At Shared Agenda and Citycare, we look after our own estate and we run tenant liaison services for other customers with a multi-occupancy estate.
Whether you have a large estate to manage or a relatively modest portfolio, you will be well used to the difficulty of trying to keep everyone happy. We understand the day to day needs of building users well as we look after a large estate of our own with multiple organisations housed in various locations. How do you provide the best customer service experience in a way that remains efficient and effective for your employer? From providing this service day in, day out, we have gathered a number of hints and tips together which might be useful for you.
Tip 1: Sort your systems
Get the basics right and you will save a lot of time. Computer systems that deal with your day to day management tasks are now 10 a penny. They can deal with help desk enquiries, placing work orders and managing delivery in real time along with a million other management tasks and prompts. However, only in the last year I have witnessed very large public sector organisations still manually issuing jobs with hard copy dockets. Don’t be this organisation. This is ripe for human error and you are 1 missed docket away from disaster. Get your systems sorted; it’s the best investment you will ever make.
Tip 2: Set your standards
Whether you have an in-house team of cleaners or you contract out, whether you have your own caretakers or an FM provider, please don’t leave this to chance. Ensure you demonstrate what standard you expect and check regularly. This can be as simple as attending site with the Cleaning Supervisor or the MD of the FM company and pointing out the good and the bad. Once they know you are watching and you care, you will have already elevated above many of their other customers. Reward good service with a well placed thank you and you are cooking on gas. Spot poor performance and seek to understand why and you still might able to turn it around without going nuclear. Make them part of the team with your communications strategy and you can achieve a top performing virtual team.
Tip 3: Make yourself known
Get around the buildings, have liaison meetings or just a quick coffee – choose what’s appropriate to your estate – but get out of your ivory tower and walk the estate. Management by walkabout is one of the easiest ways to really understand what’s going on. If it’s a while since you’ve done it, or you rely on your junior members of staff to tread the boards, get out there and have a look and chat with people. You might be pleased or you might be disappointed; either way, you will know 100% more about your team’s performance and the customer experience than you did when you got out of bed this morning.
Tip 4: Walk a mile in their shoes
When I worked in retail I was always taught to start my store inspection further down the High Street. What did I notice on the approach to the building, external inspection, entrance…you get the picture. What do building occupiers experience every day? What do visitors experience? What can you do something about that is quick and easy to solve (e.g. litter picking)? What might have to go in the long term strategy box (e.g. the wrong location, building too small). Take the time to do this and you will enhance your offer, I promise.
Tip 5: Make yourself available
Communication, communication, communication. It’s simple really. Make sure you are easily accessible by phone (mobile is best), email, text or in person – whichever medium suits your estate the best. If you’re out of the office, always make sure you have a human being as your back up plan; answer machines can’t take away the frustration…they just layer more on top for you to deal with when you get back. If you have a staff team, please ensure they have undertaken some basic customer training and know how to smile when answering the phone…underinvestment here will show. How do you best achieve a smiling team? Hire smiley people!
Tip 6: No hidden costs
Whether you deal with internal recharges or external clients, nobody likes an unexpected invoice. Be clear about costs and timeframes. Be clear and open about the build-up of these costs and get an agreement before you start doing the additional work or invoicing; you will incur time later dealing with the fall out if you don’t! Your fancy new systems should make this plain sailing of course.
Tip 7: Go the extra mile
Whether it’s a basket of fruit or a welcome card for new tenants or a box of Celebrations at Christmas, it’s always nice to show your building users that you recognise them as individuals and not just a tenant/service. It doesn’t have to cost anything, just be respectful and welcoming and you may find that your behaviour is mirrored in theirs.