Community Management and Customer Experience: Taking the meta-view in FM
The global service industry has taken a decisive turn towards being people centric in its approach. With each passing day, a focus on the empowerment of end-users and looking at solutions on the basis of their impact on individual customers, is becoming the prime mover in the industry. Contextualised and outcome oriented facilities management, which targets the enhancement of occupant experiences, is the natural evolution of legacy models in this scenario. No longer the domain of maintaining physical assets alone, FM is now emerging as a provider of solutions that enable holistic improvements and a better quality of life.
Defining the concept of community‐based facilities management (CbFM) is a matter of reorienting perspectives. Legacy models of FM were held back by an intrinsic limitation of ambition and vision, in their awareness of the possibilities that lay dormant within their operational space. CbFM seeks to draw attention and future investments to a more holistic approach. One which promotes the creation of synergy between community level economy, building social capital and enhancing resource and energy utilisation.
The underlying principle that is driving this broader, progressive and more aspirational take on the management of built infrastructure is a realisation that the final word in FM is about delivering optimal customer experiences. The ultimate metric for a built asset to be considered well managed is its ability to positively impact the day-to-day lives of users. In the past, the FM industry was held back by considering its role as being limited to a back-end operation, with a primary concern centered on the management of mechanical and physical assets. However, recent improvements in the capabilities of digital technology have brought FM centerstage. It is now capable of delivering continuous efficiencies and asset performance, while also being in sync with very specific occupant expectations and outcomes that translate into exceptional communities.
The social impact of next-gen FM’s multiplier effect
Measuring the impact of technology in terms of watts consumed, workforce KPIs or service delivery timeframes is a very useful way to monitor performance. However, this is also a view that is limited. As a means to gauge effectiveness, taking a purely engineering and asset management oriented perspective to FM sells it short. After all, it’s very possible to run an operation ‘efficiently’ while producing sub-optimal results in terms of customer experience.
Would you be satisfied with having a tasteless meal in a restaurant with uncomfortable seating and bad ambience, simply because it was delivered quickly and cooked with the minimal possible energy consumption? Digital technology is now empowering facilities management operations through insights and better utilisation of time and resources. Consequently they can focus on creating exceptional customer experiences to a much greater extent, rather than being constantly preoccupied with reactive firefighting of issues as they emerge. With the emergence of IoT, Machine Learning, and AI based FM, the industry is now in a position to create delightful customer experiences that are also reconciled with continuous and real-time opex savings for operators, as well as sustainability. The CbFM model takes the big-picture perspective of being able to deliver exceptional user experiences, easy access to conveniences, high standards in service quality, real-time community engagement, sustainable ecological impact and optimised physical asset management.
Unlocking the inherent value addition of FM, with the Community Management approach
Real estate is particularly sensitive to end-user perception, in the determination of an asset’s value. Perhaps even more important is the fact that customer experiences directly impact the preferential choice of a property and its occupancy rates. Having experienced the benefits of taking this customer experience driven approach, the FM industry has now been emboldened to expanding its perspective further, resulting in the emergence of CbFM.
One of the great benefits of urbanisation is its ability to provide high quality services to a larger proportion of the population, at lower per capita costs. It’s not a coincidence that the recent spurt in global development has been accompanied by an exponential rate of urbanisation. Cities are able to deliver utilities, education, healthcare and employment opportunities to large numbers more efficiently. The global emphasis on Smart Cities is the next step in deriving benefits from this rapid urbanisation, as governments all around the world seek to create more people-centric outcomes, per unit of capital outlay. In its essence, CbFM is the natural successor to previous models, within this new paradigm of urban organisation.
The true value addition of a technology empowered FM approach is not just in its ability to make CRE operations more profitable. When looked at from the meta-view, FM is realizing its potential to unlock value within the way communities are organized, rather than the operations of physical assets alone. Creating connected, responsive and proactive communities empowers every last individual within their ambit. To loosely paraphrase Neil Armstrong, the step from FM to CbFM is a giant leap in perspective, from convenience to empowerment.
(The Author, Prabhu Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of Facilio Inc.)