How to Find the Right Service Provider for Your Business

By

Lindsay Olsen

Facility and asset management requires keeping track of multiple moving pieces. Whether you’re tracking work orders, vendors, or invoices, you and your team need to create systems that match your business needs.

Developing a network of reliable service providers is a key part of keeping your operations running smoothly. While service providers may not work for your business as employees, successful partnerships minimize interruptions to your equipment and facilities with timely repairs and proactive maintenance.

A reliable, high-quality service provider network is essential for your business, and yet, devoting the time to research and vet service providers can feel like a daunting task.

You’re not alone in your search for the right service provider for your business. Here, we’ll go over how you can approach the task, what you should be looking for in a service provider, and the places and tools you can use to make the process easier.

What to Look for in Your Service Provider

If you were looking to find a new food vendor for your facility, you would take your time in the research phase before signing a contract. You’d ask questions about their sourcing, standards, systems, and other details like payment terms.

The same care and concern should go for your service provider. You’re not just looking for any service provider; you’re looking for a partner who can deliver for your business and your needs. As you start your search, it’s important to keep certain qualities in mind.

Experience & Stability

Just as you draw from your experience to determine your facility management strategy, your service provider should also have a secure foundation of industry experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for details of a potential service provider to understand how “mature” their business is.

Consider starting with questions like:
● How long have you been in business?
● How many clients do you have? (Are any of them local or similar to my business?)
● What is your training and experience?
● What is the training and experience of your employees?

Service provided fixing equipment

Relevant Certifications

Depending on the exact service, a potential service provider may be required (or simply encouraged) to have certain certifications. Consider asking any service provider about their trade background requirements and any relevant professional certifications.

In addition, if you use technology tools such as facility and asset management software, your service provider should already have the ability to use your system or be willing to undergo training to get up to speed.

Responsiveness and Accessibility

Whether you need to plan scheduled maintenance or last-minute repairs, accessibility is an important trait to look for in a service provider. How quickly your service provider can schedule services is a critical factor in how they will work with your business. Take the time to communicate your expectations at the beginning of the relationship, so you can decide whether potential service providers will be available and accountable when you need them the most.

In addition, don’t want to wait until a critical piece of equipment is broken to figure out who to contact in an emergency. Discuss upfront what methods work best for everyone: phone calls, texts, app messages, emails? How does your facility staff prefer to communicate, and how does the service vendor communicate? Agreeing on these details ahead of time can help you manage expectations and keep both parties happy.

Quality of Work

Ultimately, engaging with a service provider is an investment in your facilities. You want a high quality of work that you can trust. Even though you may sometimes need a service provider to respond urgently, you also don’t want to compromise the quality of work. Your service provider should balance accommodating your immediate needs and meeting expectations.

Courteous & Thorough Communication

Throughout your vetting process, your potential service provider’s communication style can indicate a lot about their customer service.

Both you and the service provider should devote time to developing your relationship, even before any contract is signed or work is completed. While a service provider will inevitably have other clients, they should have the capacity to communicate thoroughly with you as a client.

How to Find the Right Service Provider for Your Next Project

There are many ways to help you find the right talent for the job. You may need to use a mix of different methods to find the partners you need, but investing this effort over time can pay dividends for your facilities.

Facility manager searching on computer

Online Search & Reviews

One of the most common and immediate ways you can explore for a new service provider is through an online search. You can find names of various service providers, contact information, and even reviews about services.

While this method is relatively easy, it comes with its challenges. Searching for something like “plumber near me” can lead to an almost overwhelming amount of information.

Reviews can be a helpful tool in your search, allowing you to learn about experiences other business owners have had with a certain service provider. However, reviews don’t tell the whole picture. Some quality service providers may not actively prioritize reviews, leaving them as an unknown factor. Other times, reviews may range widely, leaving you unsure about the quality of a vendor.

An online search can provide a lot of information, but you may be left with more questions than answers. Ultimately, the results of an online search may not be extremely well-vetted.

Reviewing Service Provider Websites

If you want to go one step further than online search and reviews, examining service provider websites can tell you a lot about their business. Take a close look at their online presence, including any testimonials, helpful resources, or blogs. An active, thoughtful online presence can indicate that they prioritize communication with their clients — a trait that you want in your service partner.

women writing reviews

Word of Mouth

Asking your peers about local service providers can be another great strategy. You can hear from businesses that may be facing similar challenges to your facilities. However, if you aren’t connected locally with other business owners or some businesses are hesitant to share their experiences, you may need to look elsewhere.

