18 June 2015 | Martin Read
For someone to fully understand the value of something they need to be fully invested in it.
You don't appreciate the true value of a Rolls-Royce just by looking at its technical specs or looking at its price - but you do when you get to actually drive one.
Similarly, there's a world of difference between reading a review of a fine wine and drinking the stuff. And who can really say - if they haven't heard the profanity or suffered the heartache - that a Wealdstone FC match is not for them? Local press reports simply cannot convey the bright shards of emotional colour such games typically provide. In short, the actual experience of a product or a service - the tactical, physical experience - matters to how much it is valued. You have to interact with it - to touch, see, feel or even smell it.
OK, so perhaps this is an unfortunate juncture at which to mention the toilets at Munich Airport, but bear with me. At Munich, users of the much-praised and highly trafficked toilet facilities can now tap a touchscreen located on the walls in the washroom to express either their pleasure or displeasure at the state of cleanliness they experience. Tap a green smiley face and that's your positive vote recorded; but tap the red grumpy face and you're just a few short clicks from supplying specific user feedback on what's gone wrong - and getting a response from the FM team.
The system was explained at last month's EFMC conference in Glasgow. What's more, this 'on demand' response from actual users now informs the number of cleaning visits (which have reduced) and resulted in a more efficient, targeted service.
That, right there, is an end-user interacting with a facilities service and, as a direct consequence, appreciating its true value. And here's how I've arrived at that conclusion: Without the ability to feed back in this way, that end-user is simply going to use the washroom and leaving, just as they always do, oblivious to all that has gone into providing the service and perhaps bemoaning its inadequacy. But allow that same service user to feed back at the very point of delivery and suddenly they themselves are invested in the provision of that service; they're involved not just in its use, but also its maintenance.
Forcing people to mark a service won't do - it has to be up to them to get involved in this way, thus flicking an internal switch in the user from passive to active service user. But with touchscreens placed strategically on-site, or through a quick-swipe app on location-aware smartphones, there are plenty of opportunities for users of facilities services to have their say in what they've just experienced.
Lights too bright, room too cold? It's a user's ability to contribute directly and individually to the conversation surrounding the service they're experiencing that can result in a subtle yet significant reappraisal of the workplace services they receive. Are the apps we use so routinely these days on our phones going to provide a route through which to unlock the true value of facilities services for those who use them?
Martin Read is managing editor of FM World