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Where Are the Hottest Facilities Managers Today?  Highlights From Day One at ServiceChannel TRANSFORM

man presenting on day one of transform facilities management conference
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January 31, 2024

If you want to find the hottest FMs, there’s one place to be – the Valley of the Sun, or specifically Scottsdale, AZ.  With temps hovering close to triple digits, the real heat in the facilities sector’s been found at the ServiceChannel TRANSFORM User Conference.

transform18-1 This annual event has brought facilities and other operating professionals from many of the leading retail, restaurant, financial services, fitness, storage, grocery convenience store (and more) brands, as well as a number of ServiceChannel partners, together for several days of education, the latest technologies, best practices, networking – and fun.

With so many changes impacting all aspects of these industries along with powerful technology trends coming to the fore, the Sonoran Desert is indeed the hot spot of the facilities world.

Transforming Brick & Mortar

transform18-3 ServiceChannel CEO, Tom Buiocchi, started things off with, not surprisingly, transformation.  Tom shared how with the FM industry transforming, ServiceChannel was no different.  The company’s key tenet of transparency was clearly evident in his belief that “we’re not against anything…we’re only anti-hiding information.’”

Last year, he talked about the waste in the FM sector: how of the $100MM in repair & maintenance spent, the cost to companies due to the gross inefficiencies in the marketplace had a magnitude of over $20 billion.

ServiceChannel CEO Tom Buiocchi
pening TRANSFORM18

Then, there was also continuous clamor around the death, demise, deterioration (take your pick) of the retail sector.  But fast forward to now and brick & mortar, across retail and retail-like sectors are transforming (there’s that word again!) – “people are fighting back.”  In addition, there’s been a number of private equity firms buying up brands and even service providers growing through acquisition.

As the industry has gone through (forecast) apocalypse, renaissance and consolidation, ServiceChannel has similarly gone through investment, vertical expansion and growth.  Tom discussed the huge investments that have gone into expanding the company team (over 100 employees added since last year) and resources to further drive development of the Service Automation platform, greater expansion into an array of verticals and overall growth in the company’s capabilities and customer base.

Tom stressed the importance of our two-sided platform and what we continually strive for: for subscriber clients: increasing quality, reducing costs and boosting experience, and for service provider clients: increasing efficiency, reducing the time to get paid and boosting visibility and work opportunity.

A New Partner to Further Drive Technology Innovation

The hot news of the day was centered on the announcement of a Microsoft-ServiceChannel partnership.  Hot off the press and on stage to discuss this new relationship was Microsoft’s Paul Maher, GM of Industry Experience.  Paul highlighted how the companies are focused on bringing mutual clients benefits from cloud services and Iot (Internet of Things) technology.

With ServiceChannel’s integration to Microsoft Azure cloud services and leveraging of Azure IoT Hub, the companies are making it easier for all types of business to collect, analyze and take proactive action based on data from IoT-enabled assets and equipment.

Why is this so important?  Paul dropped a few compelling facts about the IoT opportunities for the companies’ client base”

  • There’ll be 80 billion connected ‘things’ by 2025
  • 80% of companies have improved business results with IoT integration

With the “Digital Disruption,” or the 4th Industrial Revolution as Paul called it, upon us, this new Microsoft-ServiceChannel partnership will be driving significant benefit going forward.

Transforming the FM Sector by Transformative Technology

One thing we’ve learned is that we can’t talk to our customers enough.  Good or bad, it’s crucial to remain in close contact to ensure we’re not only delivering the right solutions but getting the appropriate input to help with that.  Hugues Meyrath, ServiceChannel’s Chief Product Officer shared what he hears from our customers, “go faster…and do a lot more!

Sharing how we’re meeting that goal, Hugues led a session on our product roadmap investment areas, highlighting what we’re doing for subscriber and service providers clients, integration efforts and a number of exciting new development projects.

