Let it never be said that customer service is a thing of the past - like having
someone pump your gas and wash your windshield, or carry your groceries to your
car. Customer service can be one of the least expensive and most effective value-added
segments in the high-powered business of IT.
I recently had a conversation with James Sellers, sales/marketing for commercial
and corporate office properties at
Carrolton, TX-based TAC Americas - Energy Solutions (www.tac-americas.com) about
the direction that IT companies are taking with reference to improving customer
service. He pulled off the gloves and laid it all out for me in a conversation
that was both candid and somewhat critical of the industry that he represents.
"We are on the cutting-edge of finding new and better ways to serve commercial
real estate as a group. What we have found is that our industry - the controls,
heating, air-conditioning, and energy services - is behind the times quite a
bit in the way that we go to market. What we're doing [now] is taking a customer
advocacy approach to commercial real estate professionals in finding [energy
solutions] that work for them," says Sellers.
One: Projects Based on Real Savings
He explains that as recent as eight years ago there was a lot of bad business
being conducted in the energy market. "A lot of utility companies weren't
providing the kinds of services that they should have been providing. There
are a lot of reasons for that, part of which is that they weren't giving real
saving estimates that they were using to base their products. The way they calculate
the estimated savings on the actual installation of the products, they weren't
doing what the customer was expecting," he says.
Sellers believes that having a more open dialogue with the customer, identifying
what they want, and then explaining to them in clear terms the different ways
to evaluate energy-saving projects are the first steps in building relationships
with clients. He goes a step further in suggesting that the areas where most
companies fail is in showing them how the energy savings numbers are driven.
"People sometimes get an inaccurate look at savings - whether or not the
information is based on industry standards, and if it's a real savings."
Two: Committed to Open Systems - Building IT
Sellers' belief is that anything that uses energy - whether it involves comfort,
safety, or automation - should be able to "talk" in an open system
environment to provide the information and control an owner needs.
Open systems are driving the changing structure of the building. In fact, predicts
Sellers, if, within the next five years, facilities professionals aren't operating
under an open-system platform and are not using building IT to get it done,
a building's asset values will be much less. "It's going to be really important
to find someone who is really focused on commercial real estate. And focused
on finding solutions for buildings and not just a single system," he explains.
Three: Focused on Customer Building Needs
"Commercial real estate is vastly different … than the institutional
marketplace … Tenants have to be encouraged to renew their leases or to
even move into their buildings or the buildings lose money. In the commercial
market, everything is much more financially driven," says Sellers.
He encourages building owners and facilities professionals to start expecting
more from their energy providers. "History hasn't changed very much. This
customer focus and customer-driven stuff has escaped the energy services and
HVAC industry for a long time in a general sense. I think that we're going to
start seeing the same things that have happened in other industries happen in
our industry. The end result will be a good thing for the customer."
Better late than never seems to be the motto when it comes to customer service
in the energy and power management industry. Companies like TAC Americas are
leading the way in providing much more than useful data in a timely fashion.
They are going the extra mile in producing satisfied customers.
Clara M.W. Vangen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is technologies editor at Buildings