Smartphones Give BSCs Freedom To Work In FieldBy Lisa Ridgely, Deputy Editor of Contracting Profits
As building service contractors know, there is a direct connection between internal communication and business success. Whether execs are keeping tabs on managers and supervisors out in the field, or touching base with staff when they themselves are outside the office, advancements in mobile devices are geared to help maximize communication options.
Smartphones, the latest gadgets geared toward business professionals, enable constant communication via wireless calls, text and e-mail messaging, but by no means does the utility of such mobile devices end there.
When it comes to smartphones such as Blackberrys and iPhones, productivity is the word of the day. From Web-based and corporate e-mail system applications to accessing updated contact lists to keeping an up-to-date calendar to taking notes, an organized BSC is able to stay on task no matter what.
“The biggest problem in this business isn’t making mistakes, because we all forget to empty a trash can or clean a toilet — it’s dropping the ball,” says Mark Klein, president of Building Professionals of Texas, in Houston.
The entire management team at Building Professionals of Texas Janitorial Service uses smartphones, and Klein says it increases accountability because his team now has the tools to communicate and get the job done.
And constant communication — such as daily e-mails detailing problems or concerns that circulate between customer service and operations staff to ensure issues are dealt with in a timely manner — puts everyone on the same page.
With additional capabilities such as GPS navigation, access to remote files, calculators, high-resolution cameras, and Web surfing, these devices have tech-savvy BSCs prepared to be able to juggle tasks with more ease than ever.
“It does reduce the wear and tear on my memory and my thought process because of having all my contacts with me,” says Mary Miller, CEO/owner of Jancoa Janitorial Services in Cincinnati. “My phone syncs automatically with my exchange server at work so I have all my e-mails, all my contacts, my personal e-mails — everything’s right there.”
Miller also loves the picture-taking capabilities of her smartphone. If she is with a customer who is pointing out a situation that needs attention in a building, she can take a photo and send it through e-mail to the office to get somebody working on it right away.
Smartphones also allow for greater time management and flexibility, as professionals are not tethered to a desk or constantly calling an assistant for messages.
“It’s given me the freedom to meet with customers and prospects and be out in the field more instead of feeling like I have to go back to the office and check on my e-mails before I can go home,” Miller says.
Rather than going back to the office between appointments, BSCs can save time and fuel by checking work-related e-mails or text messages from the car or coffee shop.
Though, they do make it more difficult to separate work time from personal time.
“It’s a wonderful tool and it’s an absolutely horrible tool because you can’t get away,” Klein says, recalling work-related interruptions to a recent vacation.
As technology further revolutionizes mobile devices, BSCs will have to keep up with what that means for written and unwritten policies for employees. With the prevalence of cell phones among front-line workers, many contractors allow them to punch in with them, but have limitations regarding cell phone use while on the clock.
Quality control and relationship managers at Jancoa have been given smartphones for work use, Miller says, and the lower-level managers and supervisors all have two-way cell phones that use push-to-talk technology.
“The key thing is communication so people can stay in touch,” she says.
Phone etiquette has also changed a bit: it’s not just leaving your ringer on that can put you in an embarrassing professional situation. It’s smart to avoid appearing to customers as if attention is somewhere else, so BSCs recommend leaving the phone in a pocket or a purse when spending time with clients.
“There’s nothing written [in policy] but I do not under any circumstance want them using these in front of a customer,” Klein says.
In the case of his vice president of operations, who frequently takes notes on his smartphone, Klein has asked him to always make customers aware that he is paying attention to the matters at hand, and once customers know he’s taking notes, it’s gone over very well.