Being customer focused nowadays is a necessity to conduct business not only just in Ghana but everywhere in the world. “True competitive advantage will only be established through excellence in customer value and the ensuing relentless care and attention provided” (Zaria).
One of the areas relating to the ‘attention provided’ is the ‘state- of- art’ of the facilities where the physical customer gets to experience both the vendor’s/vendors’ offerings and well as the accompanying customer service and support. Think for example of Facility Management deliverables as the air-conditioning in the customer service area or the poor lighting on every product (for sale) displays or even any other customer touchpoint.
Tenants who enjoy these facility management services are called customers and they can be internal or external.
- Internal Tenants / Customers
These are the people who occupy the building and use the working environment ‘contained’ within that building. Internal Customers are basically the internal facilities occupants; these can be your employees for example, your clients and as well as an organization as a whole (McGregory, 2012). These Customers can provide valuable information about their environment, fixes needed as well as crucial insight into how effective the existing facilities (buildings) are in support of their various operations.
- External Tenants / Customers
These are customers from outside the organization. External Tenants are basically the visitors and buyers of your organization’s products and services; technically other groups are also your external customers- e.g. every vendor delivering a product or service to you. The Facilities Manager must regard external customers through providing a good environment with regard to the number of people expected in a day; this incorporates services like parking, security as well as recreational areas for visitors.
So, next time you visit any store, any company, any Mall any ‘building’, remember that you are an External Tenant! And with ‘building’, we mean any defined space where a customer activity takes place. It can even be a cruise ship!
What is Facilities Management?
Facility Management is “a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology”. ( International Facility Management Association – IFMA);
Facility maintenance is often seen as an annoyance or as a “necessary evil.” This is partially due to the erroneous assumption that facility maintenance generates costs but does not give much in return. These include but are not limited to:
- Real estate and property management (e.g., leasing, subletting, space renting, retail);
- Facility project management (e.g., relocation, new buildings, extensions, demolition);
- Maintenance and repairs (e.g. facility refurbishment, maintenance, landscape management, cleaning);
- Building services and operations (e.g., energy distribution, health and safety, waste disposal, pest control);
- Office services (e.g., telephones, post and mail distribution, storage, business hospitality, public relations, car fleet control);
- Planning and programming (e.g., resource planning, development planning, work programming);
- Space planning and management (e.g., space planning, configuration and allocation, space use audit, facility planning);
- Operations administration, management (e.g., budget and cost control, contract control and negotiation, office furniture provision);
- Employee supports and services (e.g., child nursery provision, restrooms, recreation, catering, community affairs).
Customer loyalty is one of the most frequently addressed subjects in the marketing and service literature. Customer satisfaction is one of the major determinants of customer loyalty.
Indeed, it’s discovered that retaining customers is more profitable for firms than investing in attracting new ones as customer acquisition is an expensive and difficult task for companies, requiring significant investment, time and effort, customer retention.
Customer retention is an inherent outcome of customer loyalty, which has been positively linked to financial performance indicators such as profitability and market share.
7 Facility Management Practices that drive Customer Loyalty
1. Evolve yourself as an organization from a passive supplier to a proactive strategic partner. Looking at the Accra Mall for example, the managers of the Mall, employ strategies such as settings, how to navigate around the Mall without obstructions, how to keep a ‘clean’ feeling/ experience for the visitors, ‘uninterrupted’ power-supply, well arranged and lit common spaces, ‘in- Mall’ traffic controllers, security, etc.; they do a lot more than rather just maintaining the building. These practices impact of the environment on customer productivity and welfare; impact on culture; customer satisfaction; and ability to adapt to changes in the external environment.
2. Focus on value creation, not just cost savings – This can be reflected in adoption of new and forward-thinking technologies such as the Elevators, relaxation areas, non-smoking zones, etc., that allow more mobility or provide better conditions for customers, or creation of a healthier environment. The Value Creation has a direct impact on the Customer/ Visitor Experience.
