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Despite the claim of the old cliche, the customer is fairly often just plain wrong. Unfortunately, the customer rarely knows that. And so the fact that one person is always too hot or too cold proves that the thermostat is broken, at least to that person.
Treating people as if they’re always right chews up a lot of time. The trick is to get ahead of the complaints. Sometimes that means education — arranging for the first e-mail to employees in a new space to be a link to a Web page that tells them how to adjust their chairs. Other times it takes accommodation — asking a hospital patient if now is a good time to work on the problem the patient had complained about. In some situations, the answer is information — tracking uptime for problem-plagued elevators to show that the overall availability is actually very high. Or maybe the best course is negotiation — getting occupants to agree that inadequate facility funds should go to the highest priority projects, regardless of whose space is involved.
Which brings us back to the old bromide about the customer always being right. There are two ways to act on that cliche. One is to give the customer everything he or she wants. No business can stay afloat that way.
The other route is educating customers, in part about what constitutes a problem. That’s a better way to keep the old cliche from turning into a phrase like “jumbo shrimp” — a contradiction in terms. It’s also a real service to the organization and ultimately the customer as well. After all, who doesn’t want to be right all the time?