A common challenge that we hear from facility management teams is that they are struggling, or don’t know how to improve work order response times. Slow response times have a negative impact on maintenance productivity, the safety of your building and, arguably most critical, on the satisfaction of your building occupants.
It’s plain and simple, the longer it takes to fix an issue, the more frustrated the involved people will become. Facility teams get frustrated with vendors. Team leaders get frustrated with their employees. Occupants get frustrated with facilities teams. And then you spend even more time sorting out the issues that are caused by frustration. The real risk you run here is occupants leaving and vendors not meeting agreed upon SLAs– both of which have a direct impact on overall profitability and customer retention.
A mobile-first facility management strategy, coupled with finetuned processes, is the foundation of a work order program that speeds response times and improves overall building operations. In many complex buildings, you can easily gauge if the facilities or property management teams have embraced new technology just by the rate of response times. If they are using legacy technologies (desktop only) and outdated processes, you will notice a serious lag in the services they are providing for their tenants. If you fall into this category here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do my building occupants have an easy way to enter work requests?
Giving your occupants and easy way to enter work requests (that connects directly to your facility management solution) is a simple way to shave a few minutes off the time it takes to actually receive the request and route it to the right staffer or vendor. A few minutes may seem small, but if it takes a few minutes at each step of the process that could be adding 10, 15 or even 30 minutes to the time it takes to respond. If you’re relying on phone and email to receive and track incoming requests, something is bound to get lost in the shuffle.
Whichever tenant portal you select, it needs to be simple for your occupants to use it, otherwise, they probably won’t bother. It should only take a few clicks for occupants to enter in a work request. To make this process as simple as possible for occupants, you can add defaulting behaviors to your system. For example, you can have fields fill in automatically based on their username such as what company they are from, what floor the company is on, their suite number, etc. This will help speed the time it takes for occupants to enter a request, and as a bonus, this will help improve the overall data quality.
Typically, when response times are lacking we see that there is no formal process or system for entering work requests. For those who fall into this category we tend to see two common scenarios:
- Emailed work requests that they must be manually tracked and assigned to facility managers or the head engineer on staff – that is if they don’t end up buried in someone’s inbox first.
- Requests by phone, that have no paper trail, also have to be manually handled and many times the calls aren’t even received because someone has stepped away from their desk and no one is the to answer the calls.
This brings me to my next point…
Am I still using email, phones, excel spreadsheets, or worse – paper and binders?
This is probably one of the most critical parts of your work order process that can help you eliminate tons of time spent receiving, assigning, and tracking work orders. To put it into perspective, let’s think about how much time you are wasting if you’re relying on paper work orders:
- Someone submits a request via email.
- You receive the request and then sort through it to figure out what the actual request is and print it out (+5 minutes).
- You assign it to an engineer or vendor and wait for them to pick it up (+5 minutes…if you’re lucky).
- The FM or vendor picks up the work order and goes to where the request is needed (+15 minutes).
- The work is completed (15-30 minutes, depending on the request).
- The FM or vendor has to update and complete all work order paperwork at the end of the day – if they remember… (+5 minutes per work order).
- The tenant services coordinator sends an email to the requestor that the job is now complete (+3 minutes).
These extra, manual steps can add anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes or more of extra time spent responding to each request. And this doesn’t consider the actual work that is being done.
Step 1: paper needs to be removed from the equation. It is not only a hassle but it’s unproductive and you could be losing out on valuable data that isn’t being collected in real time. Once you have selected a solution for your work orders, consider the following to streamline your processes:
Automatically route incoming work orders to the correct person, vendor, or department. Your work order system or CMMS should be able to automatically route certain requests based on the type of work that is required. For example, if you receive a request that an HVAC is broken you can route it to your engineering department or if there is a spill in the lobby, your housekeeping team or janitorial service could be notified. By automatically assigning request you can save the time it takes to receive the request and figure out who should follow up with it.
Implement a mobile strategy and eliminate the paper. Another simple fix is implementing a mobile strategy that will help streamline this work order follow up. This starts by using mobile applications in conjunction with your work order system. Your system should be able to easily and automatically push a work order request that’s been received by the appropriate facility manager or vendor via a mobile application. There, you’ve already saved 15 minutes. Once the work is complete the staffer or vendor can then complete the work order directly from their phone, automatically triggering a notification to the requestor that the work is complete or a notification to a manager to close out the work order. Another 8 or so minutes saved here.
By automatically routing work requests and using mobile devices in your response process you can save upwards 30 minutes – or more depending on your current processes. In fact, one of our clients cut response times by 30% by implementing some of these techniques. To really know that these processes are really working ask yourself one last question…
Am I tracking important data and how will I use this data to improve my processes?
If you are already using a work order system, that is capturing critical information related to each work request, then you are already on the right track. In order to set specific goals and improve upon them, you need to be tracking the right data in a central location that is easily accessible by those that need it.
Easy to use request portals and a mobile app for your teams are critical to capturing data. Work request forms in your occupant portal should have fields that capture all necessary data related to work a work order such as type, time requested, requestor, company/department, etc. Mobile apps allow facilities teams to record data in real time from your FMs or vendors. When using mobile apps FMs or vendors can easily track all necessary information related to the work order by recording specific notes and more importantly keeping track of the time it takes to complete the work.
There are two essential reasons to track all information related to work orders:
Utilize the data to set specific goals. If you see that response time is too long, then you can use the current data as a baseline to set a goal or a key performance indicator (KPI) to improve response time by X%. Then track the data over time to monitor if you are achieving, or at least working toward, your set goal.
Set automatic alerts when goals aren’t being met. You can set up your system to automatically notify you when your response times are dropping out of a determined threshold, for example, based on the predetermined priority of the work type. This will help you make more informed decisions whether your processes need to be revised or if vendors aren’t meeting agreed upon SLAs.
Notice specific trends quicker. Tracking all data related to work orders will also help you see certain trends in your facility before an occupant reports it. If there are constant hot/cold calls for a certain area of you building maybe there is an equipment problem that you can find before anyone complains.
These are just a few examples of how you can use data to reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to a work request. The important takeaway is that you need a system that can collect and store all information related to work orders and response times. If you don’t have the data, you will not be able to adjust your process to improve them.
If you improve work order response times you will have a direct impact on occupant satisfaction which will then have a direct impact on them renewing their leases. After all, tenants are 3x more likely to renew leases when they are happy with management. If you are struggling to improve response times take a step back and ask yourself these three questions. They will help you get started on the right track to making enhancements to your work order response process.