With a number of the Product Management team members, they detailed just a few of the key advancements over the last months, including:

  • Improved user interface
  • New location dashboard
  • Mobile improvements
  • Guided troubleshooting (helping speed time to resolution and gaining insight into recurring issues)
  • Refrigerated asset management (and its importance for compliance)
  • Asset tagging, scanning & work order creation (such as scanning tags with mobile devices and create work orders form tags
  • Expanded contractor scorecard (with more targeted KPIs and metrics)
  • Web service integrations (APIs for service providers to connect their software to ServiceChannel’s)
  • Data insights
  • NTE optimization

The session also touched on how we’re planning on adapting emerging new technologies for facilities management, and even demoed some new prototype functionality that will help companies plan for external conditions and further automate needed services.

How to Make A Habit of Facilities Best Practices

Rob Wach, Vice President of Facilities at
The Habit Burger Grill

We’ve found that one of the most effective ways for our customers to learn, is from their peers.  That’s why our User Conferences are never shy about giving opportunities to ServiceChannel customers to share their experiences and advice with the rest of the ServiceChannel community.

This year, we were fortunate to hear a compelling presentation from Rob Wach, Vice President of Facilities at The Habit Burger Grill, a fast-growing 200+ location fast casual chain.  Rob shared the operational challenges the company faced from lack of visibility, to stores not knowing whom to call for issues to inefficient, error-prone manual invoicing.

By deploying Service Automation, it realized invoice/payment efficiencies, greater visibility and transparency, qualified contractors and a (CEO-mandated) mobile app to manage its facilities-related issues.  However, even with all these benefits, they still faced some operational challenges.

Rob implement a “Cost Gatekeeping” best practice to help better manage costs and operations.  He established “gatekeepers” (District Managers) to serve between stores and service providers, to review all requests other than emergencies.  This practice gave the Operations team greater control, leveled out costs, ensured its restaurants operated at peak efficiency and provided historical data for analysis.

He spoke of some of the lessons he learned through developing this process such as leveraging big data, the importance of getting top leadership support in rolling out a new technology and even the benefit of using drones to help in checking roofs and other location issues.

As Rob said, “Service Automation is helping our company be everyone’s favorite habit – one burger at a time!”  (The downside, Rob showed a lot of burgers – and it wasn’t even time for lunch yet!!)

Even for Facilities, It’s All About the Customer’s Experience

Keynote Speaker Peter Shankman

Closing the morning session was author and entrepreneur, Peter Shankman.  As he discusses in one of his books, Zombie Loyalists, Peter’s all about great customer service and customer experience.  In the age of the customer, he believes fiercely that “customer experience determines the direction of your company.”

As firm believers in the importance of brand uptime and its importance to the facilities sector, this was a topic near and dear to us as well.

Through a highly engaging talk (“no slides, I just tell stories”) Peter shared his four rules of the customer economy – for the next 50 years, as we jumped from AOL to MTV to Morton’s Steakhouse to Anthony Weiner:

  1. Transparency.  How do you handle your (eventual ‘screw ups’)? Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the “bar to do things right is so low.”  Customers just want to be heard, and they want honesty – “own your mistakes.” Do it right and your customers will become “Zombie Loyalists.”
  2. Relevance.  How do you reach your audience when you don’t know how they get their information?  People are 2.5x more engaged if information’s simply presented the way they want it.  Delivering what they want, how they want, is how to be relevant to your audience.
  3. Brevity.  The average attention span today is…2.7 seconds!  That’s what you have to get someone’s attention. That’s basically a text message.  Embrace the concept of short messages (don’t necessarily get caught up in Twitter, i.e., the brand).  Become a better communicator.
  4. Top of Mind Presence.  A great example: entertainment executive Barry Diller would reach out to people 4 times a year, simply to say hi.  This way, he stayed ‘top of mind’ when opportunities arose. Reach out to people on a regular basis when you don’t have something specific, to stay ‘top of mind.’  This guarantees they’ll call you when they do need something. “Little things make all the difference in the world”.

