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Five star treatment

The role that FM should be playing in maintaining and protecting an organisation’s brand values was the subject of a lively roundtable at FM World’s offices in London.




19 July 2012

Debating Points:

It’s a communication issue
The FM team needs to feel comfortable in the public eye, and it needs to be trained properly for situations in which it connects with customers.
Length of contract term can mean a more strategic approach
Could longer contract terms allow more opportunity for client and contractor to develop policies for engaging with end-user customers?
Could FM be involved in setting up brand protection policy documents?
There’s a good case for them, and FM can help produce them
FM has a key role to play in creating those critical first impressions
Marketing departments should be working far more closely with FM.

Martin Read (Editor, FM World): Is there a case for FM being the department that best conveys an organisation’s brand values?

Sue Lewis: It’s all about the people, setting an expectation within your team and deploying guidelines that everybody buys into. Our FM service provider lives and breathes Cable & Wireless Worldwide. The people on the contract feel that they work for us rather than the contractor and we treat them in exactly the same way as our own staff, with the same appraisal processes, and the same bonuses. They feel integral to Cable & Wireless Worldwide, so they live and breathe our brand values.
Mike Packham: It is a communication issue in many cases. When we go into an organisation and look at their FM, 99 per cent of the time they’re getting it right, but sometimes they’re not communicating it properly. As Sue Lewis said, it’s about making the FM team feel a bit more comfortable in the public eye, raising its profile, and getting it to communicate to its end-users.

Read: Is it the job of the FM department to raise its own profile in the organisation?

Lucy Jeynes: If FM isn’t promoting itself as a function that supports, develops and enhances the brand, there’s a danger it will be defined solely by its shortcomings. There are things we do in FM that can compromise the brand if we don’t get them right. We need to demonstrate that we actively support the brand rather than simply seek to avoid fouling things up.

Paul Hinkley: With everybody at Waitrose a partner in the business, they expect a lot from
our support teams. They need to promote themselves so that people know what it is they can support them with, which they do through regular contact and customer surveys.

Derrick Tate: FM manages the building, environment and services that customers might see, so it is perfectly placed to influence how those elements can be improved, controlled and directed. Marketing needs to set out what the brand is, what the image is and what they want to happen.

But when, for example, there’s a change of logo or colour scheme, it is up to FM to think: “We were planning to get some new furniture or redecorate – we need to consider the brand.” FM can make a really big contribution, but it needs direction from marketing about the message it is seeking to convey.

Vikki Wootton: HR needs to be involved too. It’s all about behaviours and values, people living and breathing the brand internally so that those brand values are what their customers see. Really successful brands do that; what they do internally is exactly the same as what customers see externally.

If facilities teams aren’t providing a service that an external customer receives then you are not providing the right FM standard. For example, in a call centre, there’s a very strict standard – you have to answer in a certain number of rings, using certain greetings
and telephone etiquette.

If your facilities helpdesk isn’t mirroring that internally, how will it make other employees feel? It won’t make them feel like they are living and breathing the brand.

Tony Sanders: It involves HR, but it also involves lots of other departments. But how many times do we sit down with our client’s marketing or HR team, or all those other people? You made a good point about the call centre, but how often do we discuss what the standard is for call centres against the actual delivery? We talk about KPIs on the contract, but we don’t often talk about KPIs for supporting the client’s brand, or indeed about how that can be done.
We have discussions about cost savings, but not about what the impact of those cost-saving measures might be on the brand.

Read: Does anything exist that’s a measurement of brand performance with FM teams?

Helen Strother:
There’s often a KPI about complaints received, and complaints effectively impact the brand. If there’s an internal complaint sent to the FM team, that’s an indicator of how the brand is reflected internally.

We have examples of that. About three or four years ago we had some really bad press internally. We were getting lots of complaints on a daily basis. The chief executive told the facilities team: “This has to stop.” So I had an idea. I thought: “How does the Ritz Carlton hotel chain maintain that level of service throughout across all of its hotels globally?” It has a service mantra that the team lives by. I adopted that and got the team to see themselves as general managers of a five-star hotel. We even took them around London hotels to experience what that treatment felt like.