3. Develop sustainable solutions – Most Facility Managers are responsible for energy management, health and safety, waste management, recycling, water consumption and carbon footprint management. Maintaining a sustainable environment that allows technologies implemented to last for years is necessary. Always be a forward thinker -don’t build a Building without considering how people would access it (roads), what kind of people it’s meant for and the state of the environment. And your Tenants (whether external or internal), they do care about the environment and sustainability – especially the Millennials.
4. Leverage technology – Technology is and will be important for two reasons:
i. Firstly: it impacts how Facility Managers perform their work.
ii. Secondly: Facility Management professionals must use technology to make these places efficient and effective, by taking all available technologies and applying them to support the customers. For example, Software Solutions for managing apartments like Joluud can help simplify these tasking processes. Another example: at MEST, a maintenance software enables themselves as tenants of their building to report faults and track how it’s being resolved.
5. Empower service deliveries with data – Facility Managers will need to leverage data to understand the use of facilities, time of response to corrective maintenance operations, timeline and budget of customers. We cannot overemphasize that these insights will be important in understanding how to best support performance, assign technicians and increase productivity. FYI: there are literally several thousands of sensor- devices which can monitor everything (temperature, moisture, pressure, whatever you can imagine) and via a set of interconnected Zigbee- devices, real-time Facility / Building related measurements can be sent to a monitoring room (whether that ‘room’ is manned or not) far- far away. (Zigbee is the ‘industrial’ version of Wi-Fi- it can reach from 10-300 meters)
6. Deliver Personalized Facility Services – Customers will require that the service provider understands their needs and train the front-line service employees to deliver on this understanding. You have seen this already: think of toilet areas for people in wheelchairs or areas for attending to infants; some buildings even have praying areas.
Customer- needs vary from customer to customer. A good Facility Management practice is always to act on data about the customers and provide relevant services; for example, there might be customers who love to ‘party’, and those who don’t. The ability of a Facility Manager to keep and satisfy these extremes is what makes for customer satisfaction and in turn drive their loyalty.
7. Attract and Retain Customers – Having good facilities will help attract and retain both internal and external customers. Providing them with a great service, it is a sign that your business is running effectively, which in turn leads to efficiency; more importantly, it demonstrates that you care about them. Hence use your facilities to attract more by organizing events, meetups and talk shows that are in line with what your target customers really cares about. For example, if you are crazy about ‘Christmas’, won’t you go to the Mall that has the best Christmas tree and a chorus around it signing songs endlessly? Btw, to our opinion, Digital Signage is underused in Ghana as far as Customer Acquisition and Retention are concerned.
It is obvious that a customer would only recommend a service they enjoy and discredit the ones they don’t purely base on their own Bias. They will also do the same, if the physical environment/ space where these products or services are being offered appear to be of subpar quality to the customer’s perception.
Yes, Facility Management has direct impacts on physical customers /tenants, with the ability to improve the customers’ experience and thus increase Customer Loyalty.
Facility Managers need to start seeing themselves as the customers they are serving and start putting structures, services, and technologies in place, so that they can ensure that all physical customers/ tenants are satisfied. Studies have shown that a Facility with a technology solution is 3X more likely to have satisfied customers than any facility without one. The software is required for scalability and simplicity of processes that truly drives customer approach.
Be a forward thinker and set your priorities to be customers first. And the ‘shopping environment’- experience is to critical to be ignored. This is one of the Golden Keys to driving their loyalty.
Thank you and Good Luck
David and Spiros.
About the authors:
Both David Kenechukwu Obi and Spiros Tsaltas are associated with HireLoyalty.
David Kenechukwu Obi is also the Co-founder & CMO of Joluud a Facility Management software solution.
As a NED (Non-Executive Director), Spiros is also associated with HIREghana.
They welcome all your comments/ remarks/ feedback /suggestions at Press [at] HireLoyalty.com.
© 2018 David Kenechukwu Obi & Spiros Tsaltas and © 2018 HireLoyalty