Platforms Are the New Black

Remember what the taxi marketplace used to be like?  Maybe you could get a car, maybe it would pick you up, maybe you would wait for the one on its way rather than the one driving right by (but probably not).  Obviously, this marketplace has been upended with vastly improved efficiency, lower rider costs, etc.

Todd Lutwak, ServiceChannel’s Senior Vice President, Business and Marketplace Development brought the changing the economics of this market structure to the facilities management world for everyone.

Todd brought his unique perspective (via his background from eBay)  on how with a platform, you can change the dynamics and modify behaviors, and end up optimizing outcomes for all constitutenends.

At ServiceChannel, as part of this ‘transformation’ we keep talking about, we’re doing the same things.  With our continuously improving platform for both subscriber clients brands (retailers, restaurants, banks, fitness centers, etc) and service providers, we’re helping facilities teams turn their program to one they can manage – rather than one where they are managed, reactively.

It’s both an exciting and challenging task and as with all platforms, one that’s never ending.  As Todd added, “we’ll be working on this for the next twenty years!”

Digging Deep Across Service Automation

The rest of the day gave customers a great opportunity to engage with the ServiceChannel product team and subject matter experts in smaller roundtable discussions.

One session on Analytics & Decisions tackled the problem of Infobesity – aka data overload – and how our goal is to better corral that data to drive useful and actionable insights.  In it Product Manager Priyanka Kalia dove into best practices to track business health, evaluate service provider performance and optimize workflows.

She showed how one can set alerts within Service Automation when events exceed KPI thresholds (e.g. if there are work orders open more than one day.  Priyanka also stressed the importance of relying on both quantitative and qualitative measures, as well as highlighting the recently upgraded Contractor Scorecard.

In a Site Access session, Product Manager Dylan O’Neill & VP Market Strategy Bashir Abdallah explained the value propositions around a more secure, technician level check-in process from both subscribers and providers.  Focusing on advanced notice, improved validation and enhanced transparency, they discussed with customers on how a technician-centric check-in protocol provides a more process-oriented experience.

The conversation in the room revolved around the clear benefits to an improved approach to check-in, while discussing the challenges and opportunities of implementing new responsibilities for technician and store managers alike.  Valuable insights were shared and great feedback received on when and how to successfully validate onsite check-ins.

Another session dove into the details of Contractor Performance Management and number of best practices including:

  • Using existing reporting capabilities
    Track KPIs independently for maintenance and repair work, track and monitor trends and operational metrics at every step of the work order lifecycle
  • Comparing contractor effectiveness
    Segment and rank your service providers and expand your business to those working best for you
  • Encouraging location staff to give feedback
    Take advantage of the new ways to balance subjective and objective performance (via provider ratings and reviews) and dig into times where there are high performance metrics but poor performance reviews.
  • Identifying early signs of performance inconsistency
    Stay on top of invoice inconsistencies and exceptions with invoice rates that don’t match agreed upon rates, or mismatched hours recorded on-site vs billed in received invoices.

Keep Your Head Down and Follow Through

Great advice in dealing with with everything that thrown the way of facilities team.  But also pretty good advice when swinging your golf clubs. To put that ‘best practice’ in play, everyone headed over to TopGolf for an evening of fun.  As a full moon rose over the desert, the entire ServiceChannel community, from customers to staff headed over for an evening of spirited competition, drinks and dinner.

transform18-9 transform18-7
ServiceChannel’s Lauren Sessa, Shari Johnson
Jessica Countess
The Cheesecake Factory’s Toni Kelly
transform18-6 transform18-8
Crate & Barrel’s Tyler StentonGlobal Facility Management & Construction’s
JessLyn Arlotta-Rivera

With some newbies (and a few teams that looked stacked with ringers), everyone had a great time hitting balls from the third floor into the Arizona night.  It was a great conclusion to a highly packed day. We look forward to continuing the productive conversations on day two.

Curo Financial’s Joel Elsea, CubeSmart’s Yari Moore-Burgos, Petco’s Danilo Henson,
DSW’s Nicole Birchfield and Tracy Fanning, and Frost Bank’s John Albright
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