Tag Archives: property helpdesk

The ‘Morale’ of the Story

Having spent the last 6 weeks at the sharp end of the business, splitting my time between our talented accounts department and our tenacious helpdesk, I have seen consistently, first-hand, the dedication and endeavour our people offer us, even during particularly stressful or busy periods.

The ‘back to the floor’ exercise has proven to be an insightful and extremely beneficial process, which has highlighted various areas of the business that can be improved, as well as processes that can be adapted in order to work smarter and more efficiently. The most overwhelming and consistent message left resonating with me is how lucky we are to have a team of people who are willing to do whatever it takes, work as long as it takes and try as hard as they can to continually exceed expectations on all fronts.

Although day to day I am in and around the office and can gain a general feeling for the work load and morale within the respective teams, the not-so-undercover boss regime has provided a deeper and more detailed experience. A nostalgic trip down memory lane, taking me back to my helpdesk roots from over 10 years ago, experiencing the positivity of the helpdesk, constantly entertained by the characters and proud of the buzz that emanates from the people we are lucky to have within our ranks.

The AP teams, whilst offering a more hushed environment, are an exhibition of teamwork and collaboration. At the end of the day, cash is king in any business and the AP team is key to ensuring that all the dedicated efforts of our workforce are rewarded accordingly. Under intense pressure, they diligently chase, process and schedule payments retaining a contagious desire to impress.

Morale is key! No two ways about it, no hiding from it and no denying its importance. Morale has a direct link to the success of the business, if your people are stressed, over worked and under-appreciated, let alone under-rewarded, it can only lead in one direction: down.

It is inevitable that people will experience stress or times where they feel overworked, sometimes for a sustained period, and on occasion there is little you as a Senior Manager or Director can do about it, especially when a business is growing and undergoing change. We have experienced this and yet by recognising people’s attitude, communicating with them, acknowledging their efforts as well as the difficulty of the situation, we have been able to turn a potential banana skin into a positive experience for everyone involved.

Rewarding our people is a crucial part of attracting and retaining the best, our staff retention rate is something that fills me with pride whenever I think about it or am questioned on it, and I am convinced it is in no small part down to our wellbeing and benefit programme. We offer many staff benefits including access to Perkbox, half price gym membership, personal training, free yoga pilates, metafit and spin classes, a constant supply of fresh fruit, excellent maternity benefits as well as more recently implementing a social committee, a group of people formed from various members of our teams who are tasked with organising a social event each month for all the staff, paid for by the business.

There are many ways we as a business try to reward and recognise the enormous contribution each of our people make, again something that cannot be underestimated!

Looking around the room as I sit here today amidst our helpdesk, the room is filled with bustle of a hard working group of people, committed to the cause, to each other and to the business. Every now and then a loud cackle breaks the usual sound of telephones, typing and conversation which emphasises the team spirit and mentality the teams have achieved. We, as a management team, have helped this along by being patient and thorough in our recruitment and installing an induction and training process designed to give new-starters the best chance to integrate into our teams and procedures, but it’s the teams themselves that have created and sustained this environment and it is this environment that has got us where we are today.

The ‘morale’ of the story is that in a service driven industry – people are and continue to be our most important asset!

Chris MacDonald, Managing Director

The Signs are Good for 2015

The transition from one year to another presents us with the opportunity to take stock, take a look over our shoulder and then rise onto our tiptoes to catch a glimpse of what’s over the hill.

In terms of both the property market and our own business, both landscapes are currently proving easy on the eye. However, as Michael Fish will testify following the storm of ‘87, forecasts can be wrong. We’re not resting on our laurels; our teams are continuing to work as diligently as ever to ensure we remain at the forefront of helpdesks who are in fact ‘helpful’.

Operating purely in the property and asset management sector, we keep a constant eye on market trends and the views of industry experts. With that in mind, what better way to start this assessment than by giving a brief summary of the market.

2014 was a good year for UK commercial property. The economic recovery coupled with low levels of development has meant that the balance between demand and supply has swung in the favour of landlords indicating that the rental market will see accelerated growth in 2015. London has seen vacancy rates drop to pre-crisis levels with the regions following suit at a predictably lower pace. Manchester in particular stands out in terms of growth in the office sector.

From our perspective there also seems to have been a rise in the number of industrial units and parks changing hands. According to industry experts, the rise in this stock has been largely attributed to the move to online shopping resulting in increased delivery requirements as well as the rise in traditional occupiers, such as builder’s merchants.

