The emergence of Customer experience in Facilities Management (FM) is the single most important aspect in achieving sustainable success for FM service providers. Customer experience management is of particular importance in the FM industry due to the intangible nature of some of the services provided. For a Customer to have an experience, the customer must be present during the delivery of service and so the question arises “how do Customers contribute to their own satisfaction in terms of the delivery of services and what is their ability and willingness to be able to help themselves to a great service experience?”.

This short video is a light-hearted look at this serious issue.

At one of my previous companies, I was leading a project to optimise the 3-way interface between our Customer facing Facilities team, our back of house team and the Customer. In my research, I came across a paper called Customer Contributions and Roles in Service Delivery by Biter, Zeithaml et al.

In this two-part blog post, I want to examine the issue of how Customers contribute to their own satisfaction in the delivery of Facility Management services.

In her previous research, Valarie Zeithmal  focused on the gaps in the service processes, in creating quality service experiences for Customers. In this research, her team eventually formulated the Servqual model which focuses on the processes in creating Service experiences for Customers.

In conducting her research it became clear that Customers have a distinct role to play themselves in either creating or detracting from their own satisfaction and the value they ultimately receive from the service. Depending on the service being provided, Customers participate at differing levels in creating the service they receive and thus contribute positively or negatively on their own satisfaction.

This can be a thorny issue for service providers to address. In many cases, they may have to rely on their Customer to perform a distinct and pivotal role in the delivery of a service. Ironically they may be judged to have failed in the delivery of that service by the very same Customer who is blissfully ignorant of their own role in the less than satisfactory outcome.

Despite this, the tenancy exists for service providers to see Customers, as mere receivers of the service not as a producers or co-creators in that service. In many services, Customers themselves have vital roles to play in creating service outcomes and ultimately enhancing or detracting from their own satisfaction and the value received.

In the research, the team present two frameworks related to customer participation in service delivery.

1. The first framework examines three different levels of participation required of Customers 

2. The second framework presents three major roles played by Customers in service delivery.

 

1.  Levels of Customer Participation

The level of customer participation required in a service experience varies across services as shown in the table below. The table captures the three levels of participation required giving examples of each type of service typical in a facilities management service delivery contract.

  1. Low level of participation

    In some cases, all that is required is the customer’s instruction with the employees of the service provider doing all of the service production work. Example: Planned Maintenance 

  2. Moderate level of participation

    In other cases, Customer inputs are required to aid the service organisation in creating the service. Example: Helpdesk and Reactive  Maintenance 

  3. High level of participation

    In some situations, Customers can actually be involved in co-creating the service where Customers have essential production roles that, if not fulfilled, mean that the service cannot be delivered. Example: Capital Projects 

The effectiveness of customer involvement at all of the levels will impact organisational productivity and ultimately quality and customer satisfaction.

Low

Service delivery is contracted out and few instructions are received to undertake service delivery

Moderate

The customer provides instructions and is often present during service delivery

High

The customer co-creates the service

Products & Services are standardised to a great extent  Customer inputs customise a standard Service Active Customer participation guides the customised service
Service is provided in accordance with pre-agreed criteria and regardless of any individual purchase Provision of Service is ‘ad hoc’ and may require a customer purchase Service cannot be created without Customer active participation in the purchase
Payment may be the only required customer input Customer inputs information are necessary for and adequate outcome but the service is provided by the service provider  Customer inputs are mandatory and some elements of the total service are co-created
Examples
Planned Maintenance

Certain Emergency and reactive Maintenance

Soft Services such as cleaning and Hygiene 

Small Churn

‘Ad Hoc’ Requests

Property Management

Reception and Mailroom

Office moves and large Churn

Capital Projects

Property Transactions

Security 

 

2. Customers’ Roles in Service Experiences

 Within the levels of participation just discussed, Customers can play a variety of roles.

a. The customer as productive resource;

b. The customer as a contributor to quality, satisfaction and value; and

c. The customer as a competitor to the service organisation.

