By Ed Heptig, Director of Building Maintenance
Recently, when Lori told me it was my turn to provide an article for our monthly newsletter, I recalled an article I had read by Michael Cowley of CE Maintenance Solutions. Customer service has been a topic of discussion for me with my supervisors. We’ve been discussing the best way to close out work orders whether in person, by phone, or by using our AIM system. This article covers what our Facilities team is challenged by every day. How do we improve our customer’s perception of what we do?
In his article, Cowley lists several guidelines to ensure great service. The first one he lists is “Always Fix The Problem”. In my early years as a HVAC service worker, I believed in never walking away from a job without fixing the problem. However, I learned that there are times when, no matter what, you can’t always make the customer happy. One of my very first jobs involved a client that requested I add refrigerant to her central A/C unit. I explained that the unit only needing to be washed out and no refrigerant was needed. However, she insisted that her previous service provider put refrigerant in every year and I needed to do the same. No matter how I tried to explain that the system was fine, I ended up having to call my boss to the house to ensure her we didn’t need to add refrigerant. Taking the time to talk to this client was not something I wanted to do, but it was something I needed to do. I gained her respect and her business. From that day on, our company was called twice a year to service her heating and cooling system. The customer is ‘always right’ but sometimes it may take extra time to explain the problem and/or how you fixed it. You might even need to call in your boss and that is ok too! There are times you will be right and there will be times when they will be right but taking the time to talk with them will help down the road.
While this article is written in the context of building maintenance, it can be applied to every part of Facilities. I hope we can all take the time to read it and receive something positive from it. There is always room for improvement!
MAINTENANCE QUALITY CONTROL
(Michael Cowley, CE Maintenance Solutions)
As we all know, performing maintenance and keeping our customers happy at the same time can be a tall order. As maintenance professionals, we all know we are doing a good job so quality control doesn’t seem to be too important to us. However, the reality is that many of our customers don’t share the same high value of the maintenance effort as we do. Quite often, the customer view is the opposite of what we see in the mirror each maintenance day.
So let’s talk about what items should be part of our new Maintenance Quality Control program and how we change the existing perception of our maintenance team, assuming it needs a little adjustment.
As we talk about maintenance quality control, the first thing to consider is the customer side of quality control. Often we concentrate on our own maintenance side of quality and pay little attention to our customers. After all, we are the experts, not the customer. This translates into “if we are happy then they must be happy!” The reality is if the customer is not happy it doesn’t matter what we think of ourselves. Perception is truth!
External Customer Quality Control
- Always fix the problem – this may sound silly to many maintenance employees but not fixing the problem is one of the biggest complaints filed by customers. This is either because we didn’t understand the problem in the beginning, we didn’t take time to find out what was bothering them, or the worst case, we didn’t care.
- Do more than expected – always do more than the customer expects. Go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. Often it is as simple as talking to the customer.
- Clean up after the fix – this is one of my pet peeves. Always leave the work area cleaner than you found it when you arrived.
- Communicate to the customer – communicate, communicate, communicate. Reach out to the customer before the work is scheduled, when the work is scheduled, during the work, and always after the work is complete to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Under promise and over deliver – this is primarily related to the scheduling of the repair work. Complete the work faster than the original schedule and in a shorter repair time.
- Follow-up with questionnaire and evaluation – this may sound like a great deal of work but with the current technology available to us it can be totally automatic.
- Verbal from dispatcher of all calls – if you are lucky enough to have a full-time dispatcher then the person-to-person follow-up can easily be accomplished. Sometime within 24 hours of the work being complete you have the dispatcher call the work requester and ask how the work went. Very simple.
- Email response from all completed work requests – if no dispatcher is available then your CMMS can automatically send a form email to the requester. Typically the email reads, “Hello. Our records indicate your work request #BR549 has been completed. Please fill out the short form below and return or call to speak directly to our maintenance staff. Thank you and have a great day.”
Internal Side of Quality Control
The internal side of quality control can actually be more important than the external customer quality control. If your quality is excellent, your customers won’t have anything to complain about. I still believe the communication and follow-up component is important for all service providing organizations.
- Were all the parts disposed of properly – nothing damages your organization’s perception than to leave the old parts behind. Remember the area needs to be cleaner than when you got there. This includes the equipment and the entire work area.
- Work order properly filled out and completed – all of the proper codes and comments should be completely filled in including the actual hours spent on the job as well as all parts used. This is essential to determine the total cost of the work.
- Tools cleaned and ready for the next job – all tools and equipment must be cleaned and prepared for the next job. Everything placed back in the proper storage area so it can be found the next time it is needed.
- Asset history updated – make sure your asset history is properly updated. If parts have been changed or modified, this needs to be in the asset history so the next repair person understands what has taken place in the past.
- PM procedure updated if needed – if it is a preventive maintenance work request, take time to update the procedure to ensure the PM is as close to perfect as possible to guarantee the proper things are being inspected and adjusted.
- Supervisor called and more work requested (Just kidding) – Sorry for the Mike’s World humor but yes, your employees should be requesting the next job as soon as the cleanup and paper work is finished.
Keep in mind all of the above needs to be audited on a regular basis to ensure your quality program is working properly. Remember you must inspect what you expect.