Adapting Customers Service and Safety Protocols to a COVID World
Pivoting company processes to keep staff and customers safe
This article was first published in Building Rural Manitoba Magazine, July 2020
As facility managers worldwide observed World FM Day on May 13, the conversation in the profession at the moment was, and still is, dominated by the COVID 19 outbreak. Adapting to changing safety protocols is top of mind, as are the implications for facility design, construction, and maintenance.
Through it all, construction companies engaged in repair and maintenance for the most part found themselves deemed essential and therefore exempt from some of even the strictest lockdown situations across North America. They were among the few industries to face the outbreak head-on, with all the safety protocols that has entailed.
As various jurisdictions have now started to re-open their economies, such companies provide useful models to look to for reinvented best practices not only for safety, but project delivery, coordination, and customer service.
Neil Winters, service manager at Flynn Group of Companies, has had a front-row seat to some of the changing processes and their impact on facility management and construction.
“It’s a little different now,” he understates.
Indeed, at many companies not involved in food preparation and delivery, handwashing previously received scant procedural attention and the habit of soldiering through a cough or cold was a badge of honor. In the space of a few months “physical distancing” entered the popular lexicon and adults have been receiving refresher training on how to wash their hands.
Every job has seen changes, including facility management and associated trades.
For repair crews at Flynn Group of Companies, interacting with facility managers and business owners has indeed become “a little different”.
“Some of the in-person things are changing,” Winters says. “We used to make a point of meeting the customer, shaking hands, giving our business card. It was part of our customer service process. Now there’s access protocols. The only time we go inside the [customer’s] building now is for essential leak investigation. And that only happens after we’ve made contact with the customer over the phone and we’ve decided we really need to get inside to have a look. So we’re asking a lot more questions when the call first comes in, and we’re deciding some of those things before we even arrive.”
A Helping Hand From Technology
Government-enacted lockdowns around the globe have placed a spotlight on the processes – good and not-so-good – of companies deemed ‘essential’ and excluded from such measures. Grocery stores with a curbside pickup service already in place, for example, were able to scale-up easily to meet demand, at the expense of competitors who might have struggled to catch-up.
Years ago, Flynn developed its own mobile technology to meet the needs of their customers and employees. Born in 1978, Flynn is now the leading contractor in North America for the total building envelope. Last year alone their crews worked on more that 27,000 repair and maintenance projects.
Their suite of apps, built and maintained by an in-house development team, includes a service call request app, and a “coaching” app that allows seasoned crew members to mentor rookies during their first months on the job.
“We’ve always pushed communication,” Winters says. “We have the Flynn service app, where you receive the service call, you make contact with the customer, you document the work, take photos and the customer gets a report. All from the app.”
The aim was to improve performance and develop people, but now the technology is paying additional dividends.
Like many companies with pre-existing processes and technology well-suited to the new reality and customer expectations, Flynn has been able to adapt faster and easier.
“All the things that we did before that really set us apart, well now it just looks like common sense. Of course you would send photos from your phone. Of course you would want to tap to schedule a repair.
“These are things that now are going to be expected.”
As facility managers navigate the change in attitudes and policies that are coming to define the COVID-19 outbreak, some things won’t change.
“There’s so much for facility managers to worry about. Furniture, flooring, HVAC systems, cleaning. Honestly when they call a company like Flynn, and there are others, but when they call Flynn, they’re doing it because they know we’ve got our safety culture, the right processes in place and the people trained. They can keep their focus on the long-term health of the building.”
Flynn’s repair and maintenance department tagline, “We have you covered, coast to coast,” is meant to reflect the company’s North American coverage and 24/7 response. It may also reflect a certain peace of mind this year, as, like many other companies across North America, Flynn is well-prepared to meet a challenge few saw coming.
Click here to see the 19 changes Flynn has made to its repair & maintenance service processes.