April 2017

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How an Inefficient Work Order Management Process Hurts Tenants, Operators, and Owners

– and What to Do About It (Part I)
Alex Ortiz,
Account Executive

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Summary: Property managers and owners of large buildings can’t predict the future, but they can control how they manage work orders when customers request service. When this process breaks down, the tenants, property managers, operators, and owners all pay a costly price. Here’s what to do about it.

On a recent flight back home to Seattle, I met an ecologist working on her master’s. Her specialty is on the impact of sea levels on salt marshes in New England, and after listening to her for five minutes, it was clear to me that she is very passionate about her work.

When she asked me what I do, I explained that I sell a work order management solution for property managers of large commercial office buildings, but it could just as well be used by a hospital, research laboratory, university, school district, or any other property type. Work order management solutions help the people who manage and operate facilities to quickly respond to and fix the day-to-day operational issues that inevitably come up as people carry out their work. Human affairs lead to a need for janitors, plumbers, carpenters, locksmiths, electricians, day porters, engineers, IT staff, and others. In her case, as a graduate student at a university, it could be that her library is too cold, there’s a major spill to clean up in a lab, or a chair in the student union needs replacement.

To make what I do even more relevant, I asked her what her favorite building on her campus is. She replied, “I spend a lot of time in our biology building – but it gets so hot in there sometimes, and it takes so long for them to fix it, that I don’t even bother putting in a service ticket anymore. Some days, I just give up and leave.”

What a tragedy, I thought: this student pays the university to provide her with a learning environment and physical infrastructure for research, and that environment is failing her.

A Building’s Purpose

The purpose of a building is to enable people to carry out their work. Libraries are for learning, labs are for research, residences are for living, and offices are for business. Any time a building’s operation interferes with people’s ability to work, the building fails in its core responsibility.

Sometimes these failures are unavoidable, like record-breaking bad weather causing a rare rooftop leak that could not have been predicted during capital planning.

At other times, these failures are unforeseeable but entirely avoidable. Think of a flight delay due to mechanical failure caused by human oversight or improper preventative maintenance on the plane. In the airline industry, this is relatively rare, and for good reason: mechanical delays are really bad for business, so airlines invest in and implement robust service procedures and carry them out consistently to prevent mechanical failures as much as possible.

In the building industry, rarely is mechanical failure catastrophic, so while there is a general incentive to deliver excellent service to customers and keep tenants happy, stories like the ecologist’s are unfortunately common. But make no mistake: any time a building fails in any mechanical, operational, or procedural way, the people who work in that building lose time, money, satisfaction, or all three.

When these failures are not quickly addressed, they become disruptive and lead to considerable downstream costs. Tenants, operators, managers, and owners all suffer: reduced workplace productivity for tenant employees, burnout for operators from their heroic efforts to keep the building running at all costs, dips in lease renewal rates for the property managers, and decreased building profitability for real estate companies and owners.

Consequences – Negative and Positive – of Great Work Order Management

Think about the phrase, "work orders." A work order is literally an order to do work. When the work is performed well, quickly and consistently, tenants are happy because they feel taken care of.  They stay in the building longer, work more productively, sign on to renew leases and generate more operating income for owners. They're satisfied. Property managers and operators who do this better than their peers know this all comes down to something simple: do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, and be able to quantify for your tenants and building owners the value of your performance.

One of my colleagues recently told me a story about a customer of ours.  One of their biggest tenants, an employer leasing three floors in an office tower in Washington, wanted to renegotiate its lease. In the negotiation, the tenant blamed the property manager of being unresponsive during the previous year. The tenant was so dissatisfied that it demanded to pay less in rent—if they even renewed. When my colleague ran a report on the specific tenant's service request history, he found that the property manager's average response time was 10 minutes or less, and the average resolution time was under an hour.
Reliable Controls What happened next was a marvel. The property manager showed this data to the tenant, and together they separated perception from reality. They then negotiated a deal that was better for the building owner. The tenant renewed and continues to be satisfied with the property. The best part of it all? Everyone won that day: the tenant, who remained at a responsive property. The property manager, who received higher client satisfaction scores. The operators, who now have proof of delivering excellent service. And the owner, who's now generating even more profit.

What helped this happen? Excellent service procedures, an efficient work order process, and consistent data capture. While the property manager couldn’t predict the future, what was in their control was how quickly they responded to service requests, how soon their vendors and maintenance staff resolved problems, and how quickly tenants were able to continue their work in the office environment they paid for. Whether you run a hospital with patients to care for, a school district with bright young minds to educate, or a university brimming with future world-class ecologists, you owe it to your customers to deliver a similarly great experience.

Up Next

In Part II, we’ll discuss two things: common failure points in the lifecycle of a work order, the impact those failure points have on customers, and what property managers and building operators can do to prevent these from happening. You’ll learn how to deliver a better, more profitable experience for everyone involved.

About the Author

Alex Ortiz is an Account Executive at McKinstry. He sells the work order management solution InfoCentre, which combines a CMMS with a 24x7x365 call center that supports the entire lifecycle of your work orders. Building operators and property managers can then focus on what they do best: take care of their customers. For information about InfoCentre, contact us here.

About McKinstry: Established in 1960, McKinstry is a full-service design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) firm with over 1,800 employees and approximately $500 million in annual revenue. McKinstry’s professional staff and trades people deliver consulting, construction, energy, and facility services. As an early adopter of the DBOM process, the company advocates collaborative and sustainable solutions that are designed to ensure occupant comfort, improve systems efficiency, reduce facility operational costs, and ultimately optimize client profitability for the life of their building. For information about McKinstry’s full range of services, contact us here.


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