“Maintenance takes forever to get here and fix problems.”
To which maintenance managers reply, “nobody warns us when something fails.”
Anyone who works in Maintenance and Operations has overheard something like that. Along with other classics, such as “equipment is always down” and “we never know if service has been reestablished”, the accusations go back and forth. But, come to think of it, most of the problems you face in your day to day are avoidable. Find the common denominator:
- Do you take too long to react to equipment breakdowns?
- Do technicians struggle to understand what they have to do?
- Do your clients call a lot to know what is happening at their facilities?
Do you often delay repairs because you run out of inventory?
It all comes down to a lack of communication. They say communication is key to relationships, and so far we have not found an exception to the rule. The twist with maintenance and facility management is that there isn’t a single flow of information. First, there is the one between clients and service providers; then, from managers to technicians; and finally from managers to suppliers.
If you’re a service provider, you have to manage all three. There’s only one way to do it, which is centralising information in one source. Your maintenance management platform should provide online monitoring, messaging, and real-time notifications. This will align the three communication flows with workflows, which avoids noise and bottlenecks. Here are a few examples of how you can solve the issues we mentioned before:
- Staff can create maintenance requests through the platform, which connects them directly to maintenance teams;
- You can attach standard procedures to work orders and store maintenance logs in the cloud, so that technicians always know what to do;
- Online monitoring means that both clients and managers can follow the status of each work order;
- Inventory can be deducted automatically from your stockroom, which avoids understocking.
As you can see, better communication leads to more productivity. In a 2012 report, when social technologies were booming, McKinsey found they raised productivity by 20 to 25%. In maintenance, you can clearly see how it lowers MTTR. From the minute a client reports a failure, technicians can get started, receive all the information they need, solve the problem, and save the day. Even delays due to lack of inventory are avoidable.
Communication & Client Management
However, it would be silly to think communication doesn’t go beyond “technical” benefits. Communication is pivotal to increase transparency and improve client management, which is something that can “make or break” your business. When you combine efficient communication with the best technology, it’s easier to manage expectations, show compliance and gain your client’s trust.
Even in B2B, clients don’t value just the rational factors – which you can also frame through effective communication – but also emotional ones. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are other elements of value, such as the ease of doing business, individual values (such as aesthetics or perks) and inspirational values (such as enhancing the company’s social responsibility, hope and vision).
You need to assume that more service providers can offer the same level of service. Other companies will practice similar prices, follow the same standards, and even achieve the same performance indicators. Therefore, other elements of value are often tie-breakers and lead to customer loyalty. Poor communication is a major weakness, and it can quickly compromise a working relationship.
Communication & Employee Retention
On the home front, great communication creates team spirit and helps with employee retention. Workers need to feel appreciated and understand what is driving managerial decisions. Otherwise, they will quickly feel disengaged with work, which makes them more likely to quit and, according to a Gallup poll, engaged employees also have 70% fewer safety accidents.
Managers are often pinpointed as the culprits of poor communication. Among other things, employees accuse them of not recognising their strengths, withholding information, micromanaging, failing to listen, and not having “their backs”. Another 2015 Gallup study found that employees were three times more likely to be engaged with their work when managers hold regular meetings.
Despite all of these benefits, keep in mind that communication needs to be purposeful. Over-communication may drive your employees to quit (and is equally frustrating for your busy suppliers). A study conducted during lockdown found that 44% of employees craved a workday without video calls, 31% wanted a break from emails, and 25% wished for a notification-free day. Ouch.
Communication & Supplier Relationships
Sure: you’re a client, so suppliers will always be patient with you. However, you are much more likely to build a strong relationship with effective communication. Mutual respect is the first step to get on your supplier’s good side and get them to go the extra mile to sort something out for you. Take the time to learn how they work, explain what you’re planning, and start a two-way conversation.
If you are subcontracting, be open and transparent about the intentions and goals of the project. Communication will make way for trust, and that is how you solve problems together. If you are ordering parts, be reasonable about lead times, deliveries, prices, and requirements. It may sound clichéd, but treat your suppliers the way you like your clients to treat you.
Good riddance, communication breakdowns!
With all these challenges in mind, we prepared a practical guide with 30 ways to ensure a smooth flow of information in maintenance and facility management. We cover the three axes we have mentioned here and explain how you can use technology and intelligence to drive better communication.