Service Provider Directory

Using a tool like a service provider directory can be one of the most effective ways to find your next service provider. These directories leverage word of mouth, relying on service providers that work with real facilities. Because the directory is managed, service providers are also typically more vetted than a generalized online search.

For example, Ecotrak maintains a nationwide service provider network for various trades. Available to Ecotrak customers, this resource connects facility management professionals with service providers that work in their region.

Your business can benefit from direct communication with service providers within the software. These service provider professionals are already trained and up to speed with how to use our facility management software system, allowing you to take advantage of streamlined requests that include equipment details, historical asset information, and even photos.

Finally, with a service provider directory, you can rely on quality indicators like the Ecotrak Certified Vendor Badge, granted to trusted vendors who have completed Service Provider Training.

Finding Service Provider Success

Creating a network of reliable, high-quality service providers takes an investment of time and energy. However, with the right approach and tools at hand, you can develop valuable relationships that support healthy business operations.

Request a personalized demo of Ecotrak today to see how the leading Facility and Asset Management Software can help you find, organize, and leverage quality service providers.

Ecotrak’s full-service provider directory will be launching in July of 2022!

How to Adapt Your CMMS Facilities Management Strategy

By

Sean Sierra

There are myriad ways the COVID pandemic has impacted and disrupted us all, which has resulted in the unusual holding pattern in which we currently find ourselves. We know things will eventually return to quote-unquote “normal”. We know it will be a new normal. We know that how you choose to position yourself during this time could make the difference between soaring high upon the industry’s recovery or being left behind.

Restaurants have been hit particularly hard. The reduced workforce is wreaking havoc, and it’s incredibly difficult to rely on vendors to be there when you need them, and the only thing you can count on these days, it seems, is the continued need for repair and maintenance of equipment.

Thankfully, technology can help. As we’ve all been forced to think outside the box and come up with new strategies and processes on how to accomplish day-to-day activities, your CMMS facility strategy also needs to adapt. But what should it look like in a post-pandemic world, and how can it help position you for success?

Worker using tablet, analytics

Managing and Planning

When the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us so quickly in early 2020, nearly every restaurant was forced to part ways with some percentage of its workforce. Hiring back has been an enormous challenge, particularly as we continue to navigate consistently inconsistent rises and falls in COVID variants and their accompanying protocols and restrictions. Since many veteran restaurant workers have now transitioned to other industries, there is an inexperienced pool of applicants. The numbers are staggering:

- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of late 2021, restaurants were trying to fill 1.7 million jobs.

- 28% of operators believe it will take between 7 and 12 months to return to normal.

This is where a good CMMS platform can help.

In managing workload, a good CMMS allows you to ramp up quickly. It allows you to be in tune with your locations without having to be on-site. It maintains clear-cut processes for the benefit of veteran and new employees alike, keeping everyone on the same page and training much easier.

In the restaurant industry, things will go wrong; equipment will fail, facilities will break. A CMMS eliminates frantic questions of who should be called, where is the vendor’s contact info, how much must be allotted for that repair. By removing such concerns, your team can instead focus on running a successful restaurant and adapting to the new normal.

Another thing about this new, younger workforce: They are more “plugged-in” than any generation before. They’ve grown up surrounded by technology, and expect it to inform, guide, and assist them in everything they do. Their expectations at work will be no different, which is why you’ll want to increase operational efficiency and put actionable data and analytics at their fingertips. Train them, empower them, then allow them to focus on the guest experience that will be so vital in determining which restaurants continue to move forward.

Someone repairing a damaged machine

Real-time visibility

If we are to effectively manage this predominantly-new workforce, we’ll need more of a reliance on CMMS than ever. Heading into the pandemic, most restaurant concerns fell under the heading of penny-pinching, looking to see where they could trim the fat. These days, maintaining profits continues to be a concern. It has also been compounded by workforce worries, suddenly unavailable service providers, and other issues.

Let’s say it’s the dead of summer, 105 degrees outside, and your HVAC goes out. Now your guests are essentially sitting in a sauna, your kitchen is vulnerable, and you’re in danger of losing a day of revenue. It is crucial that whoever is addressing the problem is empowered to get ahold of the proper service provider, get them the information they need to come out, and have all the details they’ll need on the unit – its age, model number, maintenance history, and so on.

Questions abound, and you’ll have the answers: Is it time to repair or replace? What is the effectiveness of your contracted maintenance? Where are repair and maintenance dollars going, and why? With a CMMS like Ecotrak, a desktop interface and app allows you to streamline communication, reduce time on the phone, increase accuracy and get it all to the right vendor every time.

