This article is divided up into two posts. This first post is about how to set up the right mindset for your company, your team, and your contractors. The second post is about creating a system for managing expectations and developing strong relationships.
We work with facilities maintenance managers all over the country, and the one thing most ask for help with is finding and keeping great facilities maintenance contractors. Not surprisingly, contractors face a similar problem with finding qualified technicians. The greatest problem our industry faces is not a technology problem; it’s a people problem.
FM has a PR problem.
About seven years ago at a PRSM conference, I was attending an education session led by a national HVAC company when the speaker asked a question that sparked a realization for me. You can read more about that story here.
The bottom line is our culture has looked down on skilled trades for a very long time, so it’s no wonder it’s no surprise that more workers are retiring out of the industry than coming into it. You can read more about that here.
The reason it’s getting harder to find great contractors.
The cause is basic supply and demand principles. Since there are increasingly fewer skilled candidates, repair contractors are competing to hire them. They are paying higher wages to attract people to their companies and also to retain their current employees.The repair companies who do this well are able to provide better service to their customers, and are in high demand.
The repair companies who can’t attract quality candidates are constantly replacing business because their service quality suffers. There are highly skilled people who were running repair companies, and are now going back into the workforce because of they became burnt-out from their hiring challenges. As this consolidation occurs, there are fewer quality contractors.
The right mindset for your company.
Today’s consumer is not the same as it was 10 years ago. Where people shop and eat is as much of a fashion statement as it is a necessity. Thanks to the help social media, it is easier than ever to showcase personal taste and status. As a result customers demand a great experience when they choose to spend their money.
Consumers want well-designed, well-kept, and well-lit physical spaces. They must be visually appealing, making for great photos to share with their online peers. Additionally, they crave updates to the experience as a reason to return. Facilities maintenance departments should no longer be thought of as an afterthought, but instead give the same level of status an organization gives to branding and marketing.
Maintenance can no longer be seen as a passive and reactive component of the modern business. Well maintained physical spaces have a direct correlation to high customer satisfaction, high employee satisfaction (which drives customer satisfaction), lower employee turnover.
The modern facilities maintenance department is a highly professional, well-funded, integral component of creating incredible customer experiences.Accordingly, careful thought and consideration should be given towards creating clear expectations and healthy budgets for maintenance departments.
The right mindset for your team.
Many companies make the mistake of prioritizing hourly rate costs when they source for vendors. This is problematic because the mindset incentivizes a race to the bottom. And, when you race to the bottom, you eventually get there.
When companies prioritize cost over quality, they tend not to reach their goals in either category. They should prioritize quality first, and long-term cost will follow. Quality contractors want to work with quality customers, so finding and attracting better contractors starts with being a better customer in the same way that having a better relationship starts with being a better partner.
The good news is this is very simple, and it has everything to do with treating people they way you would want to be treated. Build a reputation of being a consistent and fair customer. View your vendors as partners who sit on the same side of the table as you and who partner with you to deliver exceptional customer experiences for your customers. They are part of your team, not the “other.”
The right mindset for your contractors
The same way you should have the goal of being your contractors' favorite customer, your vendors should have the goal of being your favorite partner to work with.
Since you are building a reputation of being consistent and fair, you should not settle for a partner who doesn’t strive to do the same. You are looking for a contractors who look at your stores and locations as if they are their own. That means they make thorough repairs, report problems without exaggerating the urgency or severity, charge fair prices, and stand behind their work.
There are common attributes to maintenance contractors who have the mindset described above. They are:
They have an actively involved owner
They have an office support team
They have internal training programs for trade knowledge and soft skills
They perform one trade (or related trades)
They have a local footprint with less than 30 miles of travel
They have fewer than 25 employees
At Envoy, we are advocates of our customers working with contractors who fit this archetype because they are more likely to provide higher quality repairs, better communication and customer service, and a lower average invoice than regional and national companies.
In the next part of this article, we will discuss best practice processes you can use to improve your vendor relationships. There will be actionable advice you can use immediately. Don’t miss it. Sign up and you will be notified when it goes live.