The FM frontline

Understanding our customers better

by Chris Cunniff

By Dennis Markey, Chief Operating Officer

I travelled to the Yorkshire town of Harrogate recently, to meet with estate and facilities management colleagues at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust. We had a very productive and positive meeting, discussing a number of issues, whilst also highlighting the strategic estate plans that are now in place for that area (and all CCG areas in England). I look forward to continuing to work closely with this Trust as we work to improve their estate and facilities services, to benefit patients, staff and the local health economy.

Customer engagement was one of the highest scoring areas in our recent customer survey, showing improvement and this is thanks to the continued effort that colleagues across the company are putting in, to meet with customers and help us understand their needs better. I am a big believer in face-to-face meetings, especially when engaging with customers. Phone calls and email are great and convenient, however without discipline they can be ineffective.

As long as we keep an open and consistent dialogue with customers we are sure to see improvements, and changes in technology and communication are allowing us as facilities management and operational professionals to engage with customers in a variety of ways. One method that I’m finding very useful and encouraging my colleagues to get involved with, is social media. Core to the business and professionalism of facilities management today, is  keeping up-to-date with technology and ideas and adopting a customer-service orientation and I believe that social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, can help us to develop these principles further.

Some of the main themes and priorities for the Customer Strategy are highlighted in this table.

Some of the main themes and priorities for the Customer Strategy are highlighted in this table.

Many of you will be aware that I’m a regular user of Twitter (@NHSPS_Dennis) and I’ve been encouraged by both the positive and negative feedback that I receive via this channel as I am able to share good practice and excellent case studies, but because of the instant two-way interaction, I can also help resolve concerns or issues quickly.

We still have much work to do to support our customers, with many of these priorities being addressed in the new Customer Strategy, which will be rolled out over the coming month, following Board approval.

“We are working hard to improve our customer focus and we are seeing great progress, but we acknowledge there is still a lot more to be done.

“I have met with a wide range of customers over the last few months to listen to their priorities and this feedback has been critical to formulating our Customer Strategy for 2016/17.

“We want to build collaborative relationships with our customers so the needs of both parties are being met and we are already seeing some great examples of partnership working, through; strategic estates planning, account management responsibilities (making sure the customer has a single point of contact) and quality project management across all business areas. There are definite areas for improvement (billing is a top priority) but I’m keen that we continue to build on our achievements and improve the services we provide for all our customers.”

Deborah Prince, Head of Customer Strategy.

We have also recently improved and re-launched our email bulletin to customers. Find out more and read the latest bulletin – http://www.property.nhs.uk/news/enews/