At a moment when you need streamlined facilities management to counter a reduced workforce, it’s more important than ever that you get things right the first time. A first-time fix helps minimize downtime, maintain that all-important relationship with your guests, and allow others to stay focused on front-of-house concerns. The next time they need a plumber, an electrician, or anyone else, all they need to do is open the app and with a few swipes, they can get the information and approvals they need to resolve a situation.

The CMMS platform then provides invoice statuses in real-time, so it’s simple to track costs, monitor spending, and ensure that your service provider has been paid. And you can bet that the service provider will remember your organization and promptness, so the next time that phone rings, they’ll pick up quickly.

Using data, you can reduce your repair and maintenance spending. You can improve vendor relations and sidestep equipment downtime. You can streamline your facilities management and navigate this tricky time of reduced workforces.

Responding to a crisis is one thing; preventing it is far better. A good CMMS solution is akin to having a psychic on your payroll, as it uses machine learning to analyze your data and automate the building of analytical models that predict when, where, and how soon your equipment will need to be repaired or replaced.

Construction worker hardhat

As we move past this pandemic, and the volume that comes back, your structure will be amplified. In other words, if you have a good structure and a solid CMMS solution in place and are well-deployed, you’ll be able to flex those strengths. If you don’t, your weaknesses will inevitably become your Achilles’ heel, leading to more wasted hours, wasted money, and wasted effort. Reducing spending and managing maintenance is the common goal of every restauranteur, and a good CMMS solution can position you to make sure that when we finally emerge from all this, you’ll be in control.

How Facilities Professionals Can Navigate the Labor Shortage

By

Kevin Pejoumand

According to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 10.6 million job openings in November 2022 and 6.3 million unemployed workers. The difference between those numbers, around 4 million, indicates there are many more open positions than employee candidates across the economy.

Labor is top of mind for most facility operators at the moment, because it has become a significant operational issue for facility business models. Staffing challenges have led to operational disruptions, rising costs, and tighter profit margins.

The labor crunch won’t disappear overnight, so many operators are looking at diverse strategies to address the challenge. Your facility should be proactively implementing a labor strategy that approaches the issue from many different angles, from adopting creative hiring strategies to finding new efficiencies with facility management software tools.

Money, financial

Cost of the Labor Shortage

There isn’t one single reason causing the general staffing crunch, but a number of overlapping factors are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ripple effects from the pandemic continue to impact the economy, affecting everything from childcare availability to overall labor competition as industries hire heavily at the same time.

For your company, inadequate staffing undoubtedly has an impact on operations. Without enough employees, you may create a negative guest experience, be forced to cut operations or hours, and even potentially prompt a negative turnover feedback loop as existing staff face burnout.

High turnover rates have always created a large financial burden for operators, made all the heavier with the current labor market. The hiring process costs time and resources, and the disruptions to your team can hurt productivity, cause stress, and impact morale.

For most operators, fully staffing and reducing turnover are priorities. But with such complexities, where should your facility start?

For facilities professionals trying to navigate the labor shortage, there are three areas worth focusing on: hiring and retention, labor-saving facility data and analytics tools, and long-term investments.

Evaluating Hiring & Retention

At its core, facilities management is a people business. To address staffing, you should be investing in your people, from new employees to existing staff.

Always Be Hiring

In a competitive labor field, hiring should be a constant priority. While it may feel most urgent when you have a specific position to fill, consider listing “evergreen” job postings for your team to ensure you always have candidates in the pipeline.

As you invest in your hiring process, evaluate your system as a whole. Are candidates able to apply for positions, quickly and without a hassle? The more you can streamline the process for potential hires and your hiring managers, the better for your operations.

Offer Competitive Wages, Benefits, and Bonuses

With a tough hiring environment, your wages and benefits for your open roles should undoubtedly be competitive in the facilities industry. Make sure to list specific wage and benefit information in your job descriptions, rather than wait until the interview process, so that you communicate it clearly to potential applicants. 

If you are considering expanding your benefits, use surveys or listening sessions with existing employees to understand their priorities. You may find that certain specific benefits, from childcare rebates and tuition reimbursement to a commute subsidy, stand out to your potential hires.

Finally, leveraging hiring bonuses as an incentive can help generate new applications. These bonuses should be paid out promptly after a strategic time period, such as three or six months, to encourage new hires to stick through the initial training period and become engaged with the company.

