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17 January 2019
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An honest day's work

23 September 2013

We consumers have learnt to live with the fact that loyalty is not what it used to be.

In years past, the longer the relationship between a consumer and their service provider, the likelier that consumer was to benefit from discounts, rewards or other benefits commensurate with their level of commitment.

Today, things are different. Many utilities, banking and telecoms providers seem only interested in new business, putting ever-more exotic offers in front of potential clients while relying on an existing customer base that hasn’t the time to sort through an array of tariffs and terms-and-condition technicalities.

Frustrated consumers eventually move over to whomever is the existing supplier’s least offensive alternative. But while all of this may lead to ‘best value’ for the consumer, does that really equate to a satisfactory service? Go online and search the forums relating to any two major suppliers in the utilities or telecoms fields to get your answer. Customers and ex-customers alike seethe with anger at shocking levels of customer service, despite the only option for most being to swap from the one to the other, ensuring that the whole sorry cycle starts over again.

Moving from B2C to B2B (and focusing on client-to-FM service provider in particular), we see that things aren’t necessarily better despite plenty of rhetoric to the contrary. A consultancy (admittedly with business to gain from its findings) published a survey this month that suggests loyalty between clients and FM service providers is more fragile than in any other business service sector. FM providers risked losing their contracts “because of poor relationship management”.

Business Services Growth (BSG) conducted its UK FM Industry Survey in partnership with another interested party, the Brookeside Group. Just one in twenty facilities managers considered their providers ‘trusted advisors’ while a third of client/provider relationships were described by clients as ‘antagonistic’. 22 per cent of respondents reported merely “transactional” relationships with their FM providers – going against all we know about how good client/provider relationships should look.

The word ‘loyal’ is defined as ‘to give or show firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution’.
Note there’s nothing in that definition about money – which, at the end of the day, is the issue for both consumer and business. Clients and suppliers pull naturally in opposite directions over what they should be charging or paying.

Of course clients want their FM providers to put forward new ideas about how the service can be improved – but how is that value quantified? Improving client/supplier loyalty requires extraordinary amounts of  transparency between client and supplier about what each expects to get from the relationship financially.

Whether that level of bottom-line honesty, in what will always be a business relationship, can ever truly be achievable for the full, mutual benefit of both parties, remains an unknown for the sector. This particular survey merely serves to highlight that fact.

Martin Read is managing editor for FM World