In today’s business environment, prospective customers are often looking to outsource maintenance of their HVAC systems. As a result, Emcor Services Aircond unit in Smyrna, Ga., typically goes to market offering air conditioning service contracts to commercial and industrial clients. By developing a cross-selling mindset, however, we have been able to take this business beyond mere preventive maintenance contracts and move in the direction of providing proactive business-support services to the client. In addition, we have been able to realize repeat business by building on strong customer relationships.
A key tool in achieving this goal has been what we call the Facility Productivity Survey (FPS), a service that is offered to qualified potential clients as part of a basic service agreement. Conducted by an Emcor Services Aircond engineering team, this audit evaluates a client’s facilities and equipment to identify potential productivity improvements. A team of our most experienced engineers spends one or two days walking through the building and examining the systems; they interview plant managers, the facility manager, and any other professionals whose opinion and experience may be valuable in ascertaining the productivity drivers of a client’s business.
Based on this information, an executive summary of the findings is developed along with a “shopping list” of different projects the client can undertake to improve the productivity of its staff and facilities, and/or achieve energy savings.
In the case of a recent client, Aflac — a leading provider of life and health insurance based in Columbus, Ga. — this approach resulted in a campus-wide elevator maintenance contract that had not been part of the original RFP. Showing the client that they would be able to decrease elevator maintenance expenditures significantly by working with Emcor’s Arlington, Va.- based Vertical Transportation Group as a third-party provider, Aflac entrusted us to perform an elevator upgrade project that it funded with the savings achieved by restructuring their general maintenance contracts.
As part of the FPS survey, we further identified the need to upgrade and install building automation systems. We are currently in the process of installing those across Aflac’s entire campus, enabling the company to realize additional savings through more efficient energy usage and improved employee productivity due to consistent comfort levels.
Convinced that they were not just dealing with yet another HVAC services provider, Aflac decided to partner with Aircond to develop automation system designs for a new facility that is scheduled for completion in 2008. These contracts were awarded without a formal bidding process due to the value-added relationship with the Aircond team.
Winning Aflac’s trust was undoubtedly the result of a close working relationship developed through our establishment of a training program for their staff. Aware of the need to move to the next level, Aflac made staff training part of the original RFP for the air conditioning maintenance contract. By thinking across department lines, and working closely with Emcor’s Facilities Knowledge Center, which maintains a database of information that helps clients develop effective solutions for all types of facilities problems, Aircond created a monthly training curriculum for Aflac’s primary facilities maintenance personnel. The curriculum combines e-learning with hands-on training in subjects such as “How to read a blueprint,” “Fundamentals of refrigeration technology” or “Workplace safety.” Eligible Aflac employees were also given online access to relevant parts of Emcor’s in-house corporate training program as part of the overall facility maintenance contract with Aircond. In an industry like facilities management, where most employees have gained professional knowledge primarily through on-the-job training, this approach was as innovative as it was productive. According to Jeffrey Hill, Aflac’s senior manager for facilities and support services, the new training program has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on staff recruiting and retention.
“Aflac has taken the initial concept even further, and is issuing certificates as well as pay increases to staff members who successfully complete the training,” said Hill.
Blurring the boundaries of accountability of performing facilities services between client and service provider even further, we have developed an integrative approach to managing the Aflac campus. While Aircond provides a full-time on-site technician, additional support staff is drawn from a pool of commercial technicians in the Columbus/LaGrange area for more time-consuming maintenance tasks and repairs. This allows the Aflac-dedicated Aircond technician to focus on more complex issues.
Furthermore, in an effort to make the client as self-sufficient as possible, we have developed and implemente an internship for an Aflac employee designated by the company for the training. One employee to-date has been involved in the program. This staff member has been assigned to work with the on-site Aircond technician for a six- to nine-month period to gain first-hand knowledge of building systems and effective maintenance practices.
Aircond became Aflac’s vendor of choice by combining its HVAC preventive maintenance and repair, water treatment, mechanical retrofit, building automation, and energy engineering services with Emcor’s strengths in elevator maintenance engineering, elearning, and facilities management. The story of Emcor Services Aircond’s work with Aflac demonstrates that a holistic approach to client service, combined with a sales approach that is mindful of all in-house capabilities can significantly increase business opportunities as well as client satisfaction.
Alan Barnes is executive vice president, strategic growth and business development for Emcor Mobile Services. He can be reached at 770/805-2535 or at [email protected]