…And not just pay lipservice to it
Chris MacDonald, managing director of Propertyserve UK, offers the supplier perspective
All commercial property organisations rely on external suppliers, to ensure the consistent operation of their buildings. But, what they must ensure is the smooth running of those contracts – safe in the knowledge that they are working with industry professionals, who won’t cut corners or create any unnecessary risks.
Propertyserve provides fully-managed helpdesk and procurement solutions exclusively to the property and asset management sector. We handle all liaison between contractors, facilities managers and tenants for property maintenance issues.
We work with property and facilities management companies that want to improve the care and attention given to their properties and tenants. We pride ourselves on taking responsibility, being pro-active in our approach and developing effective business partnerships with our clients.
I’d argue that for those businesses with less reactive suppliers, if they don’t already, then they need to begin ‘managing’ that relationship.
As soon as we sign contracts, we make sure we get face-to-face with all stakeholders of our helpdesk service – surveyors and FMs. It is vitally important we have this contact at this stage in the process. Helpdesks are notorious for being faceless, but we see this as being the first way of building trust and confidence in our people – and our service. Our customers need to know how we can handle issues that may arise, and – more importantly – that we can handle the issues and deliver service (even in the most testing of situations).
If the building in question is deemed ‘complex’, we send an account manager out to understand the needs of the building.
At the end of the day, having that relationship in place will ensure the smooth running of the contract, and transparency of service on every level.
The supplier needs to manage the relationship
Ultimately, we take the management of the relationship into our own hands, because we know we need to get under the skin of the business, in order to deliver efficient service – both proactively and reactively.
Ongoing, we will undertake ad-hoc site visits – paying particular attention to more complex sites. We meet quarterly with each regional team, and we meet monthly with the lead procurement team.
If there is an issue, we’d always try to raise this first. Handling it in this way can be seen as a positive. If you leave it for the customer to flag, you can be seen as being out of touch with the services you offer.
Where a supplier fails to be proactive; it is down to the customer to push this along.
Technology is key, but people want to deal with people
We have created a bespoke online software system which covers all job logging, client and tenant communications and a full bespoke accounting system designed specifically with property management in mind.
The software manages reactive maintenance from instruction through to procurement, supplier KPI, SLA monitoring and reports, document storage. It acts as a three-way portal between the client, contractor and helpdesk – everyone is able to log in from a desktop or PDA to view an up-to-date job status. It provides a central hub of information.
Undoubtedly our technology is playing a major role, and makes our communication with clients event better. But, I would always argue that people still want to deal with people – they need to develop a rapport and to build trust in those providing a service to them.
Our people are always on the phone, acting on behalf of our clients – it’s the service we provide, and – as a supplier – we believe it is vital for us to manage expectations.
Equally, if we make a mistake then we are always ready to be open about it and to discuss where things went wrong. Having an open and honest dialogue with the client, as opposed to hiding behind technology, is our way of making sure the relationship doesn’t become soured in any way.
Customers should feel comfortable to request regular updates and reporting. It is important to set challenges and KPI’s, in response to fees being paid.
Being subject to ongoing monitoring and reviews should be standard practice. You need to identify the parameters that everyone is working towards, set service level agreements and review them at regular intervals.
Working in partnership
Encouraging suppliers to work with you and your teams breeds a successful working partnership, which acts to the benefit of everyone involved.
A solid and reliable supplier is worth gold dust… they just need to be managed effectively, or to take control in such a way that you feel comfortable the job is being done – properly.