So, what does that mean for us? The rise in tenanted property indicates that we will – potentially – have more tenants to handle within our existing client base. It also means that any property management firms without a helpdesk facility will be fighting more fires on a day-to-day basis – with many slowly coming to realise the power of working with an outsourced helpdesk provider. We have already seen the result of this in the market and are speaking to a number of companies of varying sizes who can see the storm coming and are scouring the market for options. We’re delighted to say that early discussions have gone well on all fronts and we’re anticipating a very busy 2015.

As a company, we have also had to make provisions for the anticipated market growth. This has come in a variety of forms, which include:  bolstering our Out of Hours presence to ensure it keeps pace with our impressive In Hours performance –  currently boasting an average pick up time of 3.6 seconds over the past 6 months. We have also reviewed contractor performance and rates to ensure we remain very competitive in the market – our average attendance to a fabric repair emergency in 2014 has been 48 minutes nationally. This is all being achieved whilst proving to be 40% better value than average labour rates in Central London according to contractual independent benchmarking.

At Propertyserve we feel we are prepared to stride into 2015 with our house in good order and a lot to say to the market. 2014 saw significant growth in terms of turnover, client base and our own team. The day Propertyserve opened its doors to the world in 2004, the employees were 75% family (there were four of us!), we now employ over 25 members of staff but the family feel remains as strong as ever. No one is made to work late. No one is made to cover shifts. No one is asked to make cakes. All these things just happen due to having a team who take responsibility, adopt the culture that’s been developed from day one and ultimately want to succeed and help shape their own career paths and futures.

Ian Robertson, Director, Propertyserve UK

Changing hats is not the solution

During the Great War, a number of people in business cottoned on to the fact that German sounding products were going to retreat to the back of the shelves. To counteract this retreat, a PR campaign was launched to re-brand many of these items. Examples included: the German Shepherd renamed to the Alsatian, the Dachshund renamed to the Sausage Dog and, perhaps most famously, the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II changing their name from Battenburg to Mountbatten at the request of King George V.

A similar exercise is now taking place in the world of helpdesks. The term ‘helpdesk’ is often met with disdain across industry. Everyone understands the need. Many have been burnt by the solution. The future is bright, the future is currently revolving around the ‘servicedesk’.

As you may have gathered, servicedesks are helpdesks with a new wig, set of glasses and comedy nose. Incidentally, I don’t blame organisations for going down this path, it makes absolute sense from a PR perspective. I just think that in 10 years we may be sat here heralding a toast to the world of the ‘problemsolvingdesk’.

As an industry and in the sectors where helpdesks are utilised, there needs to be an acceptance that the industry is in this mess due to a lack of empathy from those employing helpdesk services. There is also a lack of understanding from the helpdesk provider of the client’s business and a general acceptance that you get what you pay for.

At Propertyserve, we only operate within the property management sector and therefore my comments can only relate as such. Due to the administrative burdens placed upon property management, everyone in the sector is searching for more efficient ways to streamline their services and free up time to become more proactive, (and to ease the financial burden of employing excess labour). This has led to centralisation of services wherever possible and employment of third parties to ease the strain on directly employed staff. This is where the helpdesk comes in.

The industry recognises that utilising a third party to field calls from tenants, chase contractors and generally pick up the donkey work would generate the time required for property managers to take a strategic overview of a portfolio without being dragged into time-consuming day-to-day tasks. This bridge is – quite rightly – approached with trepidation, as it involves putting your valued tenants in someone else’s hands. When it comes to taking the leap of faith and taking on a helpdesk, cost is always the key factor in selecting the ‘right’ contractor. The third party will be responsible for managing your organisation’s reputation in a crisis. I’d therefore argue that quality of service should always be considered over cost. It is essential that weight should be given to service delivery, expertise and quality of the people on the end of the phone.

Part of the reason for the bad name associated with helpdesks is the fact that many are trying to cut too many corners and offer a service that can never live up to expectations due to a heavily price-driven marketplace.

I’d argue that there is also a lack of interest and understanding from helpdesks towards their clients’ business and services. In our sector, helpdesks should realise the way in which a service charge functions, what a standard landlord/tenant demise comprises of whilst also appreciating that this can differ from lease to lease. This is why we specialise in the property sector. Helpdesks should have the knowledge to ask searching questions in order to identify the difference between a leaking roof or a burst pipe from the floor above. These are the areas of added value that have been overlooked and have resulted on the industry finding itself in this state.

Although I appreciate why others are changing, Propertyserve will remain a helpdesk. It is our ongoing ambition to stand out from the rest and ensure the added value we offer to our clients. It makes us what all helpdesks should be….helpful.

Ian Robertson, Director at Propertyserve UK