Invest in Employee Retention

While you may need to focus on hiring, don’t lose sight of the valuable staff you already have on your team. Retaining employees is generally healthier for your bottom line than hiring new ones.

Using the above example, if you are offering hiring bonuses, consider implementing retention bonuses to recognize valuable long-time employees as well (which also shows your new hires that your company prioritizes staff appreciation).

In addition, while wages and benefits certainly are important to employees, many staff members also care deeply about their big-picture career opportunities. Investing in employees is a critical retention strategy, covering programs from training and employee development to prioritizing promoting from within the company.

Resume, hire more, interview

Make the Most Out of Facility Operational Spend

For many facility operators, investing in technology and automation can help counteract rising labor costs. If you are struggling to hire enough staff, you may want to consider investing capital in other places, like automating time-consuming processes and reporting.

Streamline Scheduled Labor Costs

Your labor data can help you find how to best streamline your labor spend, without negatively impacting employee retention or guest satisfaction.

Sales forecasting uses historical sales data and current market conditions to project sales in comparable time periods. Sales forecasting empowers your scheduling managers to make schedules based on data, rather than “what we always do” guesses. 

Your data can also showcase trends and help you refine labor costs over time. Granular info like labor spend by day part or by role can allow you to evaluate where tweaks are needed based on labor cost as a percentage of sales goals.

Look for Operational Efficiencies

Facilities management requires tracking many moving pieces and completing repetitive tasks. The more operational efficiencies you add in through all-in-one facility management software, the more you can streamline labor costs.

For instance, mobile-first facilities management technology can add time savings for your staff. Not only can you place service requests on the go, you can also increase accuracy by including photos, videos and manuals to work orders. With approvals, proposals, and invoices accessible via mobile, your team can find new efficiencies in their workload without adding new labor costs.

Facilities data and analytics software can add in other efficiencies in areas like equipment status tracking. A central dashboard can track real-time equipment costs, repair and maintenance costs, and warranty info. By proactively staying on top of the equipment life cycle, your staff can easily calculate whether to repair or replace without a time-consuming (and uncertain) manual process.

Automate Wherever Possible

Finally, using facilities management software to automate operations creates direct labor efficiencies and also improves the accuracy and relevance of your equipment data. 

As an example, automation can help streamline work order management, building a smooth system for creating, assigning, and tracking work orders. Managers can be prompted through customized workflows to quickly approve work orders and invoices. Facilities software can also automate equipment warranty monitoring, even diving down to varying levels of manufacturer, service provider, and component part warranties.

Overall, automation can streamline staff responsibilities, using custom workflows to remind key staff about scheduling preventive equipment maintenance services, reducing downtime and increasing equipment lifespan.

Addressing Labor in the Long-Term

While some components of your labor strategy are urgent in the short-term, there are also big-picture priorities across your facility to consider in your strategy.

Prioritize Continuity in Operations

Although it isn’t ideal, operators should be preparing to potentially experience elevated levels of turnover for an extended period of time. To ensure minimal disruptions, make sure to plan for continuity in your operations.

Your technology tools are a central part of this strategy. A Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) can ensure your team is tracking facilities spend, assets, and warranties in one central, secure location. No matter any turnover, this data is searchable and accessible.

With the right facilities management software, staff and leadership can get a complete understanding of facility spend and service history, broken down into asset, location, or repair type. A centralized, up-to-date database is key to absorb any potential turnover disruptions in your team.

Involve Leadership in Strategy

Finally, with the current labor market, staffing is no longer a concern just for the facilities-level managers. Addressing the labor shortage should be considered a major operational priority for facilities leaders, from the location-level all the way up to company leadership. Just as leadership and management set the tone for a healthy culture, the team is also able to influence the overall labor approach.

From the C-Suite throughout the rest of the organization, consider making hiring, retention, and staffing a visible priority and resource appropriately. Leadership can direct investment to new hiring and retention initiatives, or take the lead in supporting the shift to new facilities management software tools and solutions.

Desk office, working as a team

Find Success in a Challenging Labor Market

There are many different strategies to address today’s labor challenges. But with a focus on staffing efforts, technology efficiencies, and long-term thinking, your facility can turn these challenges into more streamlined, efficient operations and a thriving team culture.  

If you are exploring how facility management software can help your company navigate today’s challenges, consider exploring a facility management software solution such as Ecotrak. Using a Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) can empower your staff to thrive and help you add new automations and efficiencies into your facilities operations.

Request a demo of Ecotrak today.

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