The future of FM is here and it’s called Service Management 3.0

Peter Ankerstjerne ISS Service FuturesPeter Ankerstjerne is the Head of Group Marketing at ISS A/S and is responsible for developing the Integrated Facility Services (IFS) concept. He also serves on the Strategic Advisory Board for the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP). 

Service Management 3.0

Service Management is critical for the future success of Facility Management (FM) and we all need to improve our game in this area – for our customers, our employees and thereby for our own future. It up to us to get this right and, if we do, the potential is massive.

When I look at the FM industry today, I believe that we have become too “numbers driven”. Not least after the financial crises, far too many discussions take place around numbers and about tweaking the last few percentages of efficiency out of a contract to justifying a decrease in operating expenditures.

I strongly believe we need to rethink our approach.

But not in the sense of becoming less effective. And don’t get me wrong – FM needs to stay competitive and there remains many efficiency gains out there. We still have to provide the data, we still need effective planning processes as well as accurate price-points and appropriate benchmarks, to stay relevant and document the value we create. Though, I fear that we have become too focused on optimising the delivery system in squeezing another 1 or 2 m2 out of our employees – so much so, that we sometime forget what FM is all about: Helping the organisation we serve to stay competitive and focused.

I would even go as far as to claim that we have become too technically-oriented. There is nothing wrong with having a technical focus and managing the asset portfolio effectively. The FM industry was born out of a technical optimisation mind-set and we still need to continuously improve our processes and create efficiencies within our planning processes. However, we also need to build on top of our technical capabilities; we need to add a new set of management and leadership skills to further advance the FM industry and make it attractive tomorrow and further into the future.

In FM, we are often educated to think in linear terms – input vs. output – continuously optimising the production system and the resources allocated, sometimes even referring to staff as if they were commodities. However, employees are not commodities, they are not just resources … they are people.

Delivering service excellence through purpose-led leadership

I think over the last decade, especially in light of the financial crisis we have just been through, we have forgotten some of the most important lessons from the “Golden days of Service Management” (in the early 80s, from pioneers such as Richard Norman, Christian Grönroos as well as James Heskett, Earl Sasser and more). No matter how technical we have made the FM profession, it is still predominantly a people business – carried out by people for people occupying/working in the facilities we so diligently maintain and serve.

Delivering excellent service is just as important today as it was in the 80s, but many companies still struggle to deliver even a basic service at a decent quality. The successful Facility Manager of the future is one who is able to design a service delivery system focused on what is creating value to the core organisation and how to engage frontline employees in the delivery process.

The four key elements in such a system are:

1. Service Culture
2. Employee Engagement
3. Service Quality
4. Customer Experience


Service Excellence Model. Source: Ankerstjerne & Anderson, 2013

Leadership and culture play a greater role in effective service organisations today than ever before. Purpose-led leadership is an effective way to make values and vision become meaningful and relevant, when communicated and supported by first-line management and frontline employees. Strong people processes should be at the core of any service organisation and understanding your purpose is key to unlocking the potential of any employee. Being able to answer the why and what of service is important in any employee/manager relationship; and making sure that all service staff know the value proposition promised to the customer and how to deliver on this promise is essential to success.

Every pair of hands comes with a free mind

This headline points right at what our management challenge is and how a purpose-led leadership approach can make a difference. I really like the famous Ritz-Carlton slogan; “We are ladies and gentlemen – serving ladies and gentlemen”. I am sure everybody can see and feel the real message: Ritz Carlton employees are the opposite of commodity service staff and their staff are empowered to act on any given situation they encounter in the interface with a guest and use their own common sense to relieve a situation.

The ambition and perceived role of an individual directly influences the behaviour of this person and the attitudes he or she will display, even when nobody is watching. The psychology behind this is based on the notion that you, as the manager, need to create the right set of behaviours amongst your service staff, including the attitude they will meet other people with. So, if you treat your service staff as “unskilled commodity labour” that is exactly what you will get. In contrast, if you treat them as “ladies and gentlemen” it really changes the ball game.

Generally speaking, I believe the FM industry needs to further mature its leadership skills and fully understand the psychology behind workforce management. The hotel and hospitality industry can provide some worthwhile input to this and act as a benchmark both in terms of people management skills but also in terms of how to engage with the end-user of the services, which we are providing. In fact, I do not see why we should not treat the end-users of a facility as a guest in a hotel – I am actually quite confident that this will in fact become the standard in the future. The mind-set should be the same…. Mind you, not all hotels are Ritz-Carlton providing a five-star service!

Service Management should be seen as a key component of the successful Facility Manager of the future

Every individual, no matter where they are in an organisation and no matter what they do, needs to be respected, appreciated and developed in order to be productive and efficient – not necessarily have a career path, although many will. But some frontliners are perfectly happy staying in their job for their entire work life as they have other priorities in life than pursuing a career – and that’s fair enough; but every person still need to know that their work means something, that their efforts doesn’t go unnoticed and that they are in fact appreciated.

Strong leadership skills with the ability to create employee motivation, engagement, respect and development are key ingredients in any successful service model. Adding to this team spirit, individualised training and development plans, multi-skilling and job-rotation are some of the new aspects of Service Management. With these on hand you have a winning formula on how to differentiate FM and how to create long-term sustainable value.

When we do this best, these kinds of perspectives cascade all the way through the organisation to each individual service employee, adding meaning and purpose to service jobs. It increases the quality delivered as well as the professionalism and integrity of the individuals carrying out the service. It eases the need for control and inspection and it allows for self-management and engagement. Last but certainly not least, it puts a smile on the face of the service employee and, after all, a smile is still the shortest distance between people and the trademark of excellent service!

Earlier in this article, I mentioned service resources as commodities. If we stick to this kind of thinking, trying to squeeze an additional 2 to 3 m2 out to make our service staff run faster - will create a pretty linear relation to how many hours are put into the contract, compared to the value it creates.

But when we really get it right, creating smarter ways of working and focusing on what really matters for the end-users as well as the core organisation, what happens is that we, as Facility Managers, can create a lot more value from the same amount of hours. That’s unleashing the potential and that’s the point of true Service Management version 3.0.

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