff: Support staff (i.e. those responsible for setting up equipment and providing catering) are informed of any specific meeting requirements for the day, and can therefore plan their workload accordingly. This improves the level of service provided to meeting attendees; enabling them to focus on the meeting itself rather than wondering where the projector is or why the room is too hot or cold.
Senior management: Self-service as part of an FM software solution gives senior management access to an array of reports and dashboards that offer visibility of the performance of assets, buildings, bookings and resources and delivers insight into budgets, contractor spend and KPI performance to help justify future spend and enable informed strategic decision-making.
Marketing Self-Service to Optimise Uptake
Post implementation can often be the hardest and yet the most crucial time, when many new users are reticent to accept the initial change from their normal routine and can potentially revert back to established working practices. It is imperative therefore, that staff buy into the self-service offering, and the benefits that it offers to them. Collaboration between facilities, marketing and operations teams is vital: by leveraging internal communications channels businesses are able to educate staff on the benefits of using self-service and ensure user acceptance, in order to fully realise the benefits to the organization.
When promoting self-service to staff and customers, due consideration must be taken to address the different profiles of those who will be using the system. For example, whilst an office-based employee may frequently access a corporate intranet, a field-based engineer may be less inclined to do so. Leveraging a broad range of communication channels to promote the self-service solution, such as those listed above, will ensure wider user-acceptance.
Means of marketing the self-service offering may include:
‘Golden Self-Service Log-in’ – Supporting the centralization of help desk operations, this provides users with an easy-to-remember log-in. It can be communicated throughout the business as the log-in for all bookings or maintenance enquiries, and could be used as the social hashtag (see below).
Social Hashtagging – For the more technically savvy users, offering a unique hashtag on Twitter or any other relevant digital communication channels (such as #selfservice ) drives employee engagement between staff and the help desk, offering a quick way for staff to communicate any booking requirements or service issues with the system.
Company Intranets – Since an intranet is usually where all pertinent company information is stored and advertised, with all staff generally having access, it provides an ideal channel for communicating self-service across the entire organization. The key benefits of self-service should be included to promote user acceptance.
Internal Newsletter – As with an intranet, communicating the service through company-wide newsletters or magazines can improve the understanding of the solution and its benefits, reaching all necessary staff members.
Branding – It is important to ensure that the self-service tool is branded in accordance to the company’s brand guidelines. This will enable staff to relate to self-service as being ‘part of the business’, and feel comfortable using it to log any maintenance or booking requests.
Satisfaction Surveys – Satisfaction surveys are a useful tool in measuring and understanding how satisfied employees and clients are with self-service. The surveys provide a useful tool in securing opinions from employees on the solution, how it works and whether it’s impacted staff positively or negatively. Feedback gained from the surveys may be used to drive potential future enhancements to the software.
In comparison, when delivering the benefits of self-service to remote or mobile engineers who may not be as receptive as the general workforce, it’s important to ensure that they feel comfortable and at ease with the operational change. Means of marketing self-service to engineers may include:
Training guides: Guides provide users with an in-depth summary of all the features of self-service, particularly useful for those using it to its fullest capacity.
Email campaigns: By providing engineers or staff with relevant updates before and after the launch of the self-service solution, emails ensure that self-service has been sufficiently communicated about, and staff have all the necessary information required to maximise its usage.
Workshops: Workshops offer staff the opportunity to gain first-hand practical experience of the benefits that self-service provides, ensuring that staff become more confident in using the various system features.
Online demonstrations: Offering high-level demonstrations of self-service through online video tuition enables staff to understand in greater detail how to unlock the various functions of the software. The ability to view the demonstrations as many times as is required helps staff maintain and develop their knowledge and improve their skillset.
Q&A: This could be a face-to-face session where experts aim to provide guidance and answers to any questions that staff may have, or as a dedicated section on the company intranet whereby engineers or staff can submit questions and receive responses online.
Champion users: Assign a member of the team to become an expert in how the self-service solution operates. The ‘champion’ user becomes the trainer for all new or existing engineers, and assists them with on-the-job training and support.
Self-service offers a broad range of organizations a comprehensive and highly scalable solution to manage and maintain facilities, bookings and assets. By leveraging the latest web and mobile technology, the software empowers end users and simplifies and streamlines the relationship between staff and the help desk, allowing for improved levels of job optimisation and efficiency. It delivers complete transparency of performance to improve contractor relationships whilst driving KPI targets. Staff productivity is optimized, enabling a more proactive help desk, to deliver long-term administrative and operational cost savings, improve efficiency and drive business performance.
To receive a complimentary copy of Service Works’ guide Unlock FM Software with the Power of Self-Service, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)20 8877 4080.