Judith Cutts: Is there a link with HR through employee and satisfaction surveys, gauging how the working environment imbues the culture, vision, mission and values of an organisation? The way FMs set up the environment people work in can have a massive impact on the morale of workers. When they get told about the vision and the mission of their organisation, they should feel it through the environment they work in. This is a vital part of bringing a brand to life.

We run an employee survey every quarter through which we analyse anything relating to facilities and the wider working environment. We use the feedback to put corrective actions in place.

Lewis: It’s very important to include your outsourced service provider in that. We do the same survey with every colleague and we include the FM service provider staff. They are asked how they feel about working for Cable & Wireless Worldwide, even though they work for our FM contractor.

Read: Are people more sensitive to these issues than they were a few years ago? Are they more attuned to the idea that having pride in your workplace can reflect the values of an organisation?

Stephen O’Driscoll:
Take the example of a large City law firm, which was a client of Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will. The managing partner said: “This is a three-year refurbishment programme – I don’t want my clients to see anyone in a high-viz vest and I want the fee-paying floors prioritised. That’s your criteria, Mr Contractor.” Maintaining the best possible first impression when a client walked in was paramount.

For City law firms, that first customer interaction at the reception desk, or the condition of the meeting rooms, is all absolutely key for them. Facilities’ impact on their brand is phenomenal.

Jeynes: Professional services firms are a really interesting. We did some work on this and typically, a customer’s first experience of an accounting or law firm is through security, then reception and then to a meeting room – all before they get to see the person providing the branded service. People often make their minds up about whether they felt like a valuable customer long before someone providing them with a direct professional service comes into their orbit.

It took a long time for companies to realise that. Before, it wouldn’t have become important until the partner arrived. Meantime, the office was too hot or cold, there was no tea or coffee, or the biscuits were broken. When you are waiting to see somebody who’s going to charge you £8,000 a day, you’d think they could rustle up an unbroken biscuit. That sort of thing impacts on the brand. It needs to be a biscuit that reflects the fact you are about to see an £8,000-a-day lawyer. It needs to be a damned good biscuit, a chocolate one…

Tate: It is not just biscuits in these law firms – you have those little boxes with sweets, dried nuts, dried bananas – they really push the boat out.

Sanders: But there are an awful lot of industries in a very different space. In retail, there is a massive cost constraint and I often get the discussion about cost before anything to do with brand and services. Quite often it’s us who has to say: “Is this where your brand wants to be? Have you really thought through the implications?”

Take high-street window cleaning, for example. A lot of retailers are moving to monthly, three-monthly, even six-monthly window cleaning – but what does that do to your brand on the high street?

We may be an exception, but I often find it’s the other way around. When we make an acquisition and refurbish a store into a Waitrose, we have to talk to our design people and tell them what the implications of our work are going to be. We have construction, maintenance design and marketing teams and we all have to work together to make sure what is delivered is sustainable, that the brand image stays as good as the day the branch opened its doors. You talk about first impressions for lawyers – our customers’ first impression is the car park.

It all depends on what a client’s brief is. People can make the mistake of thinking it’s about the colour on the wall, the finish on reception or the style of the carpet, when it is so much more about culture and values.

Sanders: We’ve just mobilised a contract with Alliance Boots, working to brand its FM service team. What was really interesting was that everybody, employees and customers, got to realise just how many people were looking after the clients’ brand on its Beeston site, because all the security and cleaning people suddenly looked the same. Just that simple change, with everybody being brought together as a team to project the brand, had a really positive impact on employees.

You mentioned working together with a client to get their culture embedded so that people understand they are part of that organisation, projecting its image. That isn’t easy, in fact it can be very difficult. If you try and change a security team that for years has been based in a gatehouse into one that is customer-friendly, with staff who personally welcome visitors, that’s not something you can do overnight.

That brings up the issue of training and recruitment. Alistair, have you noticed any significant change in the type of people companies are looking to appoint?

