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The Marketing Place

15 June 2009

Using modern audio-visual display screens throughout their refurbished offices, has changed ‘back’ office operational functions into a ‘front’ office marketing tool. Jane Fenwick reports from GSH’s HQ in Stoke on Trent.

NO FACILITIES MANAGEMENT COMPANY CAN OPERATE effectively without sophisticated IT solutions that keep them in touch with their staff on site and with their clients, and ensures that SLAs and KPIs are maintained, orders issued and invoices promptly sent out. Increasingly, clients expect this technology to not only be in place with their service provider, but also be absolutely reliable and communicate with them and the supply chain to provide a seamless, efficient and cost effective service anywhere they need it. They expect to be able to look into their account details from their desks, track repairs, be assured that all compliance measures have been undertaken on their premises and plant in a timely fashion, and receive accurate billing information – and more.

What has changed more recently is that it is no longer enough for FM service suppliers to have the systems in place fully functioning that they can tell their clients about them, but the clients want to and increasingly expect to see how these systems work – particularly how they work for them – and in real time.

Realising that clients – and potential clients – expected to be able to see how their properties would be managed now and in the future, GSH embarked on a £3.5m investment in IT over the past two years, and an office refurbishment with £250,000 of leading edge audio-visual equipment installed throughout.

According to GSH Group’s Technology and Innovations Director, Maxwell Segal, “We wanted to create a customer showcase, moving away from GSH staff and customers sitting around a PC to see how the system worked. We wanted to make the system that underpins our services more visible and visual.”

Segal plays a lead role in presentations to clients and potential clients. “I want to show potential and actual clients that we can do what we say we can do. They see it in real time rather than just us talking about it to them. We envelop them in the operation – warts and all. We know that what we talk about is what we actually do.”

Working with interiors specialists, Claremont Group Interiors and its audio-visual division, Viewpoint, GSH has remodelled its HQ in Stoke on Trent to not only improve the working environment for the staff with a fresh modern look and improved facilites, but also integrate a series of wall mounted and removable LCD panels with presentation screens. The handheld panels can be used to call up specific pieces of information and display them on large wall mounted screens for clients and visitors to see as they walk around the building.

Each floor of GSH House also includes a new client presentation suite as well as state of the art conference rooms and a boardroom. Segal continued, “We wanted to be able to demonstrate each aspect of a client’s contract as they asked about it. We found that if they come in groups of more than three or four they tended to break off into different groups. The GSH hosts needed to access information to answer questions or demonstrate processes throughout the office tour. Now we can call up the system from anywhere to demonstrate it in real time to show what we actually do.”

Using its own in-house IT development resource, GSH has kept ahead of client expectations of the capabilities of its technology. Currently migrating from Maximo version 4 to version 6, GSH first introduced live client reporting by the GSH portal in 2003. Now five years on, client expectations are for not just live but real time reporting.

GSH is an international business with clients in the UK, Eire, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the USA. In Europe it operates through a joint venture with HSG Zander which gives them coverage across most of the continent.

GSH concentrates on hard services – about 90-95 percent – with other services delivered through service partners. However, it has full FM contracts with Commerce Bank for its four sites, and AstraZenica for six sites where it has up to 45 people permanently based on site. A further 65 GSH staff are dedicated to its contract with Pfizer.

GSH is dominent in the telecoms sector looking after some 20,000 cell sites across the country for the two largest providers Vodfone and T mobile. In the retail sector it has contracts 15 of the top retails with 9,500 stores including HBOS, ABBEy, Thomas Cook, Boots, Starbooks, Morrisons and Wilkinsons. Its Energy Plus programme guarantees savings on energy consumption and utilises its engineering skills to drive down consumption year on year.

With 600 engineers on the road and on client sites at any one time, keeping track of them and their job schedules is a challenge. Last year, GSH’s vehicle tracking system came on stream together with Segal deciding to move from a Blackberry-based handheld system for engineers to a more rugged and adaptable unit from Motorola. Both systems are sourced and managed by suppliers, but the GSH IT team has worked closely with them to integrate the systems into Maximo and to include features that both the company and its client wanted. For example, the new handheld units are capable of reading bar codes and accept signatures on their screens.

The implementation of the vehicle tracking system has brought major operational improvements to GSH. Not only do the operations managers and schedulers know where any of the 600 engineers are in the country, but also who they are, what skills they have and how soon they will be available to respond to an urgent client request. The system identifies each of the engineers with an icon – a spanner for a mechanical engineer, a lightning flash for an electrical engineer, a snowflake for a refrigeration engineer and so on for eight categories. It can select the nearest qualified engineer who can most quickly respond to a specific problem showing whether he is free to do the work, on a job or travelling to a job, and suggest options for the adminsitrator.

GSH House in Stoke is home to its call centre and the hub of its operations. It is here that all the real-time information about the location and status of each of the GSH engineers across the UK comes. This information is presented to operators clearly, enabling them to make decisions at the operational level, minimising costs and environmental impact of the whole operation.

It is this information that is now made available to clients on a the new matrix system of display screens around the office. Segal concludes, “What the new centre allows us to do is take clients on a journey through what we can offer them as a business. We can walk through the building together and demonstrate our team and our expertise, and the infrastucture that supports everything we do. “The great beauty of the new system is its ability for us to show - not tell - clients about what we do. It takes marketing to another level. The essence of GSH business is about demonstrating how a well designed and well managed building can add to the bottom line of client organisations. Here we have a system of our own, integrated into the design of our own offices that makes the point for us unquivocally.”

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