Not a day goes by without a reminder of how smartphones, along with the technology loaded onto them, have raised the bar of communications in contract cleaning. Nowhere is this more obvious than in client-contractor relations. In the subtle way the internet has of demanding your attention and action, not only do clients now expect our contract managers to respond instantly to their requests, but they have also latched on to technology as a way of verifying activity, whether it be cleaners arriving and departing, or completion of specialist work like window cleaning. Last but not least they want to view up to date contract documentation, whether it is quality audit results, KPIs or financial information, through secure client portals – all at a time convenient to themselves. Technology has made these improved service levels possible. The difference with a couple of years ago is the way these requirements are now best managed through specific apps, rather than what is fast becoming ‘old’ technology, in other words email or, heaven forbid, actual phone calls!
Nothing wrong with any of this, of course. However, it does mean that, as contractors, we now need to stay on top of things in a slightly different way, ensuring that we have effective systems in place to manage the flow of information. Take helpdesks, for example. At DOC, we have some clients who like us to use their own helpdesk software, but that means our field managers and office staff need to log on to those systems and track response through them. Compare that with the simpler solution, which is for our clients to email or phone our office, from where we then manage the issues through our own helpdesk software – TemplaCMS in this case.
There are a couple of other issues here. For example, clients’ own systems tend to use FM-style standard language that is not so user-friendly as the bespoke cleaning helpdesk software. It also means we now need to consolidate the activity of various apps into one area when we do our own internal reviews of client interaction. Again, that is all fine if it means clients are getting the reassurance, they need that we are looking after them. And we must not forget that apps also work in our favour. The ability to attach ‘before and after’ photos is an absolute godsend in the way it provides evidence that we are carrying out work to standard.
The final question is what approach contractors should take to issuing staff with phones in order to use the apps. It is a difficult one. On the one hand, if an employee cannot do their job without a smartphone, then a company issued phone is the only fair approach. On the other hand, if they need a smartphone to be able to take part in training, for example through UhUb, or if they need a smartphone to access an employee portal in order to view their payslip, then it is close to becoming a condition of employment. Frankly, technology is moving so fast in this area that it is not easy to say for definite just what the answer is right now.
One thing is for sure. It is just good to see that our industry is making such effective use of technology in a way that seems unimaginable five years ago.