These roles are not mutually exclusive, meaning an individual’s co-productive behaviours in a specific situation may apply to more than one of the three roles.

Elements of each role may be at play in any given service transaction

a. Customers as Productive Resources

In many service experiences, the Customer contributes inputs to the service in much the same way as a service employee does. The quality timing and scope of these inputs will impact the service providers productivity and consequent quality of the output generated. In this scenario, the Customer effectively becomes a temporary member of the service provider’s organisation or a ‘partial’ employee.

For example, when a Customer calls the service desk to report a fault or a service outage the Customer is contributing information and effort that enables the service provider to identify the issue and location and to set in motion the process and rectify the fault. The Customer is, therefore, part of the service production process. If they provide accurate information in a timely fashion, the service provider has the ability to be more efficient and accurate in their corrective action. Thus, the quality of the information that is provided can ultimately affect the quality of the outcome and there will be less likelihood of a repeat occurrence, further increasing productivity.

Participation in the production of a service raises a number of issues for service providers. Customers can influence both the quality and quantity of production, and so the service provider could take the view that he should distance himself as much as possible from the Customer input in order to reduce the variability that Customers can bring to the service process. Ultimately this could mean that the service provider would seek to distance himself from direct contact with the Customer so as to control the input and improve the chances of operating at peak efficiency.

In this era of closer relationships with clients brought about by the need to co-collaborate on solutions, this you would seem to be anachronistic. Service providers need to find a way where Customers can be truly viewed as partial employees and where their participative roles can be designed to maximise the service creation process in both parties best interests. If Customers can be utilised to perform at least part of the service themselves in a uniform and predictive fashion then the desired organisational productivity and cost efficiencies can be maximised.

b. Customers as Contributors to Quality, Satisfaction and Value

In the above example, a careful balance has to be reached whereby the Customer is not imposed upon in order to actually create the service. In such situations, the Customer may not be aware and may not care that they have increased the productivity of the service organisation but they probably do care a great deal about whether their needs are being fulfilled.

In such an instance the role that the Customer plays in the service delivery process is a huge contributor to their own satisfaction and ultimately the quality of the services they receive. The greater and more effective the degree of Customer participation in the service the greater the likelihood that the Customer’s needs are met and that the benefits the Customer is seeking our actually attained.

Where a Customer is an integral part of the service such as the planning, briefing and funding of a capital project, they need to perform their role timeously and effectively. If they do not, the desired service outcome will not be possible and the benefits they are seeking will be lost. This provides a conundrum for the service provider whereby their service may fail because of the ineffective service inputs from the customer.

Whilst service level agreements should be clear over roles and responsibilities for service inputs, in practice, it can be tricky to convince a client that their inability to perform has resulted in service failure.

 c. Customers as Competitors

In Clayton Christensen recent book Competing against Luck where he sets out his Jobs to be Done theory. He refers to non-consumption as an active competitor to consumption. In other words, a Customers willingness to do nothing is a real competitor to the ability of a service provider to sell a service to a customer.

In the Facilities Management industry, it is unlikely that a Customer is a total non-consumer of FM services they have a choice of purchasing services in the marketplace or producing the service themselves either fully or in part. Customers are there for competitors in a very real sense to service providers. This may be particularly so in a 1st generation outsourcing where the service provider has taken transfer of a team of technicians and staff from the Customer and there has been a failure to execute change management effectively see my post the 4 Stages of Contract Vulnerability.

In next week’s blog which will be the last one for the year, I want to illustrate the roles of customers in the delivery of service with the use of a model indicating the relationship between the Front of House team, the backroom engine of the FM service provider and the Customer.

In the meantime, I want to go back to the Video above which I hope you enjoyed. as I reflect back on what has been a busy year I am reminded of how our industry can at times produce the funniest of situations. Where the FM gets blamed for an incident which is totally outside our scope or responsibility, or one that could not have been foreseen. Please take some time and leave me a comment below on this weeks Question: What has been your funniest moment in FM what happened and where ( you can save people blushes by not using their real names if you need to)