Tag Archives: helpdesk

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

Winter Tip 5 – Winter Risk Management

With a beard that could command a thousand ships, Chris T held open a clear plastic bag and waited patiently as I gingerly inserted my hand and ruffled 34 pieces of neatly folded paper. I wasn’t in the best of moods – it was the morning and I was expecting a hat. As I swished my hand around the bag I asked Chris why there were 34 names when there were only 33 people who’d agreed to play this round of Secret Santa. He didn’t know.

I thought about it for a second as I bought myself some time. The swishing of paper was kind of therapeutic, and the longer I waited before choosing my victim, the more of a chance I’d have of claiming that I’d not had enough time to find a decent present for under £5 if what I got was rubbish. Chris began to get restless. “Just choose one already. You don’t need to mix them up – they’re already random,” he urged, “and you don’t have to close your eyes. The paper is sealed. There’s no way you could know even if you could see”.
“Will I get to swap if I don’t thi-“
“No, just pick a name.” Chris was having none of it.

I swished a little faster and eventually settled on the bit of paper I’d had in my hand since I began mixing. I pulled it out of the bag and the queue behind me sighed with quiet relief as I walked away, unwrapping the paper. Last year’s Secret Santa saw me buying my chosen colleague a condiment gun designed to dispense two condiments onto a hotdog. I was ecstatic about this find and couldn’t wait to see what I had to unwrap. As the long-awaited opening day arrived, I was greeted by a poorly wrapped little box with a tiny tag bearing my name. How endearing, I thought. Smiling I tore open the Tesco brand white plastic paper and revealed the contents. A small, glass Christmas bauble. A little button on the bottom made it flash and some of the glitter it was shipped with was still visible on the glue that was meant to hold it. I was devastated. As it transpired, my ‘Santa’ who shall remain unnamed (TOM) had forgotten about the deal until that day and had panicked. Since that day, the prospect of Secret Santa has never been the same.

That day doesn’t seem so long ago, but as we reach the end of November it’s clear that winter is here and that the short, dreary days will soon have engulfed our days of Christmas shopping. In an unashamedly blatant link to the last in our tips for preparing your commercial property for winter, shopping centre managers have almost run out of time to finish their preparations for the snowy season ahead. So here, along with a recap of our previous four tips, is our final snippet of advice for how to prepare your property for the cold weather ahead:

1.      External clocks for Lighting

Ensure that your site’s external lighting is up to date, all the bulbs are working and the time-clocks are adjusted to allow for the change in light as the winter draws in. The last thing you need after all your timely preparations is a tenant injured in an easily prevented trip or fall.

2.      Ensure you hold a suitable gritting contract for your building

The amount of calls we get from tenants complaining that it’s snowed surpasses any weather based reactive maintenance calls we receive. A reactive call out for snow shovelling and a bag of grit will cost between £150 and £300 depending on the size of your property, but on a first-call-first-shovelled basis you could be waiting an age for a contractor to become free. With that in mind, you need to make sure your gritting contract covers the right factors. Auto gritting is a must; upon the threat of snow your contract includes pre-emptive visits to throw salt over your site to prevent snow and ice. Auto snow clearance is also very important if your site’s of any substantial size, and with the right options selected you can even be notified when there’s snow abound.

3.      Seasonal gutter clearance

When it rains, it pours. And when it pours out of your gutters because they’re blocked by a year’s worth of debris, your tenants get wet. Tenants hate getting wet.

A simple gutter inspection can alleviate unnecessary emergency call-outs to clear blocked or broken gutters and could even go as far as to rectify any problems that could potentially cause thousands of pounds’ worth of leak damage to your building. By getting them cleared the water will drain properly, and the contractors will check for damaged systems and even backflow while they’re up there. A must-have in your winter preparation arsenal.

4.      Roof Inspections

In the same way that a gutter inspection could help repair any small problems which lead to big issues, a roof inspection could highlight holes, loose tiles or blistered asphalt that’ll save you a significant amount of money compared to what you’d be spending cleaning up the mess they’ve caused.

5.      Pre-Order Sandbags

Getting into the sand market early will ensure that you’re not fighting for every grain when the floods come bowling in. At about £4 per bag at this time of year, look into how many you think you’d need to block up any sources of ingress. Buying them now will ensure you have them when you need them rather than at the back of the queue paying premium prices, knee deep in your new moat. You can also look at other means of flood prevention which could prove more cost effective like purpose made barriers. An air brick seal can cost £10 and save you thousands.

Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk

Winter Tip 4 – Winter Risk Management

I’m not a bath kind of guy, but yesterday I sneezed three times in a row and decided I must have a cold. Sitting bored in a lukewarm bucket of water doesn’t appeal to me over a quick, hot shower but my girlfriend had left a little box of exploding bath bombs in my bathroom and I didn’t feel like standing up much, so this alignment of three significant factors led me to opt for the lukewarm bucket. I sat there for a while, arms folded and frowning at the prospect of having to write a letter of complaint to Lush explaining that not only would their ‘Exploding Bath Bomb’ be more aptly named a ‘Dud Fizz Ball’, but that I was now covered heat to toe in glitter and would have to take a shower anyway. Pulling the plug with my needlessly wrinkled toe, I watched the water spin anti-clockwise for a bit before I grumpily swished my feet about and watched it change direction. As the water drained and revealed how much glitter a pair of Speedos can gather, I realised that the water I was swishing hadn’t naturally gravitated around a single direction every time as the Simpsons would have had be believe.

I got out of the bath and, removing my goggles, sat at my computer. I didn’t have to search long to find that the belief that water only swirls clockwise in one hemisphere and the anti-clockwise in the other is nothing but a common misconception. Inaccurate, too, is the belief that a MacBook Pro is immune to viruses, malware and glitter. There ain’t no party like an S Club Party? Double negative. There are loads of parties like S Club parties. Realistically, if there’s no party like the party you’re having, what you’re having probably isn’t a party.

Just like lying in a cramped plastic container of water and fairy liquid, Vitamin C affects our chances of catching a cold in no way whatsoever, and cracking your knuckles while your girlfriend shouts at your for getting the carpet wet and sparkly has no bearing on the likelihood that you’ll develop arthritis. These popular misconceptions are easy to believe and unless we’re careful they can actually reach a point where it becomes dangerous. Some people, for example, refuse to vaccinate their children against serious diseases under the ill-founded belief that it can be linked to autism, while in the past others have been killed under the mere assumption that they were practising witchcraft. As the winter draws near, it’s easy to believe that your commercial property will last the testing times of the cold, dark months that lie ahead under the common misconception that severely bad weather only really occurs every other year. Time is running out to prepare for the cold, and so here is the fourth instalment in our series of blogs devoted to the preparation of your commercial property for the winter.

Tip 4 – Roof Inspections

In the same way that a gutter inspection could help repair any small problems which lead to big issues, a roof inspection could highlight holes, loose tiles or blistered asphalt that’ll save you a significant amount of money compared to what you’d be spending clearing up the mess they’ve caused.

Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk

The school run

That’s it folks – the good times are over. Anyone with a commute to work has had to wind back the alarm clock, fight their way out of the junction at end of the road, and retrain their extraocular muscles to roll back their eye balls as the glare of brake lights confronts them when they attempt to get on to the motorway.  Schools have gone back…

The only comfort I have taken from the fact the new school year has started is that cyclists who have been whimsically gliding through the empty streets for the past six weeks have had a change in attitude – the majority now look like nervous 11 year olds taking their cycling proficiency test. At least that should keep them safer.

In saying all of this, for many parents this week sending their children back to school is merely the finishing stage of the Tour De France – identifying the best schools to send them to. It starts with predicting their 11+ results, to see if it’s worth visiting the grammar schools. Next up – visiting the schools themselves and judging by the look of the poor child showing them round as to whether this is the type of school for them. Next comes the discussion with junior to see what he (or she) thinks. and then finally three names are listed in preferential order and sent into the abyss.

Selecting a school for your children is rightly given the utmost attention by parents across the country as the way in which they are educated will play a part in sculpting the path they take in life and ultimately the young adults they become.

Businesses also find themselves at these cross roads of development and without taking the correct care and attention at these junctures all the hard work leading up to that point can be slowly unwound. As the director of a property management helpdesk and procurement business, I am not going to claim that selecting the right helpdesk and procurement method will make or break your business. But, it would be fair to say that these decisions can have a huge effect on the day-to-day lives of both your property management staff and your valued tenants.

In our experience too many organisations make snap decisions when taking this route and don’t take the time to seek out the best fit for them and their portfolio.

At Propertyserve, we dedicate ourselves purely to property and have shaped our team to understand building systems and maintenance issues in an effort to add value and be as proactive as possible. To our clients this means more pro-active time for their FM’s, a 24/7 professional service to their tenants and a transparent procurement method that represents value for money and risk aversion  for themselves and their valued clients.  Education is vital.

Ian Robertson, Director at 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