Alistair Carter:
It’s interesting to hear Sue explain how her FM service provider’s staff are very much part of the workforce, because that’s not always the case – there are situations where service provider staff don’t feel that they’re part of the client and that can come across in reduced service delivery levels. With contracts where there is a lot of churn, where staff are TUPE’d over from one supplier to another, people can perhaps work for four or five service providers. They don’t feel as valued as perhaps Sue’s guys do after six years.

It is going to be a struggle to take on the values of the client organisation in a three-year term. With five, seven, even ten-year deals, from day one you are in a strategic partnership with the client.

If you get it right for the client, that client won’t want to go anywhere else – because it’s the same issue for them: “Here we go again, another new supplier, they have to get to know us and how
we work.”

Doesn’t the procurement process need to reflect the importance of that? If procurement’s evaluation of value is angled towards other factors, it might be difficult to be able to recognise that. Very often you don’t have very much contact with the organisation until quite a way through the procurement process; procurement can be focused very much on documents rather than people.

Read: So what you are saying is that length of term allows for a service provider to strike up a consistent relationship, a partnership approach. But does it necessarily move the brand image
of the company forward?

It stems from the top and how that organisation’s strategy is set up. If your complaints go straight to the managing director, and he or she makes sure that they get followed up, that is leadership right from the very top that flows through the organisation and
brings departments together. It is not just marketing, FM or HR, it’s the whole thing. And FM has a very powerful role.
One thing we find is that businesses can be reluctant to conduct personality profiling as part of their recruitment process. We tell them they can spend a lot of money training somebody to sit on a reception desk, smile and remember somebody’s name, but a lot of people will just do that anyway because that’s the kind of person they are.

Tate: Service providers are more aware of that and build it into their training and recruitment. An in-house FM does not have the expertise to provide a five-star reception service.

It’s been an evolving journey about how brands work, hasn’t it? The idea used to be that if you had the right logo on the right T-shirt, then you were correctly branded. When we first started our consultancy about 18 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on branding via uniforms. There wasn’t much consideration given to behaviour.

Shouldn’t there be more consideration given to these skill sets and behaviours?

We’ve been trialling this whole idea of personality profiling. It’s far easier to train people who have a profile that fits the role. The only thing I’d mention is the distinction between hard and soft services: soft services people are more likely to be customer facing. When you get into technical expertise, engineers are not, as a group, renowned for their customer facing skills. Yet hard FM staff are also protecting the brand by getting the kit working and they also interact with the client’s employees, so they need to know how to handle that.

It’s all about personalities. Some hard FM staff are equally as good with people as those who work on the soft side of FM. In my recent experience, there’s a tendency for companies to only consider client-side applicants, particularly large property management agents who tend to prefer people from the client side, because they can empathise with the client’s problems and issues and add something to overall service delivery.

It works the other way as well, because as you get more of these large, integrated outsourcing deals, you get the intelligent client function, and those clients like the intelligent client people to come from the supply side because they know how the supply side works.

The most important thing is being able to communicate in a way that people understand. As an engineer you can talk to people who don’t have a clue what you are talking about. This is why we engaged our HR to put a training package together for our engineers, so that now they can talk to a branch manager and give them a clear understanding of what has gone wrong with a freezer, for example. It’s all about how you talk to people.

Engineers can suddenly find themselves at the heart of writing business continuity or communication plans. They can be doing a major job of trying to fix a serious problem while everybody is simultaneously expecting them to tell them what they should be doing. Quite often the engineering people are in the middle of things. The bigger the contract, the more the engineering side of the business needs the ability to communicate well in a crisis.

Wootton: That comes back to the understanding of an individual’s impact on the brand. You need to know that what you do every day is making a difference to that client’s brand. It’s that old maxim: the NASA cleaner asked “what do you do?” and answering with, “I put a man on the moon”. It’s that ethos.

Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will has just been involved with a company selling off office stock in London and we have spent the last year dealing with its FM guy on site. When showing the building to potential purchasers, it was this guy who fielded the bulk of the questions. He knew when things had been installed, when the lifts had been refurbished and so on.

