This is a question that seems too obvious, especially as customers should automatically expect to trust their contractors, but in reality customers aren't always technical and often don't feel comfortable asking for clarity and often don't trust what they are being told.
The story so far!.......
Improvements in MEP Contractor Technology has been slow in development and has been lagging behind other industries. Even though there have been advances in CAFM/FSM/Job management software and various basic smartphone apps, it takes ages to get adopted by contractors due to perceived complex implementation and disruption that may be needed to adopt to new improved working practices. Can customer trust contractors?
Slow Adoption and resistant to change.
For the last 35 + years with M&E Contractors have been working off various spreadsheets and whiteboards etc, to manage their workload and technicians and many they still work that way.
M&E Business that have been slow in adopting and embracing these new ways of working, means that property management companies, consultants, landlords and occupiers have been "flying blind" when it comes to understanding of any site technical issues.
Knowing and trusting what they are being told by their contractors, especially by customers that are less technical, this therefore causes delays in signing off any extra works and can often take a few extra days meaning that the building occupants have to suffer with inconveniences.
Just like in the car industry, trusting quotes for repairs and extra works can be difficult to justify especially with the high-cost of certain M&E items. Many businesses often request additional comparative quotes, which just adds to delays in getting the work done. After all how else do you know if you are getting value for money, and does the work actually need doing?
Condition based maintenance and predicting failures
With the introduction of SFG-20, maintenance standards on HVACR equipment were set regarding the frequency of maintenance and the tasks required determined by the equipment types, which was great as it meant that companies competing for the same project were all competing for the same thing on a level playing field, but in reality all M&E maintenance providers were offering the same service and manually filling out the same paper based forms.
Over time larger contractors adopted off the shelf CAFM/Job Management software packages to streamline their operations, especially with those that have a large mobile workforce, but most CAFM systems didn't have mobile versions meaning the engineers still had to rely on their offices to provide them with their daily/weekly work schedules.
Keeping up with technology
Meanwhile BMS and control systems became more commonplace as landlords needed to attract tenants with more energy efficient HVAC systems, and occupiers needed more control over their existing systems and therefore turned to their contractors for advice and recommendations.
M&E Contractors in turn have to reply on specialist BMS sub-contractors and again due to the complex nature of BMS systems, quotations for modifications and extra works became difficult to validate. Landlords, managing agents and occupiers would commonly question these expenses.
Unfortunately BMS/control systems are expensive to install and set-up due to complex algorithms and extensive wiring to give localised and better control. Additionally only the larger systems were provided with remote monitoring capabilities.
IoT gives BMS systems low cost additional sensing and control
With the development of low cost IoT sensors, the ability to remotely monitor key items of M&E equipment, meant that not only would it be easy to monitor the condition of equipment for the benefit of the both service providers and occupier, but also comply with SFG-20 by offering a condition based maintenance option, meaning lower costs that could be provided by the service businesses and that could be passed on.
With Covid have rendered thousands of empty properties, meant that through the IoT technology that compliance requirements could be maintained including auto flushing of non-used water outlets, water tank temps, gas leak detection etc.
With building re-occupation and through IoT/BMS connectivity, the IoT gives BMS low cost additional sensing and control meaning that local IAQ and Energy management options based on occupancy can be provided.
Smartphones gives technicians the power to share customer issues
With the aforementioned IoT systems, they have the ability to send alerts and alarms about the condition of equipment but also the ability to predict failures before they happen,they can send that information direct to contractors technicians as well as management companies, and they can do that with technology advancements and with the development of Apps.
That is a powerful shift that gives customers much more visibility into whats actually going on with any of their buildings and assets therein, and when connected to modern field reporting technology with "Show and Tell" software that operates either independently or in conjunction with CAFM/Job management systems.
After all why leave the company provided job management system - just so you can use an albeit better field reporting system? This actual example of integration shows how it can be done with just one of the many Job management systems available.
Detailed explanatory extra works quotes that include embedded actual videos, photos and narrations, that clearly show the site issues makes it much clearer for customers to understand and "see" and understand the issues for themselves.
Without any complex technology means that more quotes get accepted and more first time fixes are completed with less downtime. Bridging the gap between the field issues and customers through "show and tell" builds trust between the service providers and Customers.
Technology goes beyond the smartphone
We all know that modern day phones have the ability to share videos and photos, but they are stored locally on the individuals device. With cloud technology it means that when using field apps that they can store everything in the cloud, without clogging up a technicians phone storage.
How about supporting a field technician with instant remote access via a live 2-way video feed whereby live site issues can be shown by less experienced to colleagues? Remote control of a technicians mobile can be granted to allow others to view the issues and often provide instant solutions and saves another visit by an additional technician.
Remote libraries of manufacturers O&M's, "How to" videos and troubleshooting tips can all be accessed remotely including all previous job histories.
Moving beyond the paper based systems.
Many contractors (and indeed some customers) still prefer to work off paper based systems, with localised site based files, this of course is archaic and isnt great for sharing and requires a site visit to validate work sheet completion before allowing the contractor to get paid.
Technology as detailed allows this to be done instantly and all history can be accessed from the cloud storage.
So back to the original question - Can customers trust contractors? The answer is yes but only if contractors adopt the technology available and also if customers are prepared to make changes to the own processes and systems.
Start a conversation with us if interested in discovering more