IVR For Facilities Management

How IVR can help large tenants and landlords to quickly respond and resolve facility problems in order to run their businesses efficiently and successfully.

by Barnard L. Crespi

Large tenants depend on quick responses and resolutions to facility problems in order to run their businesses efficiently and successfully. That means when they have a problem, they need the right technician to show up, on time.

Tenants don’t usually expect a call center agent to resolve their issue over the telephone, as there’s often a physical problem that requires an expert’s attention. A water leak, electrical problem, HVAC issue – these are things that need to be repaired promptly and a technician needs to be dispatched immediately.

So how does IVR provide a win/win solution for commercial tenants and outsourced facility management providers?

Many facility management service providers have already deployed IVR applications which allow tenants to report problems, thereby allowing management to dispatch technicians who can log-in and out from the job. But how does this really work in day-to-day operations?

Here is a real-life example:

It is 7:00 a.m. and the manager of a national women’s apparel chain shows up to prep for the day. On her arrival she tries to boot up the cash registers, only to realize that the electrical outlets that power the cash registers are not operational. She follows procedure, and resets the breaker, however that does not resolve the problem.

This is a major problem as the doors will open in 2 1/2 hours with no cash registers, costing the company thousands of dollars per hour if the problem is not resolved before opening.

This Scenario Before IVR…

Based on company procedure, a call is placed to the outsourced facility management vendor as well as to the regional VP of the retail chain. It’s 7:00 a.m. (prior to regular business hours), so the facility management vendor is routing calls to an outsourced after-hours answering service who will call a company manager, who will then contact a contractor, who dispatches a technician to the job site. On arrival, the contractor will call the facility management vendor to request authorization to proceed. All this requires various people to be involved for a single after-hours dispatch. This particular retailer has over 50 after-hours facility maintenance requests on any given day, throughout its 700+ outlets.

Today, the picture can look very different as reporting and dispatching can take just a few minutes. The outsourced facility management provider can implement a fully automated IVR system to automate three (3) key functions:

1) Tenant Trouble Reporting: Tenants can report a facility related issue 24/7 by simply calling a national toll-free IVR number. The tenant identifies themselves by entering an ID and problem code (each tenant will be provided with a reporting code card). The IVR transmits this information in real-time to the facility management provider’s web-enabled software. Alerts are then issued and a call is placed to the corresponding technician, who then accepts the work order by inputting a telephone code. The technician then proceeds to the job location to complete the job.

2) Technician / Contractor Sign-in: The technician or contractor arrives at the job site, calls the toll-free number and logs-in to provide the relevant information. The technician then receives authorization to proceed.

3) Technician / Contractor Sign-out: The technician or contractor completes the task, calls the toll-free number and updates the status of the work order.

What happens if there is a problem that can’t be handled by IVR automation?

A customer or technician can contact an on-call after-hours manager – just another great function of IVR scheduled on-call routing. This only has to happen 2-3 times in any given day to reduce labor related costs and accelerate the workflow exponentially, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and adding to the facility management service provider’s bottom line.

What happens, if a technician / contractor doesn’t call in on time?

The IVR application has the ability to initiate an outbound call to the technician to determine his / her status. What happens if s/he doesn’t answer? The IVR System can be set to notify a manager in this instance.

In most cases, facility management service providers have in-house software that handles the tenant reporting, work order tracking, scheduling, and employee tracking. Current IVR technology is flexible enough to allow service providers with integration into a 3rd party or home-grown facility management software by capitalizing on their existing investment in web technology.

So IVR does work; it delivers on its promises and provides a balance between efficiency, user satisfaction, and return on investment. Facility management is just one of many applications “Where IVR Really Works”.

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