It was a great sales pitch and it worked – but it was based on the integrity and the accuracy of his technical knowledge. He went into every meeting and when the radar pointed to him he had the answer. One may have the greatest people skills in the world, but you have to back it up with accurate knowledge.

I still think there is a ‘them and us’ mentality between how companies treat their own employees and how they treat outsourced service providers and unless that issue is addressed, there will never be true brand loyalty. That’s all about changing how we treat outsourced employees. Sue has given some fantastic examples – they get the same rewards and perks, like the holiday, the bonuses, they get included in surveys, they get the brand induction that we give to our own employees.

We mentioned earlier you might have somebody sitting in finance who sits in an office and never touches the customer, but who will get a brand induction because they’re an employee. Yet we may not give that to a receptionist who gets to meet customers every day.

Buckley: The Agency Workers’ Regulations came in last year; has that impacted upon how you treat your outsourced partners?

Lewis: We can’t do their appraisals and things like that, but we give them a framework. For example, everyone employed by Cable & Wireless Worldwide can go into our system, look up their payroll details, bonus and so on. If you are an outsourced person you don’t have that ability, so we looked at the template and recreated it in Excel.

It feels like exactly the same process: once a month they can go in and update their objective. They have the same six-monthly meetings we do and at the end of the year they get the same ratings we get. If we get a bonus, they get a bonus.

Tony Minns:
One issue I have is that sometimes the FM team does not talk to other contractors on site, such as the caterers. For instance, we recommend that ductwork be cleaned at least once a year.

It’s the client’s liability if something goes wrong, but the outsourced caterer does not necessarily communicate that back to the client. If I’m working for a caterer, do I say to that caterer: “Can I pitch to your client?”.

There’s no law to say you have to have your kitchen cleaned, and no law to say you have to have your ductwork cleaned.

Yes, but if a company wants to protect its brand, what it wants to be saying to the public is: “We provide our caterers with perfectly clean and safe facilities.” That message connects into all those other departments – marketing again; HR, obviously. It seems to me that there is this disconnection between departments. There’s little connection with the marketing of an organisation and the people providing the FM service on a day-to-day basis.

You are crossing over to CSR here, but where does CSR sit in the business? Have they thought about how a fire in the ductwork could impact the CSR and therefore the brand?

Read: What if the organisation had a brand-protection policy? Is that an important thing to have, and is FM best placed to construct such a document?

Cutts: There’s an interesting issue here about connecting up the way different departments work. A PR department might have processes that it puts in place when there’s a crisis, but as that activity can often take place in isolation, it may not be aware or have planned for crises such as a fire, security breach or a legionella outbreak.

Might connections between departments be made earlier on, so that the FM team can help PR departments prepare, and PR can also discuss the action plan of how FM responds to the same crisis? The way in which the FM department responds has a critical impact on the organisation’s public profile and both departments must be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Whenever you produce a business continuity plan, the FM should be the person who knows a bit about the potential damage to the brand, the danger of not taking into account things, such as Tony’s issue about ductwork cleaning.

It’s the FM who’s best placed to say, “I’d better talk to public relations about that, then to finance about the money that’s going to be needed, then health and safety about the risk element.”

Jeynes: FM is not often recognised by the marketing department as having an impact on the things marketing people are excited by.

They can see the FM team as dragging them down and bringing them back to the reality of what is physically possible.

Sanders: Yet if you think about the number of FM staff on a typical site, that’s a lot of people who can impact on the brand and an organisation’s customers. But I can’t think of the last time that I had a marketer come to see me.

When there’s been a disaster event, like closing a branch, and we’re busy trying to move as fast as we can, being asked by customers: “When are you going to get the branch up and running?”; “What are we going to do?’; “Are you going to open up another branch nearby?” – all that work is brand protection with a major impact on the perception of the brand
at that time, but it’s treated solely as FM rather than a brand marketing issue.

Read: OK, so if we accept this as an issue, who is responsible for moving it forward?

Sanders: Isn’t it FM, really? Surely one of the things we have to do is raise the profile of the impact FM can have on marketing. That will benefit FM from both a budgetary and a functional
point of view, bringing people into the FM world who really do find FM an interesting and not just functional role.