As a provider of facilities management technology solutions, we work with hundreds of leading retail, restaurant and convenience store chains along with tens of thousands of contractors. The common thread between them is that they all conduct their business (entering work orders, submitting proposals, monitoring repair status, completing jobs, reviewing metrics, tracking service payments, etc.) on the ServiceChannel platform.
We’ve found that by bringing facility managers together with their contractors, each discover real insights to working together and how best to be successful. We helped facilitate such a “meeting of the minds” right after last week’s ServiceChannel User Group Meeting in Columbus, OH, preceding the PRSM Mid Year Conference held there.
Contractors, Meet the Retailers
To help us continually improve our solution for our diverse client base, early last year we started the Contractor Advisory Board, a group of over 20 members encompassing all types of contractors (sub-contractors, self-performers, across trades, etc). Since then, we received a lot of good recommendations and suggestions, and have implemented functionality that’s made the contractor and retailer experience even more efficient and effective.
However, this year, we tried something new. To better address the issues that crop up between retailers and contractors, we invited a number of our retail clients to meet with our Contractor group to see if we could come up with even more useful ideas. While there was some initial trepidation, this joint exercise proved to be a great idea. We quickly learned what worked and what didn’t, and importantly what some of the pain points were in these working arrangements.
Most important, we found a true desire from everyone to further improve their collaborative efforts. What quickly evolved during this was in depth ‘education sharing’ as both sides were really interested in what the other had to offer.
Collaboration Improves Facilities Management
One small example helps illustrate this. Some of the contractors highlighted a problem when jobs exceed NTE (not to exceed) limits set by retailers. Retailers set the NTE limit for good reason, to help keep costs under control and eliminate excessive charges. However, in some cases, contractors described how they can be on site and after digging into the specifics of a job, find out its full cost exceeds the NTE. Then, unable to proceed if the retailer’s set its business rules that way, the contractors then have to rely on a flurry of emails to try to get the retailer’s attention to increase the NTE. Retailers are inundated with emails and often don’t respond in a timely fashion. Contractors are forced to sit around, waiting for approval.
Through new awareness and now a mutual understanding of this particular problem, some retailers decided to create a ‘hotline’ specifically to deal with such required approvals, vastly improving everyone’s efficiency - problem solved! Though an apparent simple issue, this example serves to illustrate how simply getting different parties in the same room, talking about their mutual interests can go a long way to making everyone’s life easier.
Other resolved problems including dealing with retailers’ not providing job-specific feedback on contractors which in some cases prevented invoice submission. Again, by simply having the opportunity to talk through a problem and understanding the other’s pain points, retailers, contractors and our team identified an existing, inefficient process that could be remedied easily, simply through understanding its impact on all parties.
Bottom line - contractors and retail/restaurant chains have a lot more in common that they each may have thought. Through our bringing them together, we all learned a lot to make everyone’s lives better, and importantly, all our retail/restaurant clients and their contractor partners are already benefiting from this collaborative process. And the proof point? Everyone is already looking forward to the next opportunity to not only trade stories but further collaborate on ways to work together.