In search of excellence

Published:  26 February, 2014

During 2013, ISS UK and Ireland commissioned the Centre for FM Development at Sheffield Hallam University Business School to undertake some original research on the topic of service excellence.

As may be expected the research - enitled “Tales of the unexpected – defining service excellence in facility management” – found there was no single view, and the research identifies a number of different models and insights of how excellence can be viewed in FM. 

In considering whether service excellence can be transferred to the FM environment, opinions ranged from those for whom excellence was built into the client business model and even seen as a route to actual economy, to those for whom it was unaffordable. 

While all agreed that excellence was possible, the main disparity centred on whether or not it is seen as justifiable in their respective operating environments.

For those who saw excellence as a luxury, pressures within the FM environment and challenging market conditions meant it was not a viable objective, except perhaps on specific customer accounts. 

Being seen to deliver excellence ran the risk of appearing extravagant and overspending to the client and as such sent out the wrong message particularly at a time of austerity.

This did not mean however that the quality or consistency of service was poor or compromised, but that striving for the exceptional was not felt to be appropriate in the context of the business and wrong for the brand.

Those who saw excellence as ‘the unexpected extra’ believed excellence should be driven more robustly within the FM environment. In their view, welcoming people into any building either as a place of work, or as a visitor, should bring the same service level and expectations to those using a hotel.

Strong proponents of excellence saw it as compatible with budget and attainable for all areas of the business within a budget environment. Choosing to pursue excellence was a business-led decision with tangible gains from generating a valuable return on investment, from financial savings to greater payback from staff. 

One example from a customer in the professional services environment highlighted that the investment required to run service excellence programmes for key teams and new inductees was relatively small in comparison to other areas of expenditure across the business, but the payback achieved as a result was significant. 

This particular case underlined how the nature of a particular organisation and industry, and the expectations of its clients or users, influenced attitudes and approaches.

While all interviewees were operating in the same tough economic climate, the researchers from Sheffield Hallam found that for some this was grounds not to strive for excellence, a decision that would to some extent be accepted and even expected by the client.


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