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An FM veteran’s guide to managing customer relationships

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Sindhu Narayanan, Deputy Director – Business Development Sumeet Group Enterprises

In the 25th year of her career with the same organisation, Sindhu Narayanan, Deputy Director – Business Development Sumeet Group Enterprises distills her learnings about customer relationship management, understanding the requirements of customers and statutory bodies, and the importance of record keeping and audits.

What are the common practical challenges you face in customer relationship management? How do you overcome them?

In the facilities management world, CRM means looking at the FM function as a customer-intensive business function. Finding and closing gaps between customer expectations and service delivery realities becomes the basis for CRM in the FM world. As the gap between customer expectations and the reality of available resources widens, FM operations must be proactive in helping clients while closing the gap between expectations and service delivery realities.

FM organisations can successfully move beyond meeting or exceeding customer expectations to properly identifying and even managing those expectations. As there are a number of choices with a customer to buy a product or service, there is a need to offer them such products which fulfil their needs and demands in a much better way than competitors do. It is also an irrevocable fact that the number of alternatives is increasing day by day and so do the choices.

For this purpose, organisations have defined a term known as Customer Relation Management. Through proper CRM, an organisation will understand the customer needs, behaviours, demands and all other factors which have a strong impact on the business. Though having a separate CRM department is a costly affair, we can now depend on various software technologies and digitisation to handle day to day affairs and ensure there is no communication gap of any nature, with enhanced availability of information at one go – both for the service provider and the customer.

A constant stream of transparent communication with all clients is key to customer satisfaction. How do you achieve this?

We need to use the latest technology and digitised apps which enable interaction and communication with all the stakeholders on the same platform. As already known to us, most of the statutory compliances are on various portals viz PF, ESI , GST etc. Further adding to this, most of the FM companies are developing their own apps and are into digitising their various processes like recruitment, training and compliances, for which on-demand access can be given to the customer.

Once you have understood a customer’s requirements and facility conditions, what process do you follow for costing? Please explain step by step.

After understanding the customer needs and expectations, a detailed survey is conducted of the premises to understand the requirements of three Ms – Man, Machine and Material. A lot goes into understanding the various quantitative and qualitative requirements. For instance, in the case of workforce selection, the skill sets required, and the language skills expected by the client are important. For machines, the brand, make, capacity etc need to be assessed. Similarly, for materials and consumables, the brand and quantity are relevant.

Once the above are zeroed down, the costing is done keeping in mind all the applicable statutory requirements like applicable minimum wages, other social security schemes as well as the OHS aspects along with the agency admin cost and service charges.

What process do you follow while participating in an RFP/RFQ?

On receipt of the RFP/RFQ, all the requirements as mentioned in RFP/RFQ documents are reviewed and understood by our team. After reviewing the RFP, if it suits our business requirements, we express our interest in participating the same to the client. Subsequently, a site survey is conducted and the same process of costing is followed. In addition – as per the requirement of RFQ – all the credentials/supporting documents as demanded in the RFQ are submitted.

Please list the various ISO certifications that SFL abides by, and the practices you have put in place to achieve them.

Sumeet Facilities Limited is certified for ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, ISO 45001: 2018 & SA 26000:2010 and ISO 41001:2018. The best practices we implement to ensure customer satisfaction include a Quality Management System, providing training to ensure best safety and health practices towards OHS system, a commitment towards the environment by adhering to various environmental and legal requirements, and using eco-friendly chemicals and materials.

Statutory requirements differ from state to state and change over time. How do you keep track of this, and how do SFL’s processes change in accordance with the changes?

In today’s scenario, this has become quite easy as there are various HR portals and platforms where the information is easily available. Apart from this, we have a monthly subscription of Current Labour Reports. Our team also attends various seminars and training programs arranged by various organisations and chambers.

What is the importance of gathering FM data and keeping records? How is this advantageous to both clients and SFL?

Keeping records is important for the success of any business and its smooth functioning. It’s an important management tool which helps in many aspects of finance, operations, HR solutions etc. Data records of customer feedback and complaints help in further improving the operational strategy to deliver flawless services.

How do you deal with external audits?

It depends on the type of audits. If it is from the customer end, then our operation team, supported by HR, attends the audit for compliances and other aspects. We first listen to what the client has to say, understand the problem and come up with creative solutions. For the IMS audit, we have an IMS co-ordinator who attends the audit. Prior to external audits, we have stringent internal audits conducted by an outsourced agency.

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