The Leader Magazine

MAR 2017

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MARCH 2017 51 H ave you ever visited a new restaurant, placed your order, and then waited… and waited… and waited, with no knowledge of what was happening to your dinner? Finally, an hour later, your server mysteriously arrived with your food and a bashful look. At this point, no amount of free dessert could make up for that wasted time. Chances are, you did not return to the restaurant. Unfortunately, this same scenario is also common in the workplace. When occupants experience comfort or maintenance problems in the workplace, they only report the problem 20 percent of the time (at most)*! And since occupants do not report problems until they have become overwhelming, facilities and workplace service leaders constantly scramble to put out fi res and appease their angry rabble of occupants. This builds a negative feedback loop. When occupants do not have an easy way to report and confi rm that their concerns are being addressed, they simply refuse to report. Or, they will interrupt a member of the facilities team and expect the team to "fi gure it out." Facilities and real estate leaders lack actionable information on new problems, so they fail to maintain high service levels. Occupants become even less likely to report in the future. An approach toward a solution In 2013, CrowdComfort set out to reverse this pattern by creating a virtuous cycle between occupants and the facilities team. If occupants have an easy way to provide actionable information, then facilities professionals can take a proactive strategy and eliminate problems before they become crises. This new approach centers on the smartphone. With the smartphone's camera, geolocation capabilities and familiarity as a communication channel, occupants have every opportunity to provide high-fi delity reports. CrowdComfort allows occupants to submit smartphone reports that are automatically tied to a specifi c location in a building, down to nearest square foot. When occupants open their phone to report a problem, they can chime in if they are experiencing the same problems as other colleagues in the area. But, most importantly, every new report is geotagged via a virtual mapping system. So, even when occupants do not know that requests relate to each other, facility managers can see the trends that form over time. With a crowdsourcing app on their phones, occupants report comfort and maintenance problems up to 90% of the time. Since facility managers can respond to occupants within their app, occupants know that somebody is addressing their concerns. This combination of personal communication and actionable information builds accountability between occupants and facilities teams. Occupants can report the problems that they see and fairly expect that they will be investigated in a timely manner. Here are a few stories of unique workplace problems that employees uncovered after using a crowdsourcing app. Employees help pinpoint hot-air source Employees on one particular fl oor of an offi ce of iRobot had been reporting for months that they were too hot. However, the facilities team did not know exactly where on the fl oor the "hot" calls originated. Since they heard that employees were hot through a variety of channels, they also did not know the exact times that occupants were feeling excessive heat. They tried a variety of methods to alleviate the problem, calling in third-party service provider to experiment with a series of fi xes. Nothing was working, and employees did not want to hear that there was no solution. After introducing the CrowdComfort app, occupants were able to easily submit time-stamped and geo-located comfort reports. The underlying problem suddenly was revealed – all the hot reports were clustered in two zones of the building after 1 p.m. The analytics allowed the locations of discomfort to be tracked through the air-supply ducts and back to the air handler, the source of the problem. "We then passed along the data from the app to our third-party service provider. It gave them instant direction on where to fi nd the root cause; in this case, an air handler," said Chad Haskell, director of facilities for iRobot. The facilities team was able to return to occupants on that fl oor and thank them for helping eliminate the problem. Leaky faucet, or something else? When occupant reporting levels are low, facilities teams are left with a classic "small sample size" problem. When drawing from a limited data set, it can be diffi cult to determine whether problems are common to all employees or just the experiences of a few vocal occupants. GE Digital Solutions successfully reversed this limitation by giving employees the opportunity to quickly report and communicate with the facilities team on their smartphones.

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