Buildings have needs that go way beyond cleaning.
While cleaning duties are routinely performed either by in-house custodial professionals or contract cleaners, the provision of facilities support services doesn’t tend to be as predicable or streamlined as that of cleaning services.
Facilities support services are sometimes performed in-house by a generalist, which can be a real issue when organizations downsize their in-house teams.
We often see that the facilities support personnel are the first to go in a corporate layoff.
Alternately, facilities support services might be outsourced to the construction, plumbing, electrical and other trades at the going rate, which is usually a high price.
Building owners can look to their building service contractors (BSCs) to provide facilities support services as part of the overall package.
Outsourcing the facilities support function is becoming more of a trend because it is cost effective for the building owner.
BSCs with facilities support services in their portfolio are an obvious choice for building managers who need to have this function fulfilled.
In a typical day at a commercial or industrial building, clients have all kinds of pop-up needs and urgencies.
When the BSC can be the single point of contact for all maintenance and facilities support needs, it improves efficiency, safety and security for the building managers and occupants.
It eliminates the need to, for instance, go to multiple sources to find a plumber, hire a demolition and construction team or bring in a crew to set up cubicles.
The scheduling and the quality assurance can be handled by the BSC’s facilities support team.
The existing BSC already has on-site familiarity, has a work order process in place and knows the ebbs and flows of the building and its occupants.
And the occupants and management are familiar with and trust the company that is performing the work.
A BSC who is working at two o’clock in the morning often detects problems that can develop into emergencies.
A BSC with a facilities support division can both see and respond to a problem before it becomes a wide-reaching emergency, even before the customer is aware of the issue.
“Sometimes, we are the only people in a building in the early hours of the morning. On one occasion, a water supply line to a coffeemaker in a company second-floor break room came loose in the middle of the night. The janitor noticed it, and set the wheels in motion. A floorcare team with extractors was brought in immediately to get rid of the water. A plumber arrived to fix the water supply line. All of the necessary maintenance and facilities support team members were brought in to clean up, fix and mitigate,” says Julio Rios,facilities support project manager at Pacific Maintenance Company in Santa Clara, California.
“By the time the customer arrived the next day, they had no idea there had been a problem until they were informed of the event. They were relieved that it was taken care of. It could have caused a few million dollars’ worth of damage and loss of production if the water had started to seep through to the floor below. And this kind of response just doesn’t happen unless a BSC has the necessary service professionals on the team and on call 24/7.”
Facilities that use contractors who provide a seamless combination of cleaning and facilities services can realize a number of advantages.
The manager gets to work with people he or she knows.
The BSC is aware of and sensitive to a facility’s scheduling needs and idiosyncrasies.
The BSC is also mindful of the client’s processes, policies and security requirements.
And, there is a single point of contact for the building manager for everything from a spill on the warehouse floor to resolving a middle-of-the-night emergency that requires the boarding up of windows after a break-in.
One of the other advantages for customers is the cost savings involved in outsourcing their facility service needs to their BSC who has both the appropriate credentials and team members.
According to Rios, “If there is a clogged toilet at a facility, a building manager could call a plumber and pay a minimum rate equivalent to an hour of service to have the toilet fixed, whether the plumber is on-site for 10 minutes or an hour. If a BSC’s facilities service folks are tapped to unclog a toilet, the facilities technician can also tend to other needs. The same technician can unclog the toilet, move furniture and patch a wall, all in the same hour. It’s much more effective for the facility and is an efficient use of time and money.”
Rios continues, “The other perk is: The client doesn’t have to find and hire a different vendor for every single item that needs attention. It’s streamlined in terms of point of contact, work orders, accounts payable and quality control.”
Another advantage is that some BSCs offer, through their facilities support divisions, niche services that customers otherwise don’t know where to source.
Energy audits and utility retrofits are examples of niche offerings available through some BSCs.
Though a facilities support division can be a good way for a BSC to differentiate itself by providing a menu of services beyond cleaning, there can be some serious pitfalls.
A contractor has to be completely ready for and experienced with facilities support services, from plumbing to pest control management to graffiti removal.
When a cleaning company has established relationships with its customers and it introduces a new service, it must be both able to flawlessly perform the service and also be ready to answer clients’ emergency requests, sometimes involving some unexpected surprises.
Failures occur when a contractor overcommits and under delivers.
“Building service contractors know how to clean, but they don’t necessary know how to do facility maintenance services or tenant improvements. A failure on the facilities support side can affect the cleaning side of a contract. No matter what, a contractor has to stay within its own core competency. Otherwise, it might lose all the business it has with a particular customer. In other words, don’t jeopardize your relationship with a customer by providing a new service that you’re not qualified or ready to perform,” Rios comments.