Help is at hand
Help desks can play a vital role in improving the customer service a FM team gives its internal clients. Sarah Riley, general manager of FSI FM Solutions, reports on the benefits of the helpdesk.
The maturing of the facilities management industry in the UAE over the last few years has led to an increase in expectations at all levels. Clients require a high quality of advice and solutions for managing their buildings and facilities. Meeting these requirements will ultimately mean investing in good management systems in order to respond effectively to client requests.
The latest phase in the FM evolution in the Middle East is the utilisation of help desks with fully integrated management and data collection systems incorporating what is commonly referred to as computer aided facilities management (CAFM).
There are numerous facilities management monitoring and control systems currently being used to aid in the management of large commercial and residential towers and building complexes throughout the Middle East region. Too often, systems that have been installed are not being used effectively and this will reduce the potential for ensuring optimum performance and the minimisation of operating costs. In today's built environment, more and more clients, developers, consultants and facilities managers have recognised the need to have these systems in place and to utilise them properly.
Within the Middle East region it is apparent that people know what help desks are, but they are generally not aware of what help desks can do. In many cases they are seen as a function that is outsourced to another part of the world.
Therefore they can become associated with being an unmanageable and invisible workforce that creates communication problems when vital information needs to be passed through the correct channels of an organisation's business process.
The case studies used as examples here will hopefully help to change such attitudes. Help desks can be the ultimate customer/client interface and a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“hub' of information if used and managed effectively.
Help desk services are designed to provide clients with management systems to enhance the performance of their business and as such they are a great tool for the facilities manager.
What are the benefits of a help desk?
Facilities management help desks provide a single point of contact for both clients and suppliers. In most cases this contact is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Help desks are the core of a coordinated FM operation and they aim to provide a responsive service to manage the rectification of building faults and service requests on behalf of a company's clients.
Help desks provide clients with a tool to manage their core business and they allow for all facilities management services to be fully integrated.
Financial and reporting functions are also huge benefits that help desks can bring to an organisation.
Improved cost and budget monitoring of property maintenance work and associated services is invaluable. Also regular reporting of all the data collected by the help desk can provide vital information to buildings and facilities managers.
Regardless of the benefits many organisations, small and large, still rely on a basic pen and paper system to run and manage their maintenance services and other vital service areas.
There are potential dangers of relying on paper records, such as missing planned maintenance jobs and failing to respond to help desk calls.
What can a Help Desk do?
The help desk is the point at which service delivery can be measured, along with the performance of the various parties within the services delivery team. It is a management function that is the key to providing complete control of all facilities services within one system.
A key role for the help desk is to monitor the progress of all tasks, closing out all requests and providing updates and feedback to the client.
Because of this, all operators and associated help desk staff should be trained and managed so that they can handle calls in a professional and efficient manner.
Help desks are also designed to provide clients with management reporting to enhance the performance of their business. The help desk staff and facilities manager should evaluate the management information required by their clients and use this to improve the effectiveness of their services.
In many cases, companies invest in help desk facilities and then do not use the reports generated by it or any of the data collected by it.
CAFM systems and help desks?
A properly implemented and managed CAFM system can bring enormous benefits to a facilities management operation as well as to the organisation as a whole.
Every company using a pen and paper system will benefit from installing CAFM software. The closer you can control a facility's environment, the better your performance will be, resulting in higher turnover and lower maintenance costs.
Entrusting the job to a sophisticated CAFM system can save 15 to 25% in management costs each year by ensuring that operations run like clockwork.
So aside from a central help desk function, what can a CAFM system offer? The core module in all CAFM systems is the asset register. This enables building owners and managers to determine the optimal balance between expenditure and productivity over the life of their individual assets.
CAFM systems also incorporate a planned preventative maintenance (PPM) scheduler which allows facilities managers to plan, monitor and record planned and reactive maintenance.
In addition to monitoring assets, a CAFM system will also include a procurement module that allows stock items and consumables to be monitored.
Data can therefore be collated and up to date stock levels and stock values can be derived from this. This type of module allows stock to be allocated to job cards and work orders generated elsewhere in the system.
The facility to monitor the performance of both in-house and third party service providers also exists within CAFM systems. These systems are also highly effective in monitoring resource allocation and labour utilisation. Financial functionality is also a feature, as all maintenance related expenditure can be budgeted and tracked using a CAFM system.
CAFM systems typically include a range of standard reports to portray all the information captures within it. As accurate reporting is essential to the facilities manager, the data within the system can also be exported to an alternative report writing tool.
In short the combination of a help desk and a CAFM system provides clients with a single point of control alongside an indispensable monitoring and reporting tool.
Given the impact that the effective use of a CAFM system can have, the facilities manager(s) who will be using the system is the ideal candidate to decide on the specification and requirements of the system. They will have an insight into what operations and services need to be monitored and measured and what data needs to be captured and reported on.
There is a great future for help desks and CAFM in the Middle East region. Companies responsible for managing buildings from residential developments, commercial towers and hotels, to factories, oil refineries and hospitals, are becoming more and more aware of the benefits associated with these operations and systems.
Emcor Facilities Services
The focus of Emcor's helpdesk operation is their call centre in Dubai. It is used to manage and service their extensive clientele in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Some of their existing clients are HSBC, First Gulf Bank, Al Rostamani, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi Mall, State Audit Bureau, The Avenues, Jumeira Islands & Jumeira Beach Residence.
The central helpdesk facility uses it's CAFM system in many ways: for call logging, managing planned preventative maintenance, procurement, stores and intranet. In addition to these they also have specific reporting functions.
"It (the CAFM system) allows us to track each and every job logged with regards to its status, resource and materials allocated. At any point, anyone with access to this system, has the ability to obtain a job update in real time." (Imran Akram, EFS call centre manager).
MAB Property Service and Development
"When MAB planned to set up its organisation, the management knew from the very start how important it was to have a help desk/call centre." (Joy Canda, help desk supervisor).
MAB states that it is the belief of the senior management team that a help desk operation would serve as the vital contact point between the client and the company itself. They believe it serves as the tool for customer communication, to determine and implement effective arrangements in relation to product information, enquiries, contracts or order handling and as a valuable part of the customer feedback and complaints process.
"The data and information obtained in the help desk are used as one of the yardsticks to determine whether our company has met it's customer's requirements."
For the last three months, following the activation of its internal help Desk, MAB have been able to gain 15 contracts for villa maintenance, despite very steep competition from within the market. They are adamant that having an efficient helpdesk function has also played a significant role in enabling them to secure a very prestigious project in Abu Dhabi. A representative from this client visited MAB's help desk and conducted an audit of the internal operations. They appreciated the value that the Help desk would bring to any client or project in terms of efficient monitoring of maintenance and collection of vital help desk data. The CAFM system that they use links their entire FM operations.