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There is an increasing trend in the West with clients looking towards customer-focused, smaller FM companies due to “disappointing under- delivery” from the larger players in the market. Service providers share their thoughts over a LinkedIn discussion. Excerpts:

Steven Belcher, Project Manager-FM Generator, Greater Boston: It is no surprise that the clients’ perspective towards engaging service providers is changing. I can see changes in businesses with the influence of European and Scandinavian centric companies where the mind-set has been to take contracts from individual boutique service providers, preferring a homogenization of services by a mega supplier. I have been at both the ends as FM and now service provider, and I feel that the mega suppliers are not necessarily wrong for short term gains. However, they have not got it right regarding retaining relationships with both the suppliers and customers.

Steve Voller, Founder Altuity Solutions Ltd, Bristol, UK: Smaller organisations, by nature, are more customer focused and also have the capability to react quicker. Could the market be moving towards a federated approach to working with multiple, best of breed, suppliers? A little like the move to federated systems rather than monolithic systems!

Glen Hibberd, GMH Strategic Facilities Services, Melbourne: As FM outsourcing continues to evolve, clients’ expectations also change. I think many clients are now keen to cling onto the strategic aspects of their FM function. As a result, they are seeking a more vanilla flavoured service offering from their providers. No bells and whistles, just reliable service and no surprises. Transparent commercial transactions and honesty in communication. The smaller or boutiques sized providers are often better placed to deliver this offer.

Ken Gunston, Facilities & Asset Management, UK: At our end, we have to supply our clients not only a good professional service, but the personal service that many expect. We retain our client (several in contract for over 10 years) by ensuring that the client is fully informed, not pressured.

Although we have to make profits to stay in business, we work harder for that profits, and we can be flexible with targets to retain clients’ confidence. Try local and small, you have nothing to lose, as the big boys will always take you back if you are unfortunate enough not to want that personal service. Talk to existing client of small businesses, we will be area restricted, but can concentrate on good customer service.

Kim Wadsworth, MD, Kirklees Cleaning Ltd, Huddersfield, UK: I have recently visited a few sites of a company and actually thought that they did not have anyone doing any cleaning for them. I contacted the head office only to be told that they employed the services of a large national FM service provider. When I checked the FM company’s website, I found that they do not have a full complement of staff at all the sites; it is no wonder they can gain the contracts with low quotes, but it is also no wonder the standard of cleanliness is not good at the sites. There is a lot to be said for a smaller personal service.

Chris Patfield, Contract Implementation Manager Xchanging Hemel Hempstead, UK: The thing I have found in the past is that no service is identical… obvious but true. Though nearly all clients require about 80% of the same services, the final 20% is the “unique” aspect and is where attention needs to be paid. In my experience, the mid-market suppliers are able to accommodate this. The larger FM organisations tend to lack the flexibility/entrepreneur approach. However, if you are a client who has multiple sites, covering a large geographic area, you may need one of the larger “national” organisations to be able to cover all the regions. So the key for me is to look at the whole estate and that unique 20% and then draw up the strategy.

Ken Gunston: Clients with multiregional offices believe that a single large maintenance provider is easier to manage. Normally, this is the financial director’s idea of simplicity, to reduce invoicing and contractors or reduce the accounts department workload. But regional differences mean that overall costs can be reduced by using local suppliers. If there is one FM manager within the client’s company, then best is to liaise with one contractor for all sites, but where regional offices have their own budgets, and sign off their own works, why not